Well, I am 45 years old today. Thanks to my recent regimen of weight loss and self improvement, I feel much younger than I have in years! I bought myself a pair of size 6 jeans last night, and I was sooo excited! I have been enjoying doing a lot of jewelry making and bead weaving recently as well.
I was woken up this morning by my phone blowing up – I just updated Facebook yesterday and it apparently reset my notifications so my phone alarms for every incoming facebook post to me. Wow! I am very gratified to have so many well wishers, but that phone exploded this morning. Then my husband texted and my mom phoned and I knocked over my Coke over trying to get to the phone. Sigh. My husband also forgot to wish me happy birthday this morning. Maybe I can work that for an extra good birthday present!
This is the first time in 7 years I have not had to be on call on Memorial Day weekend. The last 7 years, I have gone to a jewelry show called Bead and Button, which takes place in Milwaukee every year, around the first of June. Ergo, I was always on call the week before. This holiday weekend, I have nothing to do but lounge around and enjoy myself! Loving it! I do admit, I am a bit lonely as I am far away from home and without my family, but the work break is definitely welcome. But I still get to go to my show next week! I am terribly excited.
I am about to shower and dress up a bit and do a little shopping. I have some shoes to return and a shirt they forgot to take the security tag out of. How is it those things never set the alarm off when I walk out with my purchases? It sure would have been handy for the girl to take it off while I was still in the store. Then I’m going to look for a new belt – I sure could use one, what with my pants being all loose and everything.
Unfortunately, it looks and smells as if a thunderstorm may be brewing up. I don’t think I want to go out shopping in one of those. Hopefully it will be over soon and I can get to the mall – it’s small but it’s just across the street, which is handy.
So for my birthday, I am enjoying beadwork, an SVU marathon, and some possible shopping. Pretty nice. I’m waiting for a show I’ve already seen to take my shower, so I don’t miss anything.
So there you have it. That’s my birthday. I’m expecially excited to be off until Tuesday! It sure is nice to have a big break and some well-earned downtime. So happy birthday to me! Middle aged me! I’m good with that though. My daughter is only 7, which keeps me feeling young. A good day to you all!
I have thought of writing a post about Etsy for quite a while now, but something odd today really triggered me to write. First, Etsy is a web site. It is a place where handmade items, art supplies, vintage items, etc are sold. Mass marketers are not encouraged to be there, so it is a wonderful place to find something unique!
I have had a shop on Etsy for three or so years now, since I make jewelry and I like to sell it, so I can justify buying more beads and jewelry supplies. Jewelry creation is my real passion. I do strung work, off-loom bead weaving (my greatest love), chain maille, wirework and metal work. Everything I create is one of a kind – I’d get bored making the same thing over and over again.
Etsy is fairly affordable. It costs nothing to create and open a shop. What costs you money is posting photographs and info about each individual piece for sale. Etsy charges you 0.20 for each item you place on sale, and this lasts for three months. When items expire, you need to renew them, if you still want them sold, and they will cost you 0.20 apiece to renew. I currently have 130 items for sale, so I guess that adds up. My Etsy bill is probably about 5-8 dollars a month; you can pay with Paypal.
People can shop on Etsy with all major credit cards, Paypal, and Etsy gift cards. Etsy sets the whole thing up for you and makes it really easy. They have recently added the coolest feature EVAH. From your home computer, you can type in the weight and dimensions of the package of merchandise that you wish to ship to the purchaser, and you can print out a USPS mailing label right on your home printer and attach it to the package. For most small items, all you have to do is walk down the sidewalk and put the labelled package in your mailbox. SWEET! Etsy deducts the postage cost from your Paypal account.
I check Etsy every few days, to check merchandise and check if there are purchases. Etsy automatically emails you if there are any purchases or communication, but it also seems wise to check. Also, you need to manually check and make sure there is no merchandise you need to renew. You can check your shop stats and see how many people looked at your site each day or week, which items they looked at, and whether anyone has favorited or “liked” your shop or a particular piece.
Here’s the weird thing. When I checked on my Etsy shop today, there had been a MASSIVE amount of traffic in the last few days. I had dozens of favorites of my shop and of items. The really odd thing was, it seemed to be the same 2 or 3 items that were favorited, over and over again. One of those pieces is the piece shown above. Now the Etsy Home Page features selected items (I’m not sure how they select them) and it is said that you will have a massive surge in traffic if one of your items is featured on their home page. The thing is, I checked the home page and none of my stuff is on it. Maybe it was there a few days ago? I can’t quite figure it out.
