Monthly Archives: February 2014

New Restaurants and First Impressions

About three weeks ago, Dave noticed new construction in the space that previously housed a Burger King restaurant in Carol Stream.  Correction:  He noticed this new restaurant quite a while before, and I kept meaning to check it out online, and when we drove by three weeks ago I finally remembered to actually check it out.

It wasn’t open yet, but we just loved the premise:  healthy fast food, including fries that were baked, sweet potato tater tots, grass-fed beef, nitrite-free hot dogs, and baked chicken tenders.  We aren’t fast food people by a long shot; usually we only do fast food on road trips or, rarely, if neither of us feels like cooking and we decided to have Italian beef sandwiches.  We go to Portillo’s for those – it’s our first choice for fast food because it’s delicious, super affordable, and the service is impeccable.  If you go there during their dinner rush, they work that drive-through line like a well-choreographed dance.

So we made note of this new restaurant’s opening day, which was yesterday, and I made accommodations for the extra calories I’d be eating when I calculated my meals for the day.  I was pretty excited since fast food is kind of rare for us, as I said, and I was really curious to see how this new place handled things on opening day, not to mention my curiosity about the food itself.  It’s located right by our house, so we decided to stop for food and bring it home after we were done running a few errands.

After an amazingly productive trip to Goodwill (Dave got new jeans and a cool, retro drip coffee maker, I got an LL Bean Healthy Back shoulder pack and an LL Bean tunic that doesn’t look like it was ever worn) we headed over to the new place.  I thought long and hard about this and decided not to name it outright, just in case my opinion changes, but if you’re super-curious it will probably be easy to find the name if you search for healthy fast food in Carol Stream.

They’d been on TV that morning and we happened to catch the news segment.  It made me a little wary when I saw and listened to the owners; my first impression was that they came from money and were looking to cash in on what is a hot current trend.  (After we’d finished eating and were discussing our impressions, I confessed to Dave that I would’ve felt better if I’d seen the owners were young kids with dreadlocks or something, super-committed to the idea of tasty, healthy, fast food.)

We approached the door and could see a line of people winding around in front of the counter.  I took this as a good sign; it was about 1:15, so they probably had a big lunch rush.  We entered and stood for a minute or two until the lady in front of us realized that the guy in front of HER was not waiting to order … he was waiting for his food.  Alarm bells started to go off in my head; I looked to my right and realized the big crowd of people there all had tickets in their hand, waiting for their orders.  One guy loudly told someone nearby that he’d been waiting 30 minutes for his food.

Dave looked alarmed and asked me if I wanted to go over to the tables and order there.  Each table was outfitted with an iPad for ordering, but all the tables were basically empty.  I was debating whether this would be any faster when suddenly it was our turn to order; the wait to get to a cashier ended up being very short.  Most of the traffic jam by the counter was from people waiting to hear their number called.

I had originally planned to get one of their burgers with caramelized onions, ketchup and tomato – a departure from what they normally come with.  Dave had looked around at the throng of people and decided to have a hot dog.  I know he’s not a huge fan of hot dogs, and I realized he’d probably chosen that figuring it would come out the fastest with the least possibility of being screwed up.  So I ordered two hot dogs and two fries for us, mine plain and Dave’s with everything.  I repeated my order three times to the girl before she finally seemed to have it correctly entered, and then I thought she said the total was $7.82.

I handed her my debit card, because we almost never have cash – we use the debit card for everything.  At that point she said, “Oh, we’re only taking cash.”  WHY couldn’t they have posted a sign on the front door?!  (It turns out that their POS system went down early in the day and apparently never got fixed; I saw on their Facebook page that they actually closed three hours early because of it.)

That didn’t faze me because I was sure I had $11 in cash in my wallet (a rare thing); I started pulling out bills and handed her $8.00.  She just looked at me.  I said, “Did you say it was $7.82?” and she said, “No, it’s $11.82.”  I went back to my wallet and saw there were no more bills – somehow I had grossly misjudged my funds.  I shrugged, smiled and explained that we just don’t ever carry cash, so we would have to cancel our order.  Before she could respond, a young guy zoomed up to the counter and said it was no problem, he would take care of it.

