Thursday, April 16, 2015

Here We Go Again!

Last night I was eating a delicious piece of candy  I love sugar, especially when it's covered by chocolate!  Suddenly I was aware that there was a piece that was extremely hard.  When I fished it out of my mouth I discovered that yet another of my teeth had broken off at the roots. didn't just gave up.  So now I have an even bigger space where my upper teeth should be.  Thank goodness that when I lived in Portland, Social Services actually paid for a dentist to crown my two front teeth.  They are now two of the only 4 teeth I still have on the top level.  Oh, the roots to the broken teeth are still there.  Roots that abcess far too easily.

I am eager to have them all removed.  I'm hoping, praying that my health will improve when I no longer fight this constant battle.

I have come to understand that I am extremely vain.  I liked the way that I looked with teeth.  After my parents sacrificed to get me braces my teeth were lovely.  I often had people tell me that I had a beautiful smile.  I liked hearing that.

Nobody would tell me that now.  I look very much like a chipmunk.  Remember how they only have two large teeth in front?  Chewing is very entertaining.  How much can you chew without teeth?

I know that it will take awhile for my gums to heal after the extractions.  It will take awhile for me to get used to dentures.  I still know that it will be better than it is now.  It will be awesome to just see myself with teeth, even if I can't use them to chew for awhile!

In my late teens and early 20's I had nightmares of my teeth breaking to pieces and falling out.  I studied dream psychology and found out that those dreams were showing a fear of lack of control.  I no longer have to dream about my teeth falling out, and breaking off, it has become my reality.

I do not have the confidence to try to approach anyone to sell my books with these raggedy, jaggedy mess of teeth.  All I have to do is to open my mouth and they will not listen to another word I say.  I know that people are judgmental about bad teeth.  I know this because I used to be.

I worked with a kind man who had all his teeth pulled in his 20's.  He grew up in a desperately poor family.  They never had money for tooth work.  When I met him I thought that he was at least 60.  He would have many days that he didn't wear his dentures.  They did not fit properly.  They caused him pain and so he would just go without them.  I thought he was at least 60.  He was in his early 40's.

Children growing up now do not have the benefit that I did of proper dental work.  It's prohibitively expensive to get a tooth filled, or teeth cleaned.  Unless you have a dental benefit through your employer I do not know how you could afford to keep your children's teeth healthy.

I remember an appointment with the dentist when I was 11 or 12.  He just checked my teeth for decay.  It cost $13.00.  THIRTEEN DOLLARS!  The same appointment now would cost at least $60.00.  Our middle class income has NOT kept pace with inflation.

So is there a point to this post?  I guess the point is that I needed to vent a bit about the situation that I am currently facing.  I DO think that dentist's should have a sliding scale of charge for people who can't afford to get their children's teeth cared for, forget their own.

I also think that Social Services should understand that just because I live with my daughters (because I can't afford appropriate housing on my own), they should not count my daughter's income as though it is mine.  I should still be able to get medical and dental assistance.

Venting is done.  I wish that I had the answer to these problems.  If I DID have the answer I would not need to vent.  Anybody out there that knows these answers? 

UPDATE:  It was harder than I thought to become toothless.  Suddenly the face looking back at me in the mirror looked about 20 years older.  I still can't wear my bottom plate.  Bone deterioration has left little for the plate to be attached.  I had implants placed in my lower jaw, but I can't afford the $1,400.00 price to get my dentures prepared for that.  (I didn't realize that cost was involved).

On the other hand, my health HAS improved.  I have been able to make goals and actually meet them.  That is such a freeing thing, when you know that you can plan for the future!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

A New Type of Journey

In the post I just wrote I acknowledged the fact that I am old.  There are certain types of challenges that I'm facing as an old woman.  My beloved daughters do not want me to "own" being old.  They want me to be young.  They watched their Father die when he was a mere 54.  I have been advised that I will live at least to 95 preferably to 120.  When I suggested that if I made it to 120 I would be a shadow of a human lying in a bed going blah, blah, de blah blah.  They replied, "Yes, but you will still be with us!"

However, moving my way through life I have had seasons of "repair," for this body, and seasons of just radiant joy in enjoying the gifts that having a mortal body gives me. This year is a season of repair. A season of healing.