You can also pay extra money to advertise items through Etsy, either through paying to have little ads posted, or paying for a bump in their search engine. Thing is, I’ve only tried advertising once, it was a long time ago, it didn’t do squat, and I’ve never done it again. So, weirdness. It would be kind of like posting a blog and suddenly having traffic leap up by a factor of ten on one post, without being featured on something like Freshly Pressed. I did notice that 40 hits came through the Etsy search engine, but I don’t know why.
I will of course have to make a plug for my Etsy shop here. I also want to make a plug for my friend Diana, because she does the most amazing Shibori tie dye EVER and I’ve bought like a million of her gorgeous pieces. She uses the best quality shirt material, including bamboo, and you can machine wash without losing your color. You can check her out here. She has no idea I am doing this, so she may be similarly bewildered by a sudden increase in traffic.
If you create something you’re proud of, and you want to try to sell it, Etsy is a great place to get your feet wet. And no, I don’t work for or with Etsy, and they haven’t paid me any money to write about this (although I think they should). I have had very good experiences with Etsy, both buying and selling (and, yes, I have bought quite a number of amazing things off this site over the years). I have yet to get ripped off or deceived, which is a pretty cool thing. So check it out! Surf! Run a search! And hold on to your wallet, because those cards are gonna be jumping right out of there!
OK, so I’m not skinny. I’ve never been skinny. The closest I’ve been was the first couple years of college, when I wore a size 4. And weirdly, I lived on Diet Cokes and Hershey bars out of the library vending machine. Even at a size 4, I found myself sucking in a little tummy pooch. I could never get that sucker flat. I obsessed that one day I could just relax in a bikini and not suck in at all.
I have been a yo-yo dieter all my life. During that same college experience, while dating an extremely tall guy, I attempted to match his monster food intake and soared up to a size 14. My mother of course began to nag. And I wasn’t very happy with how I looked. I spent a lot of time wearing my boyfriend’s boxers and oversized t-shirts, in an attempt to hide the extra weight. When we broke up, I lost the weight again.
I have had a love/hate relationship with eating and weight since I was real little. I begged my mother for a pair of blue jeans when I was around 11 and she refused. She said they just wouldn’t look good with my “little lazy tummy.” When I look back at prepubescent pictures of me, I see a tiny little girl who, if anything, had a tendency to stand a bit swaybacked, which is the only reason I had a “tummy” at all. But the seeds of discontent were planted early. My mother continued to dress me in coveralls and overalls.
I was 13 when I went on my first diet. I carefully followed a diet plan I found in Teen Magazine (remember that rag?). My mother applauded my efforts. I probably weighed about 110 pounds at the time, but I was already obsessed with that stomach pooch. I fell off the diet with a WHAM when we went to a school reception and I was faced with a plate of Krispy Creme Donuts and a table full of cookies and cakes. My mother wrinkled up her nose in distaste.
When I was in my teens, Mom had me walking around in heels with books on my head. She could hear me peeling a banana from across the house. She would scornfully swoop down on me, and whatever time of day, she would inform me that I would gain weight and spoil my dinner. I learned from my dad that stealth, cunning and gluttony were the keys. Stealth and cunning were the only ways to get snacks with Mom around. We learned to look for cooking ingredients like marshmallows and chocolate chips, which were hidden behind other containers in the pantry. Often we would get up to eat after she was in bed. And I think we both ate out of spite, just to prove that we could do it and get away with it, which set a very bad precedent for my future.
The rest of my life, my weight has swung up and down. I began eating to spite myself, gorging when I was angry with my life or sad or upset because I was gaining weight. Smoking curtailed that behavior a bit, high school through just out of residency, since smoking is another way to punish yourself when you are upset or sad. That kept the weight off a bit. There was a fair amount of drinking with the smoking, however, and that put weight on both via calories (my drink of choice has always been beer) and via complete loss of eating will power when I was drunk.
I have always had a closet full of clothes, but part of the reason for that was that I have kept a range of sizes from 6 to 12 my whole life. My weight swings that much. I only keep items that flatter at whatever size, although some sizes are just unflatterable.
When I got pregnant, I got the diet monkey off my back but good. Pregnancy was an excuse to eat whatever I wanted without the guilt. After all, I was eating for 2, right? And I would lose the weight after the baby came, right? At least I managed to avoid gestational diabetes. I remember one time eating two Cinnabons at the same time and feeling right queasy afterwards. I weighed 190 pounds when I had my baby.