I was stunned; I actually thought he was going to pull out money and pay for our hot dogs!  I stammered, “Oh no, you don’t have to do that, it’s okay,” and he insisted, saying something that I missed but I think he said he was the manager and was approving the sale for us.  I was mortified and impressed at the same time, so I said, “Oh my gosh, thank you, but here, at least take the cash we do have.”  So we paid our $8.00, got our ticket, and went to stand with the crush of other people.

As we waited, I noticed this guy really trying to make things right; he handed out a few bags of free food to the people who had been waiting for a long time, asked certain people what their order number was and seemed to expedite it, etc.  But the workers all just seemed confused.  There were two rows of paper tickets laid out on the counter; from time to time, one of the women behind the counter would look them over, then just kind of swipe a few, crumple them and throw them away.  There were two bags of food they kept calling numbers for and nobody ever claimed them.  (According to a Yelp review, there was a mix-up where they were calling off a number written halfway down the ticket, but the customers were looking at a different number on the top of the ticket.)

Most people were just amused; a few of them seemed irritated.  I watched as a couple of people came back and had things switched in their bags.  One of the girls who was offered free food said she couldn’t accept it because she was vegetarian (they have a veggie burger, which I’m sure she ordered).

We waited for 15 or 20 minutes and finally our number was called; it was the number at the top of the ticket, so there was no mix-up there.  We gratefully grabbed the bag and headed out the door, glad we were free of the mayhem inside.

Unfortunately, I waited until we were halfway home to open the bag.  Originally I wanted to see if my hot dog truly was plain; half the time I end up with a fully loaded hot dog or hamburger, and no, you can’t just scrape off the detritus if you loathe mayonnaise, pickles, mustard, and relish the way I do.  The first thing I saw was that the bag looked awfully empty; there were just two wrapped hot-dog shaped bundles in the bottom.  I said, “Uh, it looks like they forgot our fries.”  Then I thought of Gene & Jude’s, the legendary Chicago-area hot dog stand (and still my absolute favorite hot dog and fries EVER) and remembered that they wrap the fries in with the hot dog.

“Oh!  Wait – maybe the fries are wrapped inside,” I said hopefully as I unwrapped one of the bundles.  Nope – it was just a hot dog with everything on it, no fries.  Dave forcefully replied that he did NOT want to go back, and I immediately agreed.  I was really hungry at this point, and now I was irritated too; who knew how long we might wait to get our fries if we waded back into the melee at the restaurant?

We came home and baked some onion rings to go with the hot dogs which were, obviously, cold by the time we actually got to eat, so we heated them up in the microwave.  They were okay – just tasted like a regular store-bought hot dog, nothing big.  (Mine was plain, thankfully.)  I checked the receipt and saw that the hot dogs were $3.85 each, not including the fries.  Since we never got our fries, we basically paid full price for the meal, which makes me feel less guilty.  Still, when Dave asked what I thought, I told him that the hot dog was okay but not worth $4.00.

After we got home, I watched the reviews pour in on Yelp and Facebook for this place.  By the end of the day, they had seven reviews (almost unanimously bad) and 1-1/2 stars on Yelp, with numerous complaints on their Facebook page.  Dave was appalled by what he’d seen at the restaurant; he used to manage a few different fast food places and restaurants back in the day (before I knew him) and pointed out quite a few things they could have done differently.  It’s been fascinating to watch this unfold, because I’d never been to a restaurant (fast food or otherwise) on opening day and had nothing to compare it to.  It reminded me a little of Three Days to Open, a Bobby Flay reality show that followed restaurants for three days before they opened; sometimes the places aced their opening day, other times they bombed badly.

We did see the owners behind the counter, not doing much really.  The only employee who was on the ball and seemed to have any clue what was happening was the young guy I assume was the manager.

We discussed it for a long time, debating whether we’d give it a second chance.  We decided maybe we would, if the Yelp reviews got better.  A lot of people got cold/partially cooked hamburgers, and that makes me nervous.  The reviews of the food would have to really go up before I’d spend money there, honestly.  I can understand opening day mishaps but if the food sucks, that’s a problem.  We also debated whether to leave a Yelp review, and ultimately I decided against it.  The manager did offer to comp our food, and was doing his best to take care of other people who were waiting.  Even though we did end up paying for the whole meal since we didn’t get half of it, I’d still feel bad leaving them a negative review.  (Updated to add:  Dave just told me he’s planning to leave a review.)

I’ve joked with Dave about opening up our own restaurant (which he swears he would never do, not in a million years) … after seeing yesterday’s mass confusion, I understand why he feels that way!

