Monthly Archives: July 2014

Smile…It Could Be Worse

I would try to smile, but it doesn’t get much worse than the current situation I am faced with. At least the anticipation, of the horrific event, is almost over since the ordeal’s scheduled time is rapidly approaching. The appointment has been confirmed, and there’s no turning back. My lovely wife will see to that. She is the reason I am in this predicament and why I don’t feel like smiling at the moment. Because of her, and her persistence, I finally gave in and now reluctantly have a date with the dentist, in a mere couple of hours, for my seven year exam. That’s right. I make a point of visiting the dentist approximately every seven years, whether I need to or not, but I suspect I need to this time, and that’s precisely why I ultimately gave in to my wife’s gentle hounding. She actually has been suggesting this visit for the last couple of years, but since I waited seven years between visits last time, and everything was fine, I decided I might as well try my luck again. However, I am somewhat worried this time the results may be a little different because the far back tooth, on the upper left side of my mouth, sometimes aches when I’m chewing.

I’m really not scared or nervous, if truth be told, to go to the dentist. I view the occasion more as an inconvenience than anything else. There’s so many other things I’d rather be doing with my time than laying stretched out on a plastic covered couch with my mouth opened wide. The thought of strangers (I haven’t been to this dentist’s office before) poking around in there isn’t all that appealing to me either. I don’t know where their hands have been, except in other people’s mouths of course, and there’s always the possibility of someone accidentally dropping something down my throat. I think what irritates me the most though is the unavoidable line of questioning I’m sure to endure while helplessly lying there with my mouth open. Most of my answers to their questions will typically be inaudible, or awkwardly responded to at best, and probably accompanied with some drool. Let’s not forget about the questions involving flossing and then the hygienist’s inevitable boring instructions, on the proper technique to use, for ultimately making my gums bleed. I am not an idiot! I know how to floss, but I choose not to participate in the tedious activity.

When I was a teenager I had no choice but to endure wearing braces, for three and a half years, due to a prominent overbite. My parents paid $1,500., so I wouldn’t appear too hideous to my junior high classmates. I was the only child in my family who had the pleasure of being referred to as “brace face,” “train tracks,” and “metal mouth.” I actually don’t remember that ever happening, but my older sister did call me “Bucky” a few times before I got braces. Many kids my age were in the same boat, and many others were “four eyes,” so our oddities really weren’t such a big deal. Back in the day there was only one style of braces – gray and bulky, with knobs and wires, and they almost completely covered every single tooth. I also had to wear headgear, adding insult to injury, to help in correcting my overbite. I was forced to wear the non-flattering and humiliating contraption whenever I went to bed and any other time I was in the privacy of my home. Some people wore their headgear out in public, and I should have as well, but I’m grateful my parents didn’t make me do that, or I assuredly would have turned out even more messed up than I already am.

I realize, as I’m now heading out the door, I shouldn’t have too much to worry about, concerning my dentist appointment, because over the years I have taken care of my parents’ investment. I brush my teeth twice a day, and I gave up chewing tobacco and opening beer bottles with my chompers a long time ago. I also faithfully use a toothpick after each meal, and I think that should count for something, but unfortunately it doesn’t seem to matter much to those working in the dental industry. Flossing remains “top dog” in their profession. The dentist’s office was pretty close to what I had imagined, after entering the facility, and as predicted there was a plastic covered couch awaiting me. I admitted to the hygienist, after being asked, that I never floss. I then received the anticipated lecture, but she was at least kind enough not to waste my time, nor hers, on teaching me the correct way to floss.

During the numerous x-rays and teeth cleaning I was reminded why I am not a fan of visiting the dentist. The whole experience is very tiresome, yet it is impossible to get any shuteye during the exam. There’s a lot of uncomfortable poking, scraping and scratching, and at times there is some pain involved. The continuous opening and closing of my mouth undeniably wears out my jaw by the end of the session. When all was said and done, after the hour and a half long appointment, I was declared cavity-free and so relieved to finally be leaving the facility. The dentist would like to see me again in 6 months, but I’m positive it will be closer to 7 years. I can once again smile, now that I’m back home, because I certainly know it could be worse.