Amazingly, the weight did come off. I dropped to about 135 just by breastfeeding and cutting back a bit. I sure wish I could breastfeed without having another baby. Boy, if I could pump those suckers out a couple of times and drop some weight, it would be totally worth it. Then I went on an extremely restricted calorie diet, which I maintained by writing down every single thing I ate and looking up the calories in a book I carried with me everywhere. I dropped to 123 pounds, which I loved, as I was hovering between a size 6 and a size 4, but my husband began telling me I was too skinny (huge mistake, in my book) and I lost my discipline and started eating again. It didn’t help that at the lower weight I began to get light headed and pass out at work, during surgeries when I had to stand for long periods of time.
My job finally got the better of me. I had hated that job, hated my line of work for so long. My stress level was unbelievable. My partner and I had been looking for a new partner, and it took us the better part of 2 years to find one. When we did, she turned out to be a total sociopath, and we had to let her go. We then entered a stretch where we were on call every other night for 2 and a half years. I ate. I stress ate. I ate when I was angry. I ate when I had a bad day. I ate when I was stuck at the hospital late at night. My husband became the nemesis that my mother had been, and I ate to spite him. I ate because I was depressed and I hated my freaking life and I had nothing to look forward to and it was the only thing that gave me pleasure.
I finally hit rock bottom. Or should I say, rocky top. My weight soared up higher than it has ever been since pregnancy. For 2 years, I weighed 175 pounds. At 5’3″. I have never looked so bad. I didn’t have pregnancy as an excuse. I was wearing about a size 16. I hated myself. I hated myself because I was fat. I hated myself because I love clothes, because I had an entire closet full of beautiful clothes that didn’t fit. I hated myself because I lacked the willpower to diet more than a day before backsliding. I looked so ugly. I wore scrubs all the time, because they came closer to concealing the fat. I actually had a patient scold me because I had “let myself go”. My face blew up – it looked like I did when I was pregnant. I lost all self-respect, cut off all my hair into an ugly haircut, and stopped wearing jewelry or makeup. And I hated myself every day. Not one day went by that I did not call myself ugly names and loath myself. I never looked in mirrors.
I found salvation when I finally ditched my shitty job. I quit and began work as a locum tenens, or traveling doctor. This meant when I was working, I wasn’t home and therefore was not feeling the stress of failure as a wife and mother. And when I was home, I was off. I could enjoy being a wife, mother and housekeeper. I made a rule that when I was on the road, I would not eat out. I allow myself one treat: a yogurt parfait with granola and fruit. And the pounds finally came off. Melted off. I’ve dropped from 175 to 142 and I’m still going. I’ve got 20 pounds more to go, to get me back in my 6’s, or even 4’s. I now am wearing a 10, and some 8’s are fitting. My closet fits again! I can wear all my clothes! I’ve been trying on the entire closet, reveling in the fact that everything fits!
I’ve never been so happy since that weight has come off. That 175 pounds was one of the most humiliating experiences of my life. I missed opportunities to see old friends, because they would see how fat and ugly I looked. I hung my head in shame when I met new people, because I knew they were judging me for my ugly, lumpy, misshapen bulging body. I love photography, but for 2 years I dodged every opportunity to be photographed, even if it meant having no pictures with my family, because I couldn’t stand the sight of my ugly self. For 2 years my Facebook profile pictures were pictures of my daughter. I have never been so full of hatred and humiliation. To hell with people who say, “Love yourself the way you are. You’re beautiful at any size.” I call bullshit. I looked like pure shit crap.
So now I’ve gone on this self-improvement bender. Not only have I lost weight, I’ve grown my hair out so it looks pretty, I’ve started wearing makeup again, and I had my teeth whitened (a whole other post). I’m enjoying my hobbies again. That ugly depression that dogged me for two years, it’s almost gone. And it’s a circular thing. The less depressed I was by work, the better I felt and the more able to improve. The more improved I became, the more I liked to strut my stuff and the more the depression faded.
My advice: change your life. Your whole life. It’s probably the suckiness of your life that’s keeping you where you are. You probably hate yourself because you hate your life. No matter how scary it is, make the bold move. Decide what you want, and do it now. Even if it means decreased income, decreased power, decreased approval from friends and family. Do what you love now, before your life is over and you look back and you realize you hated the whole freaking thing. Allow yourself to have dreams again. For almost 10 years, I had no dreams, no goals. I never imagined that things could be different. When I finally made the move, the whole thing came together. I have never been so happy. DO IT.