The Bible has a wonderful scripture that says, "To everything turn, turn, turn, there is a season, turn, turn, turn, and a time to every purpose under heaven."  This is that type of season.

My poor teeth.  They have served me ever so well.  This fact can be attested when a glance is made at my current 220 pound framework.  I have a firm foundation.  I'm a curvaceous cutie.  Or as my sweetheart used to tell me, "You're Rubinesque!" 

My dear parents sacrificed a great deal to pay one thousand dollars to get my teeth straightened.  That would be about 5 thousand dollars now.  At the end of my teen years I faced the world with glistening, beautiful, white teeth.  It was a huge confidence booster.  Before braces I had too many teeth in a too small mouth.  I had my Father's rather large teeth in my Mother's rather small mouth.  My oldest Brother shared a similar fate.  I still am a trifle jealous of my beautiful sister who had and has perfect teeth.  I did say just a trifle.  She's beautiful all the way through and I no longer let jealousy hold my love for her back.  My Brother also had braces, but he achieved them in his 30's.  He was and is so handsome that crooked teeth were more about good health.

Now, I stand on the threshold of the removal of all those teeth.  Well, there aren't so very many left.  A mere 14 teeth stand between me and a new life with dentures.  Am I embarrassed to admit that I will have false teeth?  Not even a little.  I will be filled with gratitude to smile and not have embarrassing gray, rotten teeth, with little jaggedy, raggedy broken parts left.

Why on earth would anyone post about this subject?  I do so with the hope that there is someone in the Cyber world who will read of my experience and receive courage or comfort in a common journey.

It is not just my teeth that will be removed this year.  Both of my knees have been well used.  I dance. Sometimes the dance is performed in a wheelchair, or regular chair, but I DANCE!  I have promised myself that if all I can move is my eyes, or my soul...I WILL DANCE!

Two miserable knees, that have literally been knocked sideways hinder my process.  I use medication to palliate the worst of the hideous pain but there are days that I simply can't face walking up and down our stairs, let alone dressing and going out in the world.

I went to my dentist to have molds made, and measurements made, and choices made to the color of my dentures.  I admire my dentist. He is not only proficient at his craft, but he is a deeply spiritual man.  He is the unpaid shepherd of his religious flock.

The assistant came to me with two denture pieces to decide what color my dentures should be.  I suddenly realized that she was holding up the pieces next to my teeth.  When I said, "Wait, are you trying to match the color of what teeth I have left?  They are rotten, nasty.  I want dentures that AREN'T rotten and nasty!"

She said, well this is the color used the most often.  (There was very much an unstated, AT YOUR AGE).

I replied, "My teeth are awful.  They are all damaged and rotten.  Why on earth would I want dentures that are the same color?"

She then showed me a lighter tone and said, "Well this is the color next to it.  Is this color ok?"

I wasn't really certain that I appreciated the slightly lighter gray tone that she was showing me.  After she left to take care of some other business, and the dentist was working with someone else, I got up and looked at the colors of dentures that she hadn't shown me.

When the dentist returned I said, "Is there some reason that I'm missing why I would want dentures that look old and dingy?"

He said, "We have found that lighter shades of color do not look realistic.  So we prefer to use these colors.  Most people do not want others to realize that they have dentures."  (Not an exact quote of what he said, but the meaning is there).

I said, "I have been battling with my rotten teeth for at least 10 years.  Now my daughters are helping me to get the old rotten pieces removed and dentures in place.  I am NOT trying to hide the fact that I'm getting dentures.  I'm quite proud of the idea.  I'm a rather open person.  Those people that I care about will know for a fact that I have dentures!  So why would I want gray, dismal dentures?"

He didn't really have a response for that.  I think my attitude was a bit of a surprise for him.  An almost old woman who wants white dentures?  What?

I loved it when he measure the two front teeth that I do have (they are both crowns, but lovely crowns), and said, "Your teeth are a good length for us to make the dentures."  Did you hear that Mom, Dad?  My teeth were a good length!  So even if there was that too little of a mouth for too many teeth thing, you gave me teeth that were a good length!

The hardest part of all of this was the financial part.  I have fought ever since Nyle's death to find a way to get my teeth cared for without having my daughters future compromised by debt for my rotten teeth.  I tried many, many different avenues for charitable assistance.  There was always some reason that I didn't qualify.