Immigration

This is one of those rare occasions when I don’t have a strong opinion on such a hot topic. Let me rephrase that. I do not have an adamant stance, one way or the other, concerning illegal immigration. I almost always see everything as being black and white, cut and dry, and crystal clear because I often find the “gray area” to be reserved for the uninformed and frequent “flip-floppers.” I pride myself on being informed and listening to both sides of an argument before coming to a definite conclusion on any given matter. In the case of the current illegal immigration debate the answer is not so crystal clear to me since I understand the concerns presented by both sides on the issue at hand. Many times I wish I was serving my country as a congressman, aiding in the decision making process, because most problems can be promptly resolved by simply using basic common sense. This isn’t one of those times.

If we’re completely honest with ourselves we have to admit that our ancestors, at one time or another, migrated to America from numerous other countries, and most of us were just plain lucky to have been born in the greatest country in the world. Even with all her faults, there’s way too many to mention in a single blog, America still stands head and shoulders above the rest, in countless categories, also way too many to mention in a single blog. That’s why everyone wants to come here! However, this country’s population already seems to be at full capacity. That’s probably the reason why foreigners must endure a painstaking process to eventually become U.S Citizens. Apparently our nation no longer welcomes the “tired, poor, and huddled masses yearning to breathe free” as is written at the base of the Statue of Liberty. When exploring the topic of illegal immigration I find myself having more questions than finding plausible solutions to the complex problem.

In the not so distant past I viewed illegal immigration as just that – illegal immigration. I was part of the chorus denouncing illegals with the renowned, “what part of illegal don’t they understand.” I thought rounding them all up and sending them back to their homelands seemed like the correct, black and white solution, but I sure didn’t know exactly how that would work. I still don’t. How easy would it be to force millions and millions of undocumented people out of the United States? I do still think something needs to be done about the illegal immigrants crossing the U.S. border from Mexico. Most of them tend to be male adults looking for work and longing to join their wives or girlfriends, and quite possibly their U.S. born children, already living here. Many of them have been sent back only to return time and time again. Would sending away cheap labor hurt our already frail economy? Would legal citizens of this country be willing to fill all of those low paying, manual labor jobs left behind?

We most certainly have a problem with drugs and guns being smuggled into the Southern states of America from Mexico, but the current illegal immigration situation is very different and deserves to be treated as such. The recent wave of illegals are unaccompanied children migrating from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. I see the need for following laws, but I also see the necessity of showing some compassion for these undocumented children. They are purportedly fleeing from the rampant gang violence in their countries and not just into the United States for safety but into other countries as well. I do have a slight problem with the parents, who are choosing to send their children away, but I can at least understand the thought process behind their decision. I cannot fathom trying to raise a child under those extreme conditions, but I am positive I would rather fight by my child’s side than to send him away.

Unfortunately, there invariably seems to be grandstanding idiots, usually from both sides of the political aisle, who are more consumed with advancing their political careers than addressing current issues with any common sense. For example, The Arizona Republic reported that Pinal County Sheriff, Paul Babeu, recently told the media about some children who were caught crossing the Texas border and who were going to be bused to Oracle, Arizona. He then shared the explicit details of the supposed event, and the circus began. Some demonstrators showed up carrying signs, to welcome the children, which read “Return to sender,” and “Stop dumping your illegals here.” As usual, as is the case with most protests, there were protesters protesting the protesters. Sheriff Babeu was right there in the middle of it all, but he insisted he was only there to keep the peace and not as a political photo opportunity.

Likewise, Adam Kwasman, Arizona’s House Representative and congressional candidate, appeared to welcome the free publicity by showing up to the controversial event. As two school buses full of children arrived on the scene they were immediately surrounded by the demonstrators. Mr. Kwasman tweeted, “I was actually able to see some of the children in the buses. The fear on their faces. … This is not compassion.” The funny thing is the busload of migrant children never did show up as predicted by Sheriff Babeu. The pair of buses that did arrive were actually transporting local children to a nearby YMCA day camp. In Mr. Kwasman’s defense, I reckon not every child is excited to spend part of their summer vacation at camp, so there probably were some fearful faces on board the school buses.