I have succeeded in addicting my daughter to shopping and clothes. I agree, this is probably very irresponsible of me. However, shopping, and clothes, and shopping for clothes are three of my favorite things, in no particular order. I get to buy my daughter more clothes than I get to buy for me, because I have way too damn many clothes already, and yet my husband still recognizes when I have bought something new. Damn him. I get to buy my daughter clothes because she is growing, and ergo requires new clothes nearly all the time. According to me.
My daughter has already developed quite the fashion sense. I won’t say it is mine, exactly, but that’s OK. I’ve seen weirder stuff than she picks out coming down the runways. In fact, with her wild use of color, and trademark boots with every outfit, she will probably be a designer one of these days. The clashing prints are a bit too much for me. We are working on that.
Wednesday night, we had a girl’s night out. I am leaving to go work on Sunday, and will not be back until June 1, and then for only one day. I asked her to choose what she would like to do on our night out, and she chose shopping over a movie. Yay me! I have always hated wasting a beautiful day sitting in a movie theater. Movies are for dark, or rain, when you can’t be out doing anything else.
Of course we had to run around the fountain about a hundred times. At least, she did. I took pictures of her doing that, and then pictures of her climbing up the big giant horse out in front of PF Chang’s, and then pictures of her dangling from a lamp pole she had shimmied up. Might I note that she performed all these activities in a smocked front lilac cotton dress, a white hoodie, and a pair of studded white cowboy boots. Perfection. We then had to ride the escalator down and then up, just because we could.
Of course we had to work some shopping in there. We went to H&M, and lo and behold, the same scarf she had picked up and begged for was sitting right there. Except now it was marked down from twenty-some dollars to $3.50. How could I not? We found a bikini on sale, cute nautical design, because she said she was outgrowing her last season’s one. It was a bit skimpy for my taste, but she’s in great shape and has no stomach at all, so I guess she’s entitled to wear it. It wasn’t slutty. Just a bit skimpy.
We went to the Gap and the Great Gap Saga began. She begged for various things in the store, and I variously refused. She denied a need for underwear or socks. We found a cute romper on sale and I told her she could have that. The store manager told us we would get an additional 30% off if we used our Gap card. Well, I just happened to have one. When I paid it was declined. And declined again. We looked into it, and it turns out that the Gap automatically cancels your card if it hasn’t been used in 6 months. Seriously? I refused to renew it. I resent that.
Then we went to the men’s side, because the Gap is one of the stores that carries a true men’s small. We found some cute v-neck t-shirts in nice colors on sale, but I wasn’t sure if my husband would wear v-necks. So I texted him. No answer. “To heck with this,” I told my daughter. “We’ll go back and get them if he texts back.”
She wanted to go to Justice, which is a little girl’s store that is just a bit too T & A for my taste. Rather adult looking clothes. And the colors are so bright it looks like Walt Disney threw up in there. Not to mention the little notebooks, and diaries, and pillows, and erasers, and stuffed animals – ridiculous swag that will cause you to be begged to death, because you are not letting any of that crap in your house. Every now and then I’ll pick her up a little skirt there – Justice is one of the few places that adds built-in shorts to its skirts for older girls. That beats having to wear a regular pair of shorts under the skirt to school, since seven year-olds aren’t exactly cautious about waving their legs in the air.
My husband texted back. He wanted the v-necks. He didn’t want the long-sleeved ones. So back to the Gap we went, but no longer armed with a Gap card. While we were back in the store, hubby wanted to know if they had white socks and underwear. We’ve had a devil of a time finding stuff that fits that doesn’t have horrid colors and logos all over it. They had the underwear, but I wasn’t sure about the right size. I texted him back. He didn’t answer, didn’t answer, didn’t answer, didn’t answer. Meanwhile, my daughter, bored, had begun crawling under the racks of clothes. She took a shelf of hats for sale and piled every last one on her head. I actually got a pretty cute picture of that. “Forget this,” I told her. “We’ll come back if he answers.”
Then we found a train and of course had to ride it. It went around and around the outdoor mall. She waved her new scarf at passers-by. We stopped for yogurt – one of those ridiculously expensive places that lets you serve your own yogurt and then put toppings on it. My daughter’s usual MO is to start with very little yogurt and pile a BUNCH of crap up on top. Juice balls, cookie dough bits, Andes mint pieces, gummy worms, chocolate sauce, sprinkles, M&Ms, whipped cream. Yak! Yet another pile of Technicolor grossness.
