Monday, November 24, 2014

Ah, yes, that old dental drill sound ...

Yep, that was my morning, spent in the dentist's chair. Mind you, this was a good appointment (to the point that anything involving the smell of your own seared teeth is good), in that the goal was to grind off the little orthodontic nubs, adjust my bite, and fill in the bottoms of my oft-chipped front teeth, thereby marking the end of my 11-month Invisalign experience and my entry into the world of Straight Teeth and a Decent Bite. 

(This as opposed to last fall, when I went headfirst over the handlebars of my mountain bike, smashed my face, and had all these people looking at my mouth and gasping, whereupon I was forced to assure them that yes, my teeth really had been almost that crooked and caved-in before my little stunt.)

Before and after pictures to come at a later date. Today, I'd like to share a few impressions (ha ha) from my morning in the torture chair. To whit (and please note, this is all said with affection and gratitude, because my teeth really do look and feel awesome):

1. Dear Dr. Y--Yes, that is my left nostril. Yes, your latex gloved pinkie fits neatly inside it. This does not necessarily mean you should use it as a leverage point.

2. It's bad enough that you're using the whiny drill thing that makes smoke and burning smells. I get that you need to keep water on the process to avoid heat or whatever. But could you decide whether to shoot the excess water up my nose or down my throat, and stick to that theory? It's the not knowing that's making me tense.

3. Given #2, I could do without the waterboarding jokes.

4. No matter how many times you tell me that giving up tea and Diet Coke will make it easier to keep my teeth white-ish, it ain't happening. Sorry. But, hey, you finally got me to floss on a regular basis, and talked me into the Invisalign. I'd chalk that up as a win.

5. If, when doing the dental impressions for my retainers, I mention that the first (unsuccessful) batch of glop was nice, with it's faint vanilla scent, that's a hint that I'd like to stick with that flavor. Not switch to the one that tastes like motor oil and toe cheese.

6. When you use wayyyy too much of the stanky glop for the second try and the stuff goes down the back of my throat and blocks my airway, don't be surprised if I start unceremoniously digging the hardening goo out of my mouth and wiping it on my shirt in near panic. I was primed by the whole waterboarding thing. Oh, and sorry about the flying elbow when you tried to step in and help. 

7. Finally, since it's Thanksgiving week, thank you for the past year of trays, check-ups, and pep talks. And, well, thanks to my mommy, who announced one day that since my childhood ortho wasn't particularly good, she would help pay for an adult do-over.

And so ... I'm back at my desk, trying to get the taste of motor oil and toe cheese out of my mouth and the sound of that whiny drill out of my ears for the rest of the day. Not to mention, twitching when Arizona turns on the faucet in the kitchen!

Wishing you a day free of the dentist's chair, dear ReaderFriends, and a most excellent Thanksgiving, should you partake.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Car-ma and Awesome Vanity Plates

As I grew up, the automotive theme in my family was "it's a good car if it gives you lots of warning, or at least makes sure you're safe before it dies." Which, granted, ascribes a fair bit of free will to our four-wheeled partners, but, hey, we named them, too.

Bun-bun the diesel VW Rabbit had a habit of dropping mufflers up and down the east coast (Canadian camping grounds, the Expressway leaving Fenway Park, etc.), but even sounding like a giant, percussion-heavy marching band, he got us where we were going. Steve the pickup truck stuck with me through my first couple of years behind the wheel before politely leaking gas to let me know that the connection between his cab and his bed was about to let go.

These days, Arizona's and my beloved Subaru Baja, Roo, is well on his way to joining those hallowed ranks of Good Cars. Last summer, he gave us fair warning that he wasn't feeling well on the day before a planned road trip. Which was annoying, sure, but better the day before than a few hundred miles down the road! Similarly, this past week, my sweetie and I were on our way to the dentist for his-and-hers cleanings, when one of Roo's rear wheels started making a godawful grinding noise and he dragged to one side, like a pony that had just gotten a pointy rock stuck in his hoof and was tossing his head and going "Get it out, get it out, get it out!"

We pulled over. We stared at the tire and brakes. Arizona stuck his head under, to see if we were dragging something. Failing to find anything we could see, we went through the usual "parking brake on, parking brake off, back up, wiggle around, go fast, go slow" routine, and what do you know? Things started sounding better and better, until we could only reproduce the grinding noise with a hard turn to the right.

As an aside, this pleased me. I really hate handing a car to a mechanic and describing a problem he (or she, of course, but mostly he) can't reproduce. It's like taking a day off to ship a horse to the expensive vet clinic for a comprehensive lameness exam, only to have it walk off the trailer sound as a dollar.