Illegal immigration is a serious problem, in the United States, but is typically ignored until election time or when a special circumstance of great magnitude, as is currently the case, is brought to light. Is dealing with this issue worth adding $3.7 billion to our nation’s already inflated deficit as is proposed by President Obama? I wholeheartedly believe the first step in curbing illegal immigration is for the U.S. to rid itself of it’s current stance, albeit bad policy, “if you’re born here, you’re an American.” That principle should only apply to those born in this country with at least one legal parent, but if neither parent is here legally then the child should not have automatic citizenship. Other than my aforementioned proposal, which I believe is long overdue, I won’t even pretend that I know what the proper course of action to take is regarding illegal immigration. As previously stated I seem to have more questions than answers on the subject. I can’t imagine our current elected officials getting this one right, but at least I don’t have to deal with this mess.


Rain

The other night it rained and I felt this sudden urge to go outside, into the backyard, and lay naked on a lounge chair. I’m sort of strange like that. I mention my nudity only because it would have been quite silly if I had laid outdoors during a rainstorm fully clothed. I’m not totally insane. My wife and I have only experienced about a dozen steady rains in Peoria, since moving here over seven years ago. We live in the desert for goodness’ sake, so we really shouldn’t be too surprised by the lack of rainfall. Raindrops are so scarce in Arizona, that many residents flock to their covered patios to witness the oddity when it happens. I’m not one of those people. At least not yet.

I had my fill of rain while living in Iowa, for the majority of my life. Many times tornados, hail, or flooding accompanied the rain, so there wasn’t much to like about that kind of weather. I think what irritated me the most though were the incessant discussions, about the rain, which lasted all spring and summer long. The tiresome conversations about whether there was too much rain, or not enough rain, for the local farmers’ crops were almost too much to bare. I can’t remember a time, as a Newton citizen, when the amount of rain was “just right.” Now, many years later I unexpectedly had found myself not only wanting to be a spectator but actually longing to be amongst the rainfall. My lovely wife wasn’t interested in joining me (she’s mostly sane), so I experienced the rarity of the condition on my own.

In the beginning the large raindrops were cold and a bit maddening. There was definitely an initial shock to my body, but then I remembered a relevant line from the movie First Blood. The classic film also happens to be what was playing at the drive-in when my wife and I went on our first date on June 3rd, 1983. In the classic film, Col. Samuel Trautman is describing his protégé, John J. Rambo, to an egotistical, small-town sheriff who is trying to capture the former Green Beret. The Colonel warns the sheriff that Rambo is, “a man whose been trained to ignore pain, ignore weather, to live off the land, to eat things that would make a Billy goat puke.” I subscribe to that notion, of mind over matter, so I fully expected the elements to change, for the better, as I continued laying motionless on the lounge chair.

Although my eyes were closed, during this rare occurrence, I could see continuous flashes of light through my eyelids, and I could hear the intermittent thunder as if it were in surround-sound. At first I couldn’t tell if God was crying or simply nourishing His creation. I know there’s a lot going on in this world worth crying over, but this rainstorm seemingly carried with it a message of peace and happiness with each and every raindrop. The rain increasingly became secondary to my profound thoughts which were typically reserved for the still of the night when nestled in my bed. I found myself praying, as if it was bedtime, and thanking the Lord for who He is and what He does. The rain was no longer cold and annoying, but warm and comforting, and I was filled with an unheralded contentment.