My husband never answered, so I went back and got the underwear and the socks. The third trip to the Gap. I was heartily sick of the Gap by then. I think they were heartily sick of us as well, as my daughter was not liking the Gap anymore and was distinctly antsy.
At last, it was time to stop by the Chocolate Crocodile and buy candy for home. My daughter selected her usual disgusting jelly wedge fruit gummies. I got sugar-free cappuccino truffles. We found some Key Lime bark with a gummy lime slice embedded in it and bought it as a joke for my husband, since he loves Key Lime Pie. And off we went, with my daughter all whacked out on sugar and clutching her new clothes. Girl’s night out, by any standards, was a raging success! Except for maybe the Great Gap Saga. Home just in time for shower and bed.
We have a bread machine. Specifically, it was my father-in-law’s bread machine. Apparently he used it quite often to make delicious raisin bread, about which my husband waxes lyrical even now. We have had it since my father-in-law passed away, which has been about twelve years ago. It has sat in a cupboard in the kitchen gathering dust, along with a George Foreman grill, a salad shooter, and a milkshake blender, to name a few. We haven’t been too domestic.
The irony is, I was raised to be very domestic. My mother was Martha Stewart with fangs, and June Cleaver all rolled into one. She could sew anything. She could cook anything. She could craft anything. And she did, and she wanted to make sure that I could too. So from a very young age, she had me baking in the kitchen, and doing public speaking about it, and entering cooking competitions. She showed me how to sew on the sewing machine, and we made shorts with pockets and zippers, and skirts, and sundresses. She even taught me how to bake homemade bread, and we entered it into several competitions.
So despite my homemaking dormancy lo these many decades, I was raised to do all these things. I know how to do them. I just haven’t had time, or energy, or inclination until recently. So while cleaning and organizing the kitchen (a task eleven years in the making), I rediscovered the bread machine. And I decided that if I can make bread from scratch, surely I can figure out how to use a bread machine.
The gods are laughing.
I went to the grocery store and picked up all the ingredients I needed to bake bread in the bread machine. I read through the manual, and the recipes, until I was pretty sure I knew what was going on. I was ready to make bread.
“Are you sure the bread machine works?” I asked my husband. “Of course it works, ” he said. “It always worked. We wouldn’t have kept it if it didn’t work. My dad used it all the time.”
I loaded the ingredients into the bread machine. It was so simple! It took me all of fifteen minutes to get everything in there. I turned the machine on, and it started mixing. The game was on!
I checked on it a bit later. The dough was in a cohesive ball, had the appropriate shine and texture, and seemed to be coming along nicely.
I peeked at it a little later. The dough was rising, and it was just peeking up to the top of the inner baking pan, and looked just about right. My husband made fun of me for staring into the bread machine. I told him to hush, that it smelled good.
I went off and worked on something else. It wasn’t too much later that my husband called me. “I think you have a problem,” he said. I looked at the bread machine. The dough was rising all right. It had risen out of the baking pan, and up to fill the outer lid, and was beginning to flow over the sides of the smaller pan.
“Should I turn it off?” I asked. “I’m not going to justify that with an answer,” my husband replied.
I thought about it. “I may just let it run,” I said. “Perhaps when it begins to bake it will shrink back into the pan.” “It might,” said my husband.
“Also,” I continued, “the machine may be easier to clean if the bread is baked.” “It may,” my husband said.
About that time the baking cycle kicked in. The mushroom top on the bread did, in fact, shrink a little. What it did not do was shrink back into the baking pan. It baked for not very long. Then the cooling cycle kicked in. I peered into the machine. The edges of the bread inside the oven appeared quite brown. However, there was a big mushroom cloud of raw dough hovering over the top.
I had to go pick up my daughter. “Guess what I did today,” I asked. She couldn’t guess. I told her, “I tried to make bread today, in the bread machine. Instead, I made The Mushroom That Ate Dallas.” My daughter thought this was hysterical. She couldn’t wait to get home and see the giant raw mushroom. “Will I need to climb onto the counter to see it?” she inquired. I told her I thought she could see the damn thing from just about anywhere in the kitchen.
When we got home, she ran into the kitchen. She began laughing hysterically. “Let’s get it out,” I said. “Let’s see what we’ve got here.”
I must say, I was very pleased with the non-stick properties of the bread machine. The stem of the mushroom was baked. It actually looked like viable bread. The cap of the mushroom was raw dough, and did not look very tasty. My husband came into the kitchen to inspect my handiwork. We agreed that maybe we could rescue the bread by beheading it, and cutting the raw part away.
