Humblebragging


I suppose I can’t really get to the context of this post without a backstory of my own, so here goes.

Back in 2001, I was managing a one-hour photo lab – kids, go ask your grandparents – when the events on 9/11 unfolded. Naturally, like most people, I was shocked and wanted to do anything I could to help in any way I could.

A few days later and with the owner’s approval, I printed out a bunch of 4×6 color shots of an American flag, stuck a magnetic backing on the back of each of them, and sold them for $1 each with 100% of the proceeds going to the American Red Cross. (The shot was mine – see image above – so there were no releases or anything involved.) I then put them on the counter with a small sign so customers could see them when they picked up their orders.

We raised a modest amount in cash which I delivered personally to my local Red Cross chapter, where they asked for the company’s information so that they could send a thank-you letter. I obliged so that the owner could have some kind of record should there be any tax implications.

When it arrived, and thinking it was the right thing to do, I displayed it on the counter as proof to customers that the money raised was delivered and not used for a Burger King lunch.

Until that one customer came in and saw it. They scolded us left and right, up and down, for “making a big deal” about raising and donating the money. They saw the letter as nothing more than a pat on the back during a time of crisis and turmoil when my intention was to simply inform them that the money raised went exactly where we wanted it to go. They just weren’t buying it. If social media was around back then and I had posted the letter, some might have considered that move a case of humblebragging when it actually wasn’t. Totally different circumstances.

Flash-forward to today. As I get older and seemingly more cynical and less tolerant of things that get under my skin, the one thing that really bothers me is seeing people go out of their way with the aforementioned humblebrag. Granted I’ve done my share in the past when it comes to my workouts but as of late, I haven’t and I’m not going to anymore. I’ve come to realize how incredibly narcissistic they sound are and have decided to put a stop to them for my own good, along with other forms that might fall into the same category. (As a side note, I have pretty much scaled back posting anything personal on social media. We’ve all got problems but I don’t think they all, if any of them, need to be shared.)

But there’s some bragging, of course, I don’t mind.

Finish your first marathon? Great! I’m happy for ya. Hold that medal high – you’ve earned it! Finishing your 11th marathon in 3 months, with each one setting a new PR, and proudly stating that this will get you ready for your 12th in a few weeks? We get it, Achilles.

Win Employee of the Month? Awesome! Winning it again and again and again and saying “another one for the wall”? Let’s not be so modest, mmmkay?

Y’all gotta know when to quit. But there are others that simply want to make me punch my phone/monitor/etc. The one that really drives me insane is when people make it a point to post on social media when they donated to charity or partook in a charitable act.

Here’s where my qualifying story makes more sense. Posting the letter from the Red Cross was done in order to clear the air from a business standpoint; no malice was involved or intended. The letter proved everything was on the up-and-up and all but one customer understood why it was posted. Fine and well.

Trust me, I’m all for raising awareness if it encourages others to be proactive and give themselves. No problems there.

But when you post a smug, unshaven Instagram selfie from Skid Row, one of Los Angeles’ most notorious homeless neighborhoods, and say that you’re “making a difference…out of my own pocket” to feed others, I think you’re fucking insane and frankly don’t give a shit about what you’re doing, if you’re doing anything at all. The proof is that picture of your lunch that you were eating from the comfort and warmth of a Skid Row restaurant posted minutes before that damn selfie.

Also, along with the selfie, posting a picture of someone’s makeshift alley home is just as disturbing. “Look at me, I’m really here. I want everybody to see.”

Seriously. I can’t think of enough awful things to say about that or ways to put you down for being so goddamn insensitive.

(I wish I was kidding about the story above but I’m not. I’ve seen it – more than once.)

Wanna really make an impact, Rich Uncle Pennybags? Then get your pad and pencil – it’s gonna be kinda right.

First, turn off your fucking phone because you won’t be needing it.