My Sexy Secret

I’ve written before about the challenges of growing up with curly hair.  And I’ve been surprised to find that the most popular post on my blog is one I wrote a few years ago about how to make flax seed gel (popular with many curly girls).  But one thing I’ve never divulged is my secret for sleeping on curly hair and not waking up with a rat’s nest in the morning.

Yes, I could just describe it.  But nothing gets a point across faster than photographic evidence.  The problem is, the photographic evidence is deeply humiliating.

To start, I don’t have a fancy phone with a fancy camera.  My phone’s camera is terrible, and you can’t see the picture you’re taking unless you look in a mirror.  As a side note, I used to think all phones were this way until I asked my son about it this past Christmas.  “How do you guys all take such good selfies?” I queried in a bewildered voice.  “Half the time I cut off part of my face, and all of my pictures come out terrible.”  Kind of like this:

This is better than most of my selfies.

This is better than most of my selfies.

After Eric finished laughing (seriously holding his sides laughing), he showed me his phone.  It has a camera on both sides (or something) and somehow magically shows him the image he’s about to snap.  These kids totally cheat!

So I take my selfies in the bathroom mirror, using my regular Canon PowerShot camera.  I always have an awkward, forced smile in my pictures, and I hope to God I don’t really look like that in real life.

When you have curly hair, you can’t just wake up and brush it.  Well, you could but that would be a huge mistake.  Instead, you wake up and see that half of your curls have smashed flat and the other half of your hair is a big mass of frizz.  What I used to do:  wet my curls with water and re-style them, then dry them with a diffuser on my blow dryer.  What I do now:  wear a satin sleep cap to bed four nights a week.

I wash my hair three times a week, alternating between co-wash (washing with conditioner), a no-poo (shampoo with no sulfates) and a low-poo (shampoo with no sulfates but does have a cleansing agent like coco-betaine).  Therefore, I want to preserve my curls for the next morning since I’m not planning to wash my hair.  So if I’ve washed my hair that day, this is what I look like when I go to sleep:

Don't you envy my style?

Don’t you envy my style?

Sexy, right?

Luckily for Dave, I don’t bother to wear the cap the night before a hair-washing day.  I don’t care what my hair looks like in the morning since I know I’m going to be washing it, so why bother?

Dave claims he doesn’t care about the cap but I found it truly hilarious the first month or so I was wearing it.  I still make jokes about it, three years later.  I probably wouldn’t have had the strength or fortitude to wear this thing when I was younger; I was just too self-conscious and would have been mortified.  Now I’m kinda like, eh, whatever.  It saves so much time the next day that I can handle a little humiliation the night before.

Here’s why I love my satin sleep cap:  When I take it off in the morning, first I look like this:

Right after the cap comes off...hilarity ensues.

Right after the cap comes off…hilarity ensues.

My hair looks crazy (this picture doesn’t capture the craziness, really) but it’s easy to fix.  I just slide my fingers under my hair, by my scalp, and shake my hair out.  I reposition any curls that flipped to the wrong side or look really weird.  The most I ever have to do is re-wet an individual curl that’s gone insane overnight and is curling the wrong way (usually I clip it in place until it dries).

After one or two minutes of this, my hair looks like this:

Please ignore the crazed smile and focus on the non-bedhead curls.  Please.

Please ignore the crazed smile and focus on the non-bedhead curls. Please.

Or this:

Curly second-day hair

Curly second-day hair

If you, too, would like to rock this bedtime look, you can find these satin sleep caps dirt cheap (around $3 or so) at Wal-Mart and Sally Beauty Supply.  You can thank me later, sexy thing!

Righteous Indignation

Since January, I’ve been noodling around with an online MIT OpenCourseware class called Reading and Writing Short Stories.  It’s been a lot of fun; I love reading short stories, and I thought it might be fun to try writing some because I haven’t done that since high school.

This was a short exercise, one where I didn’t take a lot of time on the actual writing.  The goal was to show how things that happened in your life could be changed and used as story ideas.  Although there were so many incidents I could have drawn from, this one from when I was very young was the first thing that popped into my head.