It worked! Lo and behold, we had bread. It was almost normal looking bread, once the gooey monstrosity was removed from the top. My daughter began picking at the edges. “Mmmm, ” she said. “This tastes like bread.” “Of course it tastes like bread,” I told her peevishly. “It is bread.” My husband picked at the edges. “I think this is edible,” he said. He sliced it up into pieces. “I think if we toast it,” he said, “it will be pretty good.” He toasted it. It was pretty good.
So my first bread making attempt was a rather funny pseudo-failure cum pseudo-success. I was rather put out that I had been bested by the bread machine, however. I announced my plan to make a second attempt as soon as possible, as this one would be a success. I was sure of it.
When I cleaned the raw dough out of the lid of the machine, the sharp metal edge gashed my palm. I bled. And swore. And found a bandaid. And marveled that the bread machine had managed to get off one more parting shot before it was done with me. Curse you, bread machine! We shall meet again, on a more even battlefield! I shall be armed with less yeast, and more determination! I shall not be defeated! And if all else fails, I’ll make the damn stuff by hand.
I had a very unique experience this week. Since I’ve been on a self-improvement kick, and have lost all this weight and stuff, and got a wild hair and actually went and got my teeth cleaned and had a checkup with my doctor, I decided since I have time to make appointments now, that I was going to get my teeth officially whitened. I haven’t been too happy with the color of my teeth since my braces came off all those years ago, and I had bracket staining (that is the official term), and then I spent all those years smoking (yes, I did, for years, shame on me, but I haven’t touched one in over ten years and I never will) and powering down Starbucks, and with my work schedule, I got my teeth cleaned about once every three years whether they needed it or not, and next thing you know, “If you’re not whitening, you’re yellowing.” Haven’t smiled real big in quite some time.
So, I talked to my dentist about it, and she explained that I would come in and have a Tooth Desensitizing Treatment, and then they would send me home with two tubes of bleaching gel that had to be kept refrigerated, and a set of tooth molds that they made by cramming trays full of polymer in my mouth, and I was to Desensitize my teeth every morning, and put the gel in my molds and wear them every night for two weeks. At the end of that time I was to come back and they would do the WOW appointment where they apply the super gel and do the super whitening on my teeth.
So for two weeks, I flossed and brushed and painted this nasty stuff on my teeth in the morning, and flossed and brushed and put cold gel in my molds at night, which I slept in, and man that stuff tastes nasty. I was away working as a locum during the two weeks, so I had to figure out a way to keep the gel refrigerated in my luggage so it could travel with me. Can you say, breast milk storage cooler? Yep, still got that sucker sitting around. The kid is seven. Go figure. But see, it came in useful for something. I just knew it would.
The day after I got home was my WOW treatment at the dentist (yes, they really actually call it that, it’s even on the bill), and I was soooo excited, because I was going to go home that day with white dazzling teeth. They had actually whitened up quite a bit with my nightly treatments, so I was very optimistic that I would end up with pretty results.
I couldn’t remember if my appointment was at eight or at nine, so even though I had just flown home the day before, I got up at six thirty and went to the dentist. Of course, the appointment was at nine and they had me sitting there over an hour. I just didn’t want to miss my appointment. They finally called me back, and the hygienist said, ominously, “You’re going to be here for quite a while.” So I hung out for quite a while just waiting for the technician to come in, which took a while. They had stressed bringing my tooth mold trays, so I made sure to bring them. They didn’t even use them. Go figure.
The first thing the nice technician did was cram these red plastic lip spreaders into my mouth, which made me look like The Joker in a very unpleasant and uncomfortable kind of way. She then did a Desensitizing Treatment on my teeth (I write it with capital letters, because that was how they pronounced it, like it was very significant). I would just like to say that they should say it with lower case letters, because it DOES NOT WORK.
Next, more entertainment. Lip spreaders firmly in place, she then painted my gums with this polymer putty that set when she waved a UV light over it. Apparently this bleach crap is so strong it will eat up your gums. So she puttied, and set it, and puttied and set it, a bit at a time while I lay there with my lips stretched out like an unhappy Cheshire Cat.
Then, (which she announced with dramatic flourish), she was going to get the bleaching treatment out of the refrigerator. It was my big moment. She had previously advised me that we would apply the gel in twenty-minute treatments, possibly as many as three if I could tolerate it. If I could tolerate it. That sounded a little bit ominous to me. Perhaps I should have fled the chair as was my first instinct. She gave me four ibuprofen to “help with the zingers”. At that point, I should definitely left, but I swallowed the pills like an obedient little patient.