Second, with those deep pockets of yours, go back and buy several bowls of that delicious orange chicken, take them out in the alley with the homeless, and sit and share a meal with them. In fact, give yours to someone – you just ate. Don’t just throw them a buck and walk away; get to know these people and listen to them. They are human and most likely haven’t had any positive interaction with an outsider for a long time because most won’t give them the time of day or any kind of respect.

Talk to them, smile with them, help them. Look them in the eyes and try to feel and understand their sorrow. You might learn something – one of them could be a veteran, a father, a musician, or all three of those. They may have incredible stories to tell so shut up, listen and learn.

Finally, when it’s all said and done, and with your phone still off, humbly walk away with the satisfaction of knowing you did something out of the kindness of your heart to help your fellow man and not to raise your social media standing with friends.

Charity is never about you and not everything has to be a Facebook status. It’s about others, and the best way to keep it about others is to not blast your face and tell your stories all over your social media accounts because, believe it or not, people are much better at sensing bullshit than you might think. And once they do, they’ll never look at you the same way again.

And before you ask what I’m doing to be charitable, well, you don’t need to know. That’s the whole point of this post.

Need some attention? Hey, fine. Go buy a puppy. But wanting the exposure at the expense of those living on the streets isn’t just wrong, I think it’s the sign of someone who is completely disconnected from reality and has only their ego in mind, not the act itself or who it will benefit from it.

Do it for reasons, not the “likes” and accolades.

And for shit’s sake, be humble about it.

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The Great Eclipse of 2017!


I’m posting this today because meh, lazy. Anyway…

There was an eclipse on Monday! It didn’t get very much coverage in the press so I doubt you heard about it but I guess I was one of the few and decided to tell the family. Lucky for us, Ann’s parents also heard about it and bought us those nifty eclipse-viewing glasses.

But before any of that started, we had to make a run to 85 Café and Bakery to load up on some eclipse munchies.

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Their cookies are bomb-tastic. So is their bread and everything else they make. Yeah, I know Krispy Kreme was selling their crazy-themed Eclipse Doughnuts or whatever but 85 Café sells their famous sea salt coffee for the amazingly low price of – wait for it – 85 cents on Mondays. And it was soooo good. I’d pay regular price for that over anything from Starbucks.

Bluetooth speaker ready with cheesy, somewhat appropriate (oh, George…) songs playing. Food ready. Let’s go blind!

There was a window of about 2.5 hours here in California where you could view the eclipse which was only at 61% totality from this vantage point. The eclipse began about 9:12 or so with maximum eclipsage at roughly 10:21.

So we donned our glasses and looked up, and it’s pretty impossible to not look like an album cover for a German synth band* when you do that.

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And do you know how difficult it is to blindly take a selfie? These glasses are pitch dark so I didn’t know what I was shooting, but I’m glad I have long arms to say the least.

Shooting others, however, is easy.

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This is Anthony and his friend since toddlerhood. They’ve had their moments but a true friend always sticks around through thick and thin. I wish I could say that about certain other “friends” of his.

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Lookie here! While the easiest way to view the eclipse without looking like a dork or burning your retinas like a goddamned fool is to simply poke a hole in tin foil and project that image onto a smooth surface, you didn’t even have to do that. Nature, as always, shows us the way by taking the sun’s eclipsed rays and shining them through the trees, giving you these crescent-shaped objects.

Stupid nature. Why does the “President” hate you so much?

Finally at 10:21, we reached maximum coverage for our neck of the woods. Friends in Missouri and Oregon reported that their street lights turned on and the cicadas started chirping. We weren’t that lucky but we were able to see this.

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You could mess with your iPhone until the cows came home to get a decent shot but there’s a good chance you’d get an oversaturated, non-eclipsed blob. Not me. Ohhh no, not me.

I took this shot with one eye of the eclipse glasses over the lens of my iPhone. I then used MuseMage camera app for iPhone which allows total control over mostly everything. In this case, I chose a slower shutter speed (longer exposure) coupled with a high ISO (more sensitivity to light), and maxed out my zoom. All that to get this. Totally worth it.