Which left the question of what to do? Should we turn around? Keep going onto the highway? We would need to get on the highway with him at some point to get him to the shop, as it's ... Well, what do you know? The shop is right down the street from the dentist. 

So off we hied to get our fangs cleaned, then dropped Roo off with our most excellent mechanics, and picked up a loaner to drive home, only a half hour late getting Arizona back to his desk. And thus Roo (in addition to only needing a fairly easy and inexpensive repair) proved himself once again to be a Good Car.

Because did I mention we were planning an eight-hour, four-state drive on Saturday to visit a friend? Yeah, that. And while it wouldn't have been the end of the world to break down on some highway between here and there on a Saturday, it would've been a whole lot less convenient than toodling down the road with nice clean teeth for a two-hour repair.

Instead, our road trip passed in hours of pleasant conversation, Arizona's continued marveling at how us transplanted Bostonians choose to pronounce our place names (often only hitting one or two out of every three letters), and a game of 'spot the best vanity plate.' Because I can only guess that it's really cheap to get a vanity plate in Maine, because there were LOTS of them.

There was the SUV that was RN-N-L8 and doing eighty in the middle lane. It took me a second, but then I grinned. "Running late!"

There was the white hatchback that proclaimed itself a HERO. Since it was a Purple Heart plate and wore USMC stickers, I'll take that as fact rather than braggadocio. 

There was the big, badass pickup truck that claimed to be YR FATHR. I'm not sure if it was meant to be biblical, Star Wars or Jerry Springer, but it was memorable.

Then there was the usual gaggle of names, initials, and inside jokes that Arizona and I could only guess at. But it got us reminiscing about vanity plates we have known and loved, like the red VW Beetle named LADYBG, and a variety of horsey themed plates I have seen at the shows over the years, versions on EQUIT-8 and JUMP IT. 

My all-time favorite, though, was one I saw back when I was a kid, maybe on one of those familial road trips: a white VW Rabbit whose plate said IM LATE. 

Mind you, I was old enough (and had a weirdly esoteric sense of the world stemming from reading anything I could get my hands on) that at first I thought it meant someone was pregnant and, to quote Aerosmith, the rabbit done died. Upon following the in-car discussion, however, I acknowledged it was probably an Alice in Wonderland reference. And a cool one, at that.

Me? I've never had a vanity plate. Thought about it, sure, but I just haven't been able to settle on a seven-character string that works. It's made even more complicated by Arizona's and my choosing to be a one-car family, since we do most everything together anyway. So for now, we're ... well, whatever numbers and letters Roo is wearing (I think there's a Y in there somewhere). And we're grateful to him for giving us plenty of warning that he needs to see a car doctor!

How about you? Does your car have a name? Do you have a favorite vanity plate? Have you seen a funny/awful one? Let's collect them!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Battle of the sexes: to obsess or not obsess, that is the question

Arizona and I are headed for a major (happy) Life Change, and as the big old countdown to Holy Crap chugs along, I am aware of (and amused by) a major difference between the two of us. To put it in writing terms: I'm a plotter and he's a pantser.

A plotter does her research, thinks about the book's beginning, middle and end, and has a pretty good idea of what is going to happen before she starts writing. A pantser (no, autocorrect, I don't mean 'panther,' even though panthers are Very Cool) dives right in to writing the story and makes it up as he goes along. He might have a high-level idea of the story (hm... I think I'm going to write an alien love story set against a geopolitical movement involving hard cheese), but he figures out the rest of it on the fly.

I have been both a plotter and a pantser (nope, still don't mean 'panther') over the years, in both my stories and my life, and the thing is, I'm convinced that I eventually wind up with the same product in the end--I just got there two different ways. And just as when I'm in plotting mode, it would stress me out to have to shift gears and write into the mist (without a plan), when I'm in pantsing mode, I don't want anybody hovering over me, telling me it's time to plot.

So, too with me and Arizona. 

This past weekend, we went to an all-day class to help us prepare for our Big-Happy. It included videos. Do you remember the spaghetti films from Driver's Ed? The ones with lots of blood and gore, and messages like "don't drink and drive" and "don't drive distracted"? Yeah, they were like that. There were flip-books, too, and some unsettling Q&A periods. Afterwards, when a family member of Arizona's asked how class went, he replied, "It was fine. Good to know where to park and how to find the cafeteria."

Ah, the male perspective. 

Me? I came away from class feeling more settled about the whole process. I, too, am happy to know where to put the car and how to find food. But I also like knowing all the other details, including What Could Go Wrong and What To Do If It Does. See? Plotter. Arizona, on the other hand, would far rather pretend the day didn't happen--because if it did, then he has to worry that Something Might Go Wrong that He Can't Prevent. Pantser.