So here she came with the gel. She stuffed cotton under my tongue, so I wouldn’t drool and wash off the gel. She firmly told me that I must not move my lips, or I would get the bleach treatment on them. She then painted cold stuff on my teeth. And left me there. For ten minutes. She came back, inspected, proudly informed me that I had not moved my lips or smeared the bleach, and left me for another ten minutes.
At the end of twenty minutes, she asked me if I was hurting, and if I could tolerate a second treatment. I was miserably uncomfortable with the lip spreaders, and the cotton wads, and the drool running down the back of my throat, which she firmly suctioned from time to time as if it were somehow inconveniencing her. But I was not exactly in pain and I was determined to go through the whole treatment to get the best possible results. So I told her to go for round two. She returned with a new round of bleach, washed off the old batch, and painted on the new.
Twenty more minutes elapsed. More suctioning and questioning were done. I was still not in any pain, to my relief, and nodded for round three. After the painting was done and she had left the room, I felt a bit of burning in my gums. It was not horrible, and I was determined to finish my treatment. I completed it in much the same way as I finished my residency: I can do anything for four years… I can do anything for three years… I can… You get the gist.
At long last, the final treatment was done. She blasted my teeth with a fuselage of cold air and water that made me cringe. Then she began chipping the polymer off my gums, piece by piece. She yanked out the sodden cotton. I was vigorously suctioned. “Let me get some Vitamin E oil,” she said. “I’ll put it on your gums. The bleach has temporarily whitened them, but the effect will go away very quickly.” That stuff was YAK! It tasted like rancid vegetable oil. (I suspect that’s what it was). She gave me a tube of stuff to smear on my teeth at night that would even out the color. Then, TA DA! She got out the mirror and proudly showed me my white teeth! I admit, I was thrilled. They looked fabulous. She told me that I could go for further whitening, but that it might look unnatural as the color of the teeth should be similar to the color of the whites of the eyes. I found that an interesting little factoid.
She brought me to the checkout desk, and I paid my, yes, over four hundred dollars. But I flashed my fab new smile on my way out the door. The whole process had taken an hour and a half. I still had a full day of errands to run.
I went to CVS. I went to Publix to buy supplies to try in the bread machine (tomorrow’s story, friends, tomorrow’s story). I bought a drink there and lunched on an Atkin’s bar. The cold drink and the bar felt a little twingy on my teeth. I figured, well, the two weeks of treatment made my teeth a bit twingy, I should expect that this would too.
I went to the hospital where I used to work to complete some charts. After that, I had a two o’clock meeting with administration about incentive pay, my final paycheck, and a possible locums job working with the people I had just manage to evade by taking a new job.
As I was signing my charts, I noticed that my teeth were aching and zinging more and more. I began to feel drooly. By the time I got to my meeting, my attention was almost wholly on my teeth. The gums had an achy feeling, as though they had just been vigorously reamed out with dental floss after a two year hiatus. I began to feel shooting pains in the teeth, one after another, the way you feel if a dentist’s drill hits a nerve, or if an errant stream of cold liquid hits an exposed nerve root. The drooling became more pronounced.
I rushed my way through the meeting. I hope I seemed at least coherent. I considered explaining my predicament, but by that time, the air generated by mere speech was more stimulus than the nerves in my teeth could stand. I became a bit concerned as I got in my car in the parking lot. All I could think about now was my mouth. I wasn’t even sure I could drive effectively.
I called my dentist’s office. It was now about three in the afternoon. No one answered. There was an emergency cell number on the voice mail, and, after some consideration, I used it. You have to understand, in my line of work as an Ob/Gyn, there is nothing we hate more than the abuse of an emergency line. A yeast infection at three AM does not constitute an emergency. We also hate patients who are seeking pain medicine for recreational reasons. But it was with a sinking feeling that I called the emergency line – something was really wrong, and I was in a lot of pain. A whole whole lot.
No one answered the emergency phone. I realized, on the drive home from the hospital, that I would pass right by my dentist’s office. I decided to stop in and see if they were still open. They were! I explained my plight to the receptionist, who stated she had never had her teeth whitened and she had no idea what had been done to me. She told me she would get a hygienist to come talk to me when one got free.