When we lived in Portland I had an assistant who came three times a week for four hours each time.  She helped me with the tasks that I'm not supposed to do.  Things like "Dishes, laundry, vacuuming, shopping for groceries, and sometimes helping me in and out of the bathtub depending on the level my disability was at.  In addition they paid for any dental needs, and any and all medical needs.

We moved to Utah because our two beautiful daughters grew up and went to school in the general area.  We also moved because my Mama was almost 90 and needed more care.  Then there were the myriads of Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, etc. that I had been missing for almost 20 years. 

I made the fateful assumption that I would be able to qualify for a similar program here in Utah.  I could not have been more wrong.  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day saints is very strong here.  I am a member.  I have actually had social services suggest that I need to turn to my family and/or clergy. 
So much for separation of church and state, right?

I'm so beyond excited for this to be over and done.  One of my dear friends who also battles the fights of disability had to have all her teeth extracted at the young age of 45.  She is such a light, such a positive soul.  She said, "The day they pulled my teeth I went to a movie with a friend.  Once my gums were healed and my dentures were made I would go to bed, take out my teeth, and eat chocolate.  No worries about tooth decay any more!  I would go to the dentist, take out my dentures, hand them to him, and just SMILE!  No more drilling, filling, or the other horrors of dentistry!"

I will strive to be positive as I march through this part of my journey this year.  I am blessed with a wonderful support network.  I know that I will come out of this year's challenges BIONIC!  Oh watch that girl chew!  It's amazing!  Watch that girl hike/dance/walk ferociously!  Two new knees, and a beautiful grin!  I'm SO EXCITED!


Where are you on your Journey?

I'm old.  I declare that with a certain type of pride.  After all, the doctors told my parents that two years would be the quantity of my life.  Breast cancer, many car accidents (there was that naughty deer standing in the middle of the road on a curve) later and I'M STILL HERE!

I know exactly the moment when it became apparent that I was sliding down the slippery slope of middle age to old.  I was listening to music on the radio.  They announced that they were going to play some "retro" types of music.  Then they played the music of my youth.  "Retro music" indeed!

I can quantify my years easily by the days, weeks, months, and years that I have lived.  They have piled up around me.  Sometimes it feels as though I have to knock some of them back, climb out of those large stacks to move forward.  I look in the mirror and it seems as though daily there are new lines and creases.  My hair is not really auburn.  Gun metal gray would describe it's actual tone more realistically.  Thank goodness for Loreal warm auburn dye!

When I was a wee lass, not old yet, not old at all, my beloved Grandma came to the dinner table.  (The only time I beat her there).  She had a look of surprise on her beloved face.  She turned to me and said, "I just had the oddest experience."  I responded, "What was that Grandma?"  "I just looked in the mirror and an old lady looked back at me."

I remember thinking, "Well, of course Grandma because you're really, really old!"  Ah the innocence of youth.  Somehow I did not understand that the spirit within her all too mortal body was still young, still 21 and knowing that all of life, not just a small parcel, was ahead of her.  Now I understand with full force.

Is it BAD to be old?  All of these 58 years that I've lived I've heard the quote, "Beats the alternative."  Oh I hear protests from friends about the new aches, pains, and surgeries that they face.  Yet I feel great joy in the knowledge that I did NOT die at two years of age.  To me each year, whether good or less than good, is an award that says, "Congratulations, you've made it one more year!"

"Women never have to tell their age."  This quote has been a frequent statement in my life.  Ask me.  Ask me how old I am.  I am NOT 29 or soon, I will be 59!  I'm ever so excited!  What an amazing thing to be this age.

Perspective is a wonderful thing.  I have lived through so many difficulties.  The lesson I have learned is that good and bad pass through us in this life.  The secret when facing very, very hard is what I have just mentioned.  Let it pass through us!  Don't lodge the hard, bad, and ugly in any corner or crevice of your heart and soul.  Each and every night release all the bad.  Let it slide away, far far away.  I visualize a giant sink with an enormous drain.  I pile all the sorrows that try to own me in that giant sink and watch them slide into that enormous drain, and down, down, down away from me.

Does it always work?  I am not quite perfect yet...not even close.  Yet in sliding those nagging troubles away and down that drain  I give myself the gift of renewal.  This morning is BRAND NEW!  It is completely unscored by all that has passed.