My problem was trying to use it in a fictional scene.  It took a while, but I decided to go with karaoke because that was sort of close to me and my brother using a microphone as kids.  I threw in a person with hearing loss because I always like it when I read fiction and there’s a character with hearing loss … it doesn’t happen often, so it’s a nice surprise for me.  Since the scene was supposed to convey strong emotion, I had the fictional character react in a completely different way than I would (which was kind of fun to write).  I had her react with the same level of out-of-proportion anger and indignation that I felt as a six year old.

Here’s the exercise:  Think about an event early in your life that is still powerful for you – that made you cry, or afraid, or angry, or triumphant with revenge.  Sketch it out – focus on the emotional power.  Now – make it fiction. Change something. Change character, change ages, change place, gender – see how this changes the center of the story.

My nonfiction and fiction scenes:

Nonfiction:

It’s 1970, and we’re in the living room — my dad, my brother Joey, and I.  I’m six and Joey is four, and we’re taking turns speaking and singing into the microphone attached to the hi-fi.  My dad was so proud of this system, and we kids loved watching the amplifier needle jump whenever we used the microphone.

We’re all sitting on the couch, which is nearly the same shade of brown as the paneled walls.  I’ve got my feet propped up on the coffee table, slouching back against the cushions, waiting for my turn at the mic.  Finally, I get to sing.  I belt a rousing rendition of Susy Snowflake, making sure to hold that last note for as long as possible.  I begrudgingly hand the microphone over to Joey, and my dad ‘interviews’ him.

“What do you want for Christmas, Joey?”

“I want a gowbidge truck!”

“A what?”  My dad grins, knowing the real answer, playing dumb to give Joey a chance to mispronounce  garbage again.

“A GOWBIDGE truck!  A big one!”

The interview ends and Joey starts to sing a song he learned in preschool.  I am apoplectic.  “But it’s MY turn!  He already got to talk!”

My dad, always calm in the face of my youthful rage, tells me that I’ll get my chance soon – just let Joey finish his song.  But I am furious – it’s so unfair!  I feel they always favor Joey because he’s the baby of the family.

I stand up in a huff, ready to stomp off to my bedroom, where I can slam my door and pull all the sheets off my bed and expend all the rage inside of me.  As I walk between the couch and the coffee table, my dad’s foot slips out just enough to catch mine as I walk past.  I trip and fall to my knees.

“You TRIPPED me!” I wail, and then the tears come.  I sob and sob, feeling unloved and unwanted, as my dad tries to cover his smile, telling me it was an accident.  He didn’t do it on purpose.

I argue with him for a minute, because I am absolutely 100% certain it was not an accident.  It was intentional.  But there is no swaying him, and finally I get to slam my bedroom door, fling myself onto my bed, and rail at the injustice.  Every sound, every word, is captured for posterity on the cassette tape in the deck.  Over the years, I could never listen to that tape without my face burning hot with embarrassment.

 

Fiction:

Becca leaned forward and shouted in my direction.  I watched her lips move, but couldn’t understand a word over the background noise of the bar.  “What?” I shouted, fighting off a wave of irritation.  I turned my hearing aid up a little more, which just made the clamor louder.

This time she leaned sideways, aiming her mouth at my ear.  I reared back, pulling my ear out of her reach.  For someone who’s known me most of my life, she should really know better.  Talking into my ear is completely useless; I need to see her face, so I can read her lips.  I twisted around to face her and leaned forward.  “Say it again, Becca.  I didn’t catch it the first time.”

Exaggerating the movement of her mouth, she yelled slowly, “I.  Signed.  You.  Up.”

“What does that mean?  Did I hear you right – did you sign me up for something?”

“Yes!  Well, I signed ME up too, but we’re both on the list now.”

I shook my head, sure that I was misunderstanding.  “The list?  What list?”

“Karaoke!” she grinned, raising her glass.  I just stared at her, stubbornly anchoring my glass to the bar.  There was no way I was toasting this insane idea.

Why would Becca, my friend who watched me suffer through years of music class in elementary school, silently mouthing the words to songs so my classmates couldn’t hear my tone-deaf voice, sign me up to sing in front of a bunch of drunk strangers?

“Are you pissed at me for something?  Is there some reason you want to deliberately humiliate me?”  I realized I was shouting.  I couldn’t hear myself very well, but I could see heads swiveling in our direction.  Ignoring them, I continued.  “Of all the things in the world, singing in front of people is my worst nightmare.  And you KNOW that.  What the hell, Becca?”