After soaking up the unique experience for awhile I was ready to go back inside, but I then suddenly felt challenged to ride out the gentle storm. It seemed as though I was being offered a chance to play a friendly game of “who’ll blink first” with God. I was just stubborn enough to remain there on my back, another several minutes, for the duration of the rainfall. I won the game but only because He was gracious enough to let me win. That’s what Father’s sometimes do for their children. After claiming victory, and entering the confines of my warm, dry house, it immediately began to rain again as if God was enticing me back outdoors for a rematch. I knew I’d probably lose this time, and I no longer had the yearning to be outside, so I decided to remain inside with my newfound memories of the unique experience. Laying naked outdoors during a rainstorm may be a bit unconventional, but at least I’m not one of those “patio people.” Not yet, anyway.


That Was Embarrassing

I would venture to say everyone has been embarrassed at one time or another. I would expand on that statement by adding there are many levels of humiliation, ranging from slight to extreme, and once in awhile the people witnessing another person’s blunder may be more embarrassed by the situation than the actual offender is. For example, one time during a church service a worshiper’s cell phone went off at the most inopportune time. I could not help but cringe, while he fumbled around with the annoying device, until he ultimately got it turned off. Afterwards, he might not have given his faux pas another thought but because of the embarrassing situation, at least to me, he will forever be known as “the rude cell phone guy.” Many people no longer appear to be shocked, or even that concerned, when a cell phone rings during a church service, theater production, wedding, or even a funeral because it’s now all too commonplace in today’s society.

Some of our awkward moments could be avoided altogether if we’d simply learn to listen better, instead of pondering a reply, while the other person is still talking. As Judge Judy would say, “There’s a reason why we have two ears and only one mouth.” I’ve been guilty, like many I presume, of anticipating someone’s words before they’re spoken; therefore, incorrectly responding to them since my brain did not have the time to completely digest what was really said. For instance, one time when I was leaving a Starbucks, after purchasing a cream-cheese danish, I assumed the employee behind the counter was going to say, “have a nice day,” as she had done so many times before. However, my well-rehearsed, “you too,” became quite irrelevant after I realized this time she had actually said, “enjoy the danish.” Since I couldn’t go back in time I hurriedly continued towards the exit hoping she somehow didn’t hear what I had just said. I think that would qualify as only a small infraction on the embarrassment scale.

I’ve experienced a few embarrassing moments, at some of the different levels, during my lifetime. There is the commonly committed improper reply, as previously discussed, and then there’s the moderately embarrassing accidental fart ripped while stretching, during team warm-ups, before a freshmen football game. I have even experienced the dreaded, red-faced doozy. I’m comfortable enough in my manliness, although not quite to the extent of wearing pink out in public (like my father), to share one of my most humiliating moments with you. It happened not too long ago during my one year of higher learning. I’m a very routine type of guy (borderline O.C.D.), so I became a bit confused during the last week of my first semester in college when most of my class times had temporarily changed. The new times were designed for taking a final exam or for simply handing in a term paper, but either way the class times were shorter than usual.

My English class was over at least a half an hour earlier than normal, and I had forgotten my next class wasn’t to begin for awhile, so I preceded to my Sociology class. To my surprise, after opening the door, the professor was already lecturing, and someone was occupying my assigned seat. This situation might not have been so drastic except the teacher was extremely strict, and she absolutely detested interruptions of any sort. You might as well not even show up to her class if you were going to be late, unless you were a glutton for humiliation, because her typical response was to immediately stop speaking and to intently stare at you until you found your seat. She would pause for several seconds, although it seemed like an eternity, as she coerced an exaggerated look of frustration onto her face before asking her famous question, “Now what was I talking about before being so rudely interrupted?”

As a responsible adult I whole-heartedly agreed with the importance of being on time, and not interrupting a class, but unfortunately for me (undoubtedly her prized pupil) that notion of hers applied to students arriving too early to class as well. I stood there motionless, like a deer caught in headlights, trying to grasp what the heck was going on. Several awkward seconds went by until the professor, sensing my confusion, finally informed me that I was to be in her next class. I blindly felt behind me, for the doorknob, while looking directly at my visibly disappointed teacher. I then gradually opened the door and slowly began backing my way out of the classroom. I somehow managed to force a partial smile and mumbled the word, “sorry,” while closing the door shut. I was still able to hear the entire classroom erupt with laughter. That was embarrassing!