And you know what? I'm okay with that. In fact, I like it. It's one of the many ways we balance each other out. He reminds me to enjoy today and not spend so much time thinking ahead, while willingly (or at least without active foot-dragging) going along with things when I announce: "I need a plan." Not to mention, we really do seem to wind up at the same destination nine times out of ten, even coming at things from different directions ... and the tenth time is usually that much more interesting because of our different takes on things.

So how about you? Plotter or pantser? (Or, apparently, 'panther'?) Would you rather know what's coming or find yourself surprised? 

Monday, November 3, 2014

Paging Darwin ...

How the heck did it get to be November already? I mean, I see the leaves and my breath did the dragon thing first thing this morning when I went out to the car, but really? November? When did that happen?

Anyway, some of you may know that the N-month is the home of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), when (insert Carl Sagan voice) billions and billions of writers and aspiring writers (okay, maybe not that many, but that's how it feels sometimes) register on the handy dandy (if sometimes snail-slow) website, challenging themselves to write 50,000 words during the course of the month.

Mind you, they don't have to be good words. They just have to be words. In fact, you're not supposed to look back and revise. At. All. You're just supposed to write forward and Get It Done.

I was messaging the other day with a writer-editor-book-reviewer (WEBR) friend who is also doing NaNo this year, and we got to talking about how the whole 'don't revise' thing can be a real challenge, especially for the sort of writer who wants to get stuff perfect before they move on. It went something like this (paraphrasing):

Me: I try to keep reminding myself that my first drafts all come out pretty much the same, quality-wise, whether I write them in three months or nine. I just gotta push through and remember that at this stage, it's all fixable.

WEBR: If you're just starting to figure that out, I'm screwed. 

Me: LOL. Or, more like it's one of those lessons I find myself needing to learn over and over and over again ...

Which got me thinking about those sorts of lessons. You know, the ones where you tell yourself "I'm totally going to remember this for the rest of my life" but then find yourself--days, months or years down the road--either forgetting and doing The Thing, then kicking yourself because you darn well know better ... or (and here's where I get caught) thinking to yourself "maybe it'll be different this time, seeing how I'm older/wiser/thinner/fatter/whatever."

For me, the list of Lessons That Somehow Don't Stick includes the following, in no particular order:

Don't try to make your first draft perfect. Just get it done and fix it later. (See above)

The spot where food touches a microwaveable plate gets flipping hot. 

I initially learned this lesson about an hour after my parents got their first microwave, which was approximately the size of a large dog crate and covered in vinyl made to look like fake wood paneling. Being the curious sort, I found myself thinking "I wonder what would happen to chewing gum in the microwave?" So I loaded a couple of sticks of Big Red on a plate, stuck them in the microwave, and pressed my nose to the glass, watching as the sticks wavered and melted, then started bubbling like something out of a pink-tinged swamp. Awesome! The next step, of course, was to pull out the plate and see if the gum still tasted the same ... except that in the process of removing said plate, I put several fingers squarely beneath the melted gum, resulting in much howling, tears, and second degree burns. And I never did get to eat the gum.

You'd think that would've learned me, right? Wrong. I can't tell you how many times I've burned myself by mistaking the boundary between sort-of safe, non-food zone and the feck-that's-hot food zone post-nuking. Just last week, in fact, with clam chowder ...

Paging Darwin.

**As a corollary (why do I always think there are more Rs than Ls in that word?) to the Microwave Lesson: Glass pans that have been baking in the oven are hot everywhere.

I have no clue why it has taken me more than one burn to figure out that I can't adjust the position of the brownies or lasagna, or take them out of the oven, with my bare hands or a single layer of kitchen towel for protection. 

Well, actually, I do have a clue, but it's kind of embarrassing (a word that I'm convinced should have fewer Rs in it). You see, it never happens when I'm baking with a metal pan ... 'cause, yanno, you don't put metal in the microwave. Glass, on the other hand, goes just fine in the microwave, and you can handle it by the parts that aren't touching the food. 

Why would my brain fail to trip the mental fuse that says "You just opened the oven, blondie, not the microwave, so NO TOUCHY!" you might ask. Beats me. Paging Darwin.

I'm pretty sure I had one more of these when I was thinking about this post last night in the shower (as you do) ... but darned if I can remember what it was (paging Darwin). So I'll throw it out there to you, my ReaderFriends ... What lessons have you have to re-learn over and over again? (Please, tell me I'm not the only one!)