Becca looked stunned.  And a little drunk.  Frowning, she said, “I’m SORRY, I never thought you’d be upset.  I didn’t do it on purpose.  I just thought it would be fun!”

“Bullshit!” I yelled, grabbing my purse off the bar.  “I can see you trying not to laugh.  Go ahead, see how funny it is when you’re trying to get home tonight!”  I waved the car keys at her as I stood up to leave, fighting back tears.

If she protested, if she tried to apologize some more, I never heard her because I never looked back.  Slinging my purse over my shoulder, I headed straight to the parking lot.  All I wanted was the safety and the quiet of my car.

– – – – –

If you like to write, it’s a fun exercise to try.  Give it a shot!

Influenster VoxBox; Valentine Festivities

The doorbell rang this morning, making me and Dave jump and, okay, shriek just a little bit.  After we recovered, Dave answered the door and our mailman handed him the mail, which included a big pink cardboard box (which wouldn’t fit in our mailbox, hence the visit).  It was my J’Adore VoxBox!

Last month you may have noticed the new Influenster icon on the bottom right side of my blog (which is, unfortunately, not working at the time of this posting — hopefully it will be fixed soon).  Influenster is a panel that I joined in January, a place to review and seek opinions on a variety of products, websites, etc.  I love that kind of thing and it looked like fun, plus it was free to join.  After I did all the surveys related to my interests (you earn badges as you do so) I reviewed a few things, added the Influenster link to my blog, followed Influenster on Facebook and Twitter, and answered product questions.  It was a big flurry of activity in the beginning, and then I settled into a routine of checking in once a day to see if there were questions I could answer, that kind of thing.

You get a score based on your participation and such, and for the first couple of weeks my score was a big fat zero.  I figured maybe I wasn’t considered influential enough because I don’t have a YouTube channel or vlog (and never will – I hate myself on camera) so I had resigned myself to the zero.  Then one day I logged in and my score was suddenly 79, which was fun.  It hasn’t changed since then; I think the highest you can get is 100.

A couple of weeks ago, they sent me a survey related to the newest VoxBox, which they periodically send out to certain members.  I thought it was a box of samples, but it turns out these are full-size products (which was a nice surprise).  I answered the survey and waited to see if I’d be selected.  On Monday of this week, I got an email saying I was IN (whoo!) and I’d be getting the box.  I was completely caught off guard when it arrived three days later – I thought it might be here next week sometime.

So if you’ve been curious about Influenster, that’s the gist of it.  (If you are interested, I have four invites left — just email me or contact me on Facebook and I can send you one.)  Now, I know I’ll be taking a survey (once it’s available in my profile) on the box, and I’m sure they’d like it if I review the products, since that’s kind of the whole point of the exercise, ya know?  I haven’t gotten that far yet, so I can’t explain the process beyond getting the box at this point.  But here’s a photo of what was inside:

Influenster J'Adore VoxBox - February 2014

Influenster J’Adore VoxBox – February 2014

Dave gets to review the Vaseline Men’s Spray Lotion (I’m curious to find out why it’s specifically for men; I’m imagining it’s the scent).  I admit that I simultaneously blanched and did a little jump for joy when I saw the seriously HUGE bag of Hershey’s Kisses.  On the one hand, holy diet buster, Batman!  On the other hand, what a good way to satisfy a craving for some chocolate without eating a huge candy bar.  (Luckily I can handle just one or two Kisses; potato chips are my kryptonite.)

I squealed a little when I saw the KISS false eyelashes; Dave looked at me curiously and I admitted, “I have always wanted to try these!”  He said, “Really?” and I explained that I’d never had the nerve to buy them, but I was always curious about them.  I don’t even really wear mascara, even though I probably should.  I still remember the day back in freshman gym class when a girl I barely knew asked me what mascara I used.  “I don’t use any,” I confided, and she proceeded to freak out over how full and long my natural lashes were.  Ever since then, I’ve been convinced I don’t really need mascara.  Just goes to show how long a compliment will stick with a person – that happened to me 35 years ago.

My daughter will be the lucky recipient of the Frizz Ease flat iron spray, since I don’t use a flat iron.  I like that it only has one silicone in it and it’s not the kind that’s prone to build-up so she’ll be able to wash it out easily.  The Boots Botanics clay face mask is ALL MINE, though – I’ve already tried it and I love it.  Besides the fact that it doesn’t flake off, leaves my skin feeling soft, and is easy to remove, it’s also a fun way to scare the bejesus out of Dave (he did scream a little bit when I walked into the kitchen after applying the mask in the bathroom, unbeknownst to him).