Learn from the past, live in the present, plan for the future.  These are the words that inspire me...inspire me to count each and every day as a win!  I'm still here.

I wish to end with a story that happened to me.  When I was battling breast cancer at the ripe old age of 34 I went to the radiation clinic one bleak seeming day.  My attitude was lower than the roots of an old tree.  Fear pervaded my soul.  I was ever so frightened that I would not live to see our beautiful daughters grow.  There was also the fear that I would have to leave my sweetheart far earlier than I wanted.

Sitting in the waiting room was a very old man.  It was quite obvious from his emaciated, battle scarred body that he was terminal.  He gave me an enormous smile.  Then he said words that have echoed through my soul since that time.  "Remember, every day above ground is a good one!"

Here I sit all these years later still "Above ground."  I witnessed the beauty of my daughters growing, and becoming the amazing women they are.  My sweetheart and I spent another 18 years of joy together.  I'm surrounded by windows filled with the loveliness of spring.  My brand new day lies before me with countless possibilities.  I'm still "above ground," not only in a physical way, today my attitude, my spirits are also high and far "above ground."    



Saturday, April 11, 2015

Frustration - First Thing in the Morning?

I started sewing a lovely summer house dress last Spring.  That's right, one whole year ago.  In the beastly heat of summer I do NOT like to wear denim jeans.  Somehow they just feel much warmer than a loose fitting dress.  It's still exciting for me to pick fabric, connect it to a pattern, and create something original for me.

The problem is that I never really learned about all the workings of a sewing machine.  For example, what is the name of the two pieces of metal that lie behind the bobbin?  I have Googled, Asked, and used various and sundry ways of trying to find this information.  I found one DIY video that gave instructions, but while she was teaching her hands were in front of the pieces.

1.  What is the name of those pieces?

2.  How do I put them back in the machine?

3.  How many years have I been sewing (around 40) and still don't know what these pieces are called, and how to reinstall them?

4.  It really would be cheaper to go to a thrift store and purchase a ready made summer dress.  Why do I still feel this compulsion to create something of my own?

5.  Living with my two beautiful adult daughters there is already a plethora of clothing in the home.  Why do I feel as though I need to make something new?

6.  Why am I writing this silly post about my frustration with my sewing machine?

I watch the "reality" show "Project Runway," about the designers who create clothing according to instructions for multiple tasks.  It whets my appetite to sew, design, and create something that is absolutely specific to me.

I LOVE, ADORE, fashion.  I toyed with the idea of becoming a fashion designer in my youth.  I have always been fascinated with fashion, both from a historical vantage point (Did you know that in Egypt it was just fine not to wear anything on the top of you, but heaven forbid, don't show your ELBOWS) and a current point of view.  I gave the idea up because I can NOT draw.  Drawing is an important skill when you are creating a garment by making your own pattern pieces. 

At darn near sixty years of age, I have determined to follow "classic" fashion styles for the rest of my life.  On the other hand, I like to toss in accessory things that are fresh, and current.  A classic dress can look new and chic with a new necklace, a shrug, or a cardigan.  Earrings can also make a great statement.

I use fashion to cover when I'm having a tough time.  "If you can't make it fake it." Is a philosophy I agree with wholeheartedly.  Sometimes I can't stand the most basic of make-up, so I wear a lovely necklace, or statement earrings, or a delightful bracelet.  I have discovered that if people see these things, they aren't looking as closely at this old lady with no make-up on!

Frustration can hit at any time with any activity.  Do we let frustration stop us?  I hope not.  I am really, really, talented at being frustrated.  I'm trying to learn a better skill-set than stomping around the house grumpy and annoyed like a terrible two year old.  Gratefully, I can vent in my blog.   I would love to hear comments about what makes you frustrated. 

Monday, April 6, 2015

Sick, Sicker, Sickest

Being really sick from time to time has definite benefits.  Before anybody hisses and quits following, or reading my comments let me explain further.

I have battled throughout my life with mind bending, soul gripping types of illness.  If that hasn't been enough my husband was quite ill for the last thirty years of his life.

We both knew that we had a choice, a very, very difficult choice, but a choice nonetheless.  We could choose to let our illness completely define us, (it IS a part of who I am, but not ALL of who I am) or we could focus on all the things we COULD do, not those we COULDN'T.