The hygienist came out and began what was obviously a pat speech that she had given many times before. Sensitivity after a treatment was common, she said. I should take more ibuprofen, she said. It would be better by bedtime, she said. My dentist walked out of a room and looked at me, then walked away. Either she had not been told that I had a problem, or she didn’t care. I could tell by the attitude of the hygienist that at best, she thought I was a total wuss. At worst, I might be some drug crazed freak seeking pain medicine. It was obvious she wasn’t hearing me at all when I told her how much I was hurting.
I should have insisted on speaking to my dentist. I knew something was wrong, I was in such bad pain, but it is so ingrained in me as a physician not to be a wuss, because we don’t like wusses, and not to be needing pain medicine, because after dealing with drug seeking addicts all day, everyone begins to look like one. I left, shamed, and drove home.
By the time I got home and my husband met me at the door, I was crying. Let me just say, I am not a wuss, either. I have a fairly strong tolerance for pain. I was almost hysterical, both from the horrible sensation in my mouth and from the feeling that I had just been cruelly blown off by my dentist and her office. She knows I’m a freaking doctor, for Chrissake. I don’t often pull the doctor card, but, seriously, if I saw a physician patient in my waiting room having a problem, I’d have damn well stopped by to find out what it was.
Crying, I explained this to my husband. At this point, he did exactly what I expected, and told me that it was my own fault, if I had been more forceful in promoting my own well being and forced them to bring me my dentist, the problem would have been solved. I screamed at him, “I fucking HATE you for saying that to me right now!” and he said good, maybe that would convince me that I needed to make more effort on my own behalf. Furious, I realized he was right, I don’t like conflict and I had weenied out, afraid to look weak.
I called the office back. No answer. I left another message on the emergency phone. My husband called, from the other room, “That didn’t sound nearly emphatic enough. They’re not going to call you back!”
Weeping, I went upstairs and found some Tylenol and some Ultram samples. I took them and crawled in bed. I was out of my head with pain at that point – even standing required too much effort to coordinate with my constant awareness of the pain. Even holding my eyes open was too much.
I laid there for I don’t know how long, and called the emergency line again. This time I begged them to do something to stop the pain, to please call me back. My husband finally came up to check on me. Sobbing, I told him I’d called the emergency line again. “I did too, ” he said. “This is getting ridiculous. I got her home number. I’ll dial it, you talk to her.” No one answered at her house.
I hunkered down in bed. My cell phone rang! But it wasn’t my dentist. It was only the hygienist. She told me she had put in a page to my dentist when she got my message. Which one, I wondered. A page? Why the fuck didn’t she just call her? We had left four messages. I was drooling and crying.
At last! My dentist called me back. I think when she heard who it was, and how many messages there were, and how hysterical I sounded, she realized that maybe she’d better make nice. “This happens very rarely,” she told me. “It’s only happened maybe twice in the last two or three years.” She called me in some pain medicine. My daughter had a function at school that evening that my husband needed to attend with her, and I had a doctor’s appointment that evening that I simply could not miss; I had already missed two and needed refills on my medications.
My husband drove me to the drug store and got me my Lorcet. I swallowed one in the parking lot. We picked up my daughter, and he dropped me off at my appointment. He didn’t want me driving. I explained to my doctor that I was going to be fairly useless; that at the moment I was too deranged by pain to talk and in a minute I was going to start getting slurry from all the pain meds. I told him how mad my husband made me, and he said, “Yes, I think he missed out on the empathy gene.” I was able to finish my appointment, although I was getting a bit giddy by the end of it.
Hubby and daughter swung by to get me, leaving one remaining question: would I be able to sleep at all? The pain medicine was helping, yes, and it was making me drowsy, but the background aching and zinging were still there, and I didn’t know if I could defocus on it enough to go to sleep. I stayed up another couple of hours so I could fit one more pain pill in before bed.
In the morning, the pain was gone. All gone.
The dentist’s office called back that morning to check on me. I think they realized I’d felt a bit neglected. Not to mention desperate. And abandoned, desperate patients are angry people. Best for them to avoid that. I told them I was all better. They sounded relieved. God, so was I.
The teeth are beautiful. They look every bit as nice as I had hoped. But I should have remembered, nothing comes for free. Surely if it were that easy to whiten teeth, people would do it more. But if you ask me now, am I glad I did it? The answer is yes. My teeth should look lovely for a lifetime now. And I remember what my grandmother used to tell me, as she and my mom yanked on my hair to get ready for special occasions, “Beauty hurts.” Yep. Beauty hurts.