Dave is the big tea drinker in the house so he was really excited about the Red Rose tea, a brand that is new to both of us.  I’m going to try it too; I don’t hate tea, I just usually drink coffee or water.  The flavors are unusual and intriguing – Crème Caramel and Lemon Chiffon.

In other news, we are having a very low-key Valentine’s Day because Dave is getting two teeth pulled that morning (so romantic!) and will probably not be up to chomping on steak for dinner.  Instead, I’m making some fresh tomato soup for him (using the tomatoes we canned from our garden) and we’re going to test a recipe for Cook’s Country, for low-fat French Silk Pie.  The timing of the test request was just too perfect (hopefully the recipe lives up to our expectations) so we’re going to make it today, let it chill overnight and then eat it tomorrow night.  Dave has promised that even if he can’t chew the crust, he will happily devour the soft filling.  We’ll finish off the evening with a rousing viewing of the Olympics and, perhaps, the movie Nebraska.  Our passion cannot be contained!

Fear and Loathing in the Dentist’s Chair

February has been a month of dental visits so far – first Dave, then me, and Dave goes again next week.  To say that neither of us enjoys a trip to the dentist would be an understatement, but Dave is much more stoic about it than I am.

He’s been waging a dental war for years, dealing with teeth and gums that have been adversely affected by the chemo and steroids (to help with graft versus host disease from his bone marrow transplant) that he got when he had leukemia in 1993.  He’ll get a filling just to have it fall out a month later.  Over the 16 years I’ve known him, he’s gotten crowns and had teeth pulled, gotten a bridge replaced, gotten countless fillings (and had them replaced over and over when they fall out) … he’s just basically had to deal with the same issues over and over.  Because of the chemo and GVH, his gums have receded and his teeth have gotten weak.

Over the past couple of years, he’s been on a quest to get dentures to replace his bottom teeth.  He’s had so many teeth pulled on the bottom already, and the bridge (also on the bottom) is anchored to teeth that are no longer strong enough.  Every dentist he’s visited, though, either refuses to pull his teeth or tries to talk him out of dentures.  Some say that the roots of his teeth are too long; some just refuse to pull a tooth unless he agrees to get an implant in its place (which we can’t afford).

Way back in the day we had dental insurance, a plan that covered the whole family that I purchased on my own, since I was self-employed.  That was okay; Dave always maxed out the yearly coverage (usually $1,000) but it was nice to have cleanings for me and the kids covered at either no charge or a very minimal charge.  It didn’t take long, though, for them to start raising our monthly premiums in a BIG way.  Eventually they just flat out dropped us, which I didn’t even know they could do.  I guess we used the insurance too much for their liking; it wasn’t like we ever skipped a premium payment or gave them a hard time about anything.  They just dropped us for no reason.

At that point, the kids were on the state medical plan and they got their dental coverage for free.  Dave and I did a lot of research and realized just about all the dental insurance plans had an 18 month wait before they’d cover the procedures Dave needed, and the monthly premiums were now way out of our price range.  We took a chance and went with a dental plan rather than dental insurance, one of those deals where you pay a yearly fee and then get a discount on your dental procedures when you go to a participating dentist.  You don’t have to wait for them to cover anything.

Our current dentist didn’t participate in the plan, so we had to find a new dentist.  Things were going well; it was weird to pay for cleanings and x-rays, but the yearly fee plus what I paid for cleanings was less than a year’s worth of the monthly premiums I had been paying for actual dental insurance (WAY less) and I was pleased.  Dave was getting frustrated, though, because this new dentist was also resisting his pleas to just pull his rotten teeth so he could get dentures.

Dave gets his medical care through the VA, but he doesn’t get any dental coverage because his disability isn’t service-connected.  Up until this year, he was able to go to the VA emergency room when he was in bad pain from his teeth; they would pull the teeth for him, no problem.  Lately, though, he’s been in a lot of pain where he has the bridge.  He thought the front tooth it was anchored to was cracked, so he went to the VA with the hope that they’d pull the tooth.  Once he got there, though, he was turned away; now they will not do any dental procedures at ALL unless you fit certain criteria (and he fits none of them, since he’s not diabetic and his cancer is not currently active).