My husband was a powerful example for me, for our two daughters.  "Happy, not crappy," became our family motto.  It means the we CAN be happy in spite of our circumstances.  Yes, I said HAPPY!

Last week, I was a health mess.  My tooth abcessed and all of the demons of medical challenge that I juggle daily came spiraling down around my head.  I was at stress level 100 of a scale of 1 to 10.  For two days I was in the land of, "This hurts more than I can bear!"  Gratefully antibiotics have groomed the pain back down to manageable.

Why do I share this?  That time of misery was not wasted. There were periods of time when I thought of all my loved ones that have passed, and smiled with joyous memory.  I prayed, I watched interesting things on TV while I embroidered on an antique family quilt top.  Many of my family that have now passed on worked on this quilt from the 1930's forward.  Somehow Mama just never was able to finish it.  At 90 she considered throwing it away, and I had a figurative heart attack and snatched it back.  This quilt top WILL be finished.

I was not able to do laundry, wash dishes, or perform other household tasks.  This was a time for "other" kinds of duties.  Watching the sun rise, and the moon rise behind our mountains became a daily point of joy.  I was grateful for all my senses (Except for those days when pain was so severe.  I am not a Saint)!

Time slowed to almost a stop.  Instead of racing through my day with tasks, and schedules, and appointments, I was forced to s  l  o  w  w  a  y  d  o  w  n.  Sometimes I felt like I could hear the tress greening, and the flowers poking their seemingly shy heads above the winter chilled earth.

I am not advocating that all of us quit living so that we can listen to the flowers grow.  I'm discussing the hard times that come to almost every human being that lives.  I'm not talking about, "Oh goodness, what shall I do, I can't choose which Prom dress to wear!" kinds of troubles.  I'm referring to soul shaking, bouts of illness, financial stress, or especially financial ruin, divorce, death of a loved one, or disability.  I would wish these troubles on nobody.

I watch, listen, and learn from others as I move along life's path.  I learned from the woman confined to bed by Multiple Sclerosis.  She could do nothing for herself.  She had her Caregiver's get a white board and mount it next to her bed.  Each morning she would have them list people who requested that she pray for the issues in their life.  She labeled herself, "The Prayer Warrior," and spent her days praying for those who were struggling.  Can you catch the irony?  She...the woman bound fast in her bed, was praying for others, for their struggles, and juggles.  It was a way to empower herself and connect with her God.  She did not choose to be pitied, or to spend her day feeling sorry for herself.  She found ways to serve.

I learn from reading, "The Hiding Place," by Corrie Ten Boom.  Corrie, her sister Betsey, and their beloved Father hid Jews during World War II.  They were devout Christians but saw all humanity as brothers and sisters.  A neighbor turned them in for treason.  Betsey and Corrie never saw their elderly Father again.  Betsey did not survive the Concentration Camps.  Corrie was released through a miracle.  She found out later that it was a "Mistake."  If she had not been released she would have been killed a month later.

An example very close to my heart is my beloved Mama.  At the young age of twenty she was diagnosed with incurable kidney disease.  This was 1939.  She was given a long list of behaviors that she should follow.  She should rest a great portion of everyday.  She should NEVER marry.  Having children could easily kill her and the baby.  She would be an invalid.  She probably not live to be very old.

She called a beloved friend for support.  Mama was crying so hard that her friend had a hard time understanding what she was saying.  Shocked to silence, Mama could not believe it when Emma started to laugh.  What Emma said next changed Mama's life.  "Oh Sarah, you're going to learn to take such good care of yourself that you'll outlive the rest of us."  Mama said that she thought, "You can do that?"

Emma's statement proved to be prophetic.  Mama read books, she did research on kidney disease.  She learned ways and means of improving her health.  She gave birth to three children, and lived to be ninety-five years old.

My Mama is my Shero.  She taught me to trust in God with all your heart, and then do everything in your own power to make things happen.  A partnership with my Creator came more from her actions than her words.  She showed that partnership each and everyday by the choices that she made.

These examples of monumental courage in the face of great fear and challenge help me as I face my problems.  I watch how these "ordinary people," faced their extraordinary challenges.  It reminds me that courage does not mean doing things in the absence of fear.  Courage means facing your worst fears. 

When all else fails, remember, "Happy not Crappy!"