He was really despairing, and finally decided to try our county health department.  We couldn’t figure out if we fit the income guidelines for the urgent dental care clinic, so he called and they told him that he did qualify.  After a missed appointment (thanks to one of our many snow storms in Illinois) he finally got in last week.

He went off with our documents and I took a seat in the main waiting room.  After a while, I went in search of a bathroom.  As an aside, this is the kind of thing I used to be too scared to do; I hated asking directions or for information from people on the off chance that I wouldn’t hear or understand their response.  It sounds crazy, but it was so cool to just get up, walk casually past the intake ladies, have one of them call out and ask if she could help me, and then get directions to the bathroom (while I stood quite a distance away) and understand her.  It’s the little things, isn’t it?!

I took the elevator downstairs, did my business, and when I came out, I noticed a sign down the hallway that said ‘Dental Clinic.’  There was Dave, standing at the desk.  I walked up next to him and freaked him out, since he expected me to be upstairs.  So we sat down together, and he explained that we actually don’t meet the income guidelines (I wasn’t surprised; we usually don’t qualify for any kind of medical assistance even though our income is fairly low).  They still sent him downstairs, though, and the people there were much more laid back.  Because he was in pain, they were still going to examine him.

I was sitting there reading The Snow Child on my Nook (great story, by the way) when I realized the lady at the desk was talking to me.  I looked up, and from the desk she said, “You can take his prescription to Meijer and it will be free because it’s an antibiotic.”  Again, with the hearing – it’s so cool, seriously!  I realized then that Dave was out of the exam room and standing behind her, talking to one of the dentists.  Then he pointed at me, and I realized they were talking about me.

I walked up just as Dave was explaining about my cochlear implants.  I guess the dentist made a big deal about Dave’s hearing loss (in a good way) and kept talking into the ear that doesn’t have a hearing aid.  When they got to the check out desk, Dave told the girl he was deaf in that ear; the dentist started laughing and said, “THAT’S why you kept turning your head the other way!  I thought that was your good ear so I kept talking to you on that side.”  When I walked up, we started talking about CIs and another dentist walked up and asked if we watched ‘Switched At Birth.’  (I had a hard time picturing him watching that show, but he was a big fan – as are we.)  So we started talking about sign language and how, when I went deaf in 2008, I didn’t know sign language and got by with just lip reading.  It was a fun conversation and they were really nice people, very interested in how we communicated and how my CIs work.

It turned out that Dave had an abscess under the bridge, and he was feeling referred pain in that front tooth.  Now he’s on an antibiotic for 10 days, and he goes back to the clinic on Valentine’s Day to get two teeth pulled.  They referred him to a local dental college that will do dentures for half price, so after he heals up, that will be his next step.  FINALLY!  I’m so glad they stepped in and helped Dave even though we didn’t technically qualify, and I’m glad Dave got to talk to a professional who gave him unbiased advice.  (He recommended a partial denture for the bottom instead of a full denture.)

After Dave went through all of this, I had to face my own fear of the dentist.  All I needed was a cleaning, but I was way, WAY overdue because I kept psyching myself out about how much it might hurt.  I finally decided if Dave can go through all of this, I can certainly handle a cleaning.  My dentist had an opening for the same day, so I didn’t even have a chance to fret – the appointment was made in the morning, and three hours later I was in the chair.

Going to the dentist with bilateral cochlear implants has been a serious challenge.  Because they recline the chair so much, my processors fall off my ears and the magnet headpiece gets knocked off repeatedly.  I’ve tried headbands and scarves to no avail, but this time I tried a knit cap.  It worked!  The headpiece lost connection a couple times but it would re-connect on its own; a couple of times I had to reach up and re-seat the processor on my ear, but the hat kept it from actually falling off.  So I can highly recommend a knit cap if you wear BTE processors like I do.

After I reassured them that bitewing x-rays were okay with my cochlear implants, I got x-rays done and then they handed me these dark plastic glasses.  I realized why a few seconds later, when the dentist started aiming a stream of water at my teeth while her assistant blew cold air into my mouth (at least I think that’s what it was).  A spray of water hit my face, and I gripped the arms of the chair when I felt the cold air and water on my sensitive teeth.  I was really anticipating some pain at that point, but my teeth got used to the sensation and it never really did hurt – it was just briefly uncomfortable a couple of times.  This seemed to replace the majority of the scraping they usually do; there was still a little bit of scraping, but not much.

I was walking out within 15 minutes, feeling immense relief at having this dreaded visit behind me.  I got a thumbs up from the dentist, no issues that I have to deal with.  Hopefully it won’t take me so long to get the courage the next time I have to go.  And I’m definitely wearing a hat!

Stressful Dreams

Last night, I started back to work at my last out-of-the-house place of employment.  In my dreams, that is.

I have this dream every few months, and it’s always alarming and stressful.  I find myself back at my old job, with no clue who any of my co-workers are or what my job now entails.  There were some new twists in last night’s dream, though.  Initially, I realized I was very late for work – it was around 9:15 and I was supposed to start at 8 am or so.  I was completely panicked because I couldn’t remember my boss’s old phone number so I could call to let her know I was still coming in.  (It was my first day, you see.)

Then the dream changed and I was at work, but hadn’t seen my boss yet and I still had to explain that I’d been late.  Then I got the bright idea to just walk into her office and look at the phone number on her phone.  So I got the number, and somehow I needed to use my computer to call her (I know this makes no sense – do dreams ever make much sense?!) … but I realized my son had installed some kind of software that completely changed how my computer worked.  Everything I clicked brought up some kind of menu or performed an action that just left me clueless, and I was getting more and more frustrated with every click.  (This last bit cracks me up because he really is always light years ahead of me in terms of apps and computer stuff.)

This dream seems to have replaced the high school dreams, as far as stress-related dreams go – you know, the ones where you have an exam you never studied for, can’t remember your locker combination, can’t remember how to get to class, etc.  Now I dream that I have to go back to this job I haven’t performed since early 2001, re-connect with all the people that worked there and/or meet new co-workers, try to remember how to do everything, plus catch up with all the ways things have changed since I left.  I’m glad I don’t have these dreams very often!

I’m not feeling stressed in real life at all these days, so I’m not even sure where this is coming from.

I’ve talked about recurring dreams before, but there’s one ‘theme’ I’m pretty sure I’ve never mentioned:  the ‘can’t go to the bathroom’ dreams.  (Maybe I’m the only one that has them.)

I’ll have a dream that I have to pee (sorry, there’s just no other way to say it) and either I can’t find a bathroom or, when I do find one, I can’t actually use it.  It might be some kind of public bathroom – all the toilets next to each other in one big room, or maybe the only unoccupied toilet in a public bathroom is one that has no door.  There’s always some reason I can’t actually use the toilet, and most often it’s because they are all occupied or there’s no privacy in some way.  I know what’s happening here – my body is stopping me from, well, wetting the bed.  (No, I’ve never had a bed-wetting problem in my life, but I definitely have had to wake up in the middle of the night to go.)  Isn’t that weird, though?  I don’t wake up right away and just go use the facilities … instead, I incorporate it into my dream and torture myself for a while.  So fun!

Casually veering toward a less TMI topic, I’ve also had recurring dreams about our indoor cats (the former-feral ones) getting outside.  This is guaranteed to get me worked up because we can’t pick these cats up, so if they really do get outside somehow it’s not like I can go scoop them back up and bring them in, like I can with Sabrina.  The dream I had earlier this week, though, changed things up a bit.

In this situation, Dave and I were at some kind of medical appointment having to do with our respective hearing losses.  (I suspect this came from a visit we had earlier that day from a Caption Call rep, who needed us to fill out forms verifying our hearing loss in order to keep our caption phone.)  We were in a medical building, sort of like a hospital.  And I was carrying Maxie, our former-feral mom cat, in my arms.

As we walked around, I realized I was getting some looks from people.  Maxie was kind of squirming around and I had to keep talking to her to calm her down.  Finally I told Dave, “You know, we probably shouldn’t be in here with her – I think someone’s going to ask us to leave.  We should probably go home.”  So Dave took us out a side door (to get us out of the building right away), but we were nowhere near the parking lot we’d parked in.  We had to walk and walk, forever it seemed, along a road.  Maxie got agitated every time we passed any kind of animal outside, and I was getting more and more worried that she would leap out of my arms.  The stress finally woke me up (and then I was so relieved to realize it was just a dream).

Hopefully tonight will bring a stress-free slumber, and I will not be worrying about our cats getting loose at my old place of employment, while crossing my legs and hopping around, trying to find a free (private) toilet.  Sweet dreams!

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