I remember the last one and it was much better because the sun was giving off this really weird blue color. They say the next one won’t be until 2024. That’s not too far off and I’ll be eligible for senior discounts by then – which sucks.

Either way, barring my untimely demise, I’m almost certain we’ll be out there looking up yet again. And maybe the next one will get a *little* more press than this one.

 

*Yes, I know that’s a fictional band from The Big Lebowski. Just go with it, man.

CicLAvia: San Pedro Meets Wilmington


Last Sunday, I participated in a CicLAvia event that ran from my hometown of Wilmington, CA to San Pedro, another city close to my heart.

If you’re not familiar with one of these events, here you go. Ciclovía events started in Columbia over 40 years ago as an alternative to traditional means of transportation. Streets are closed to automobile traffic and open to everything else non-motorized: feet, bikes, skateboards, you name it. There’s really no better way to discover your town no matter how large or small. I’ve walked through Los Angeles a few times in my life and I have to tell you it’s so much more than what you see on TV – all cities are pretty amazing when you’re not trapped in a car watching them whiz by.

This event was particularly personal since I grew up in Wilmington and spent a lot of my time in San Pedro as well. While I spent many years pedaling around the city on an old Huffy but having the opportunity to ride down the palm tree-lined main street of Avalon Boulevard was much to good to pass up.

Now I could go and post many of the pictures I took that day but I’ve narrowed it down to these because I have stories to go along with most of them. A ton of them are already on Instagram anyhow. So without any further ado, here they are.

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The Banning Mansion in Banning Park. Historic not only because of its Civil War roots but because its owner, Phineas Banning, was the mastermind behind what would eventually become the Port of Los Angeles. That’s only the busiest port in the country.

I spent many a summer riding around Banning Park. The smell of the eucalyptus trees still gets to me and even though there’s a fence around the perimeter of the mansion, I took a little sentimental journey around the park on my bike. It was like I never left and I felt like a kid again. I almost had a moment just thinking about all the good times me and my friends had at the park.

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A few blocks away from the mansion is Avalon Boulevard. Those palm trees have been there forever. This was taken just after the event began so there’s very little traffic yet but by the time I rode back from San Pedro, wow. People everywhere and they were all smiling.

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The building you see on the right of the Avalon Boulevard shot is The Don, a senior apartment complex. This is one of the Wilmington landmarks – most likely because of it’s former seedy reputation. What I always laugh about is the fact that it was once called Don Hotel so when they changed the name, all they did was remove the H and L and rearrange the letters. I always wondered what happened to those. And look! More palm trees! Those are all around Wilmington Town Square Park which has been a congregation area for transients since I was little.

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Literally across the street from The Don is Fire Station 38, the only one in town. Really, this is it. If there’s something big going on in the area then the neighboring cities of Carson and Harbor City would most likely join. Dad would often take us here to see the fire trucks up close and personal in the days when they would let you slide down the pole. Yes, it has a pole (you can almost see it on the right of photo, or to the left of the fire truck). Definitely have some fond memories of this place.

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Here’s my old elementary school, Fries (pronounced “freeze”) Avenue School. Aside from the fancy-schmancey digital billboard out front, it pretty much looks the same from the outside. I attended at a time when we still had duck-and-cover disaster drills complete with air raid siren blaring on the last Friday of every month. I can still hear it – extremely creepy yet somehow comforting thinking back on it. The stairways also had “Fallout Shelter” signs (complete with the radiation symbols) posted as you made you way downstairs.

If you were to walk through those doors, there might be a mosaic hanging on the left wall depicting Pedro, the Angel of Olvera Street, a project that my Enrichment Class worked on. Yeah. I was a nerdy kid in enrichment. I was supposed to advance a grade but Mom held me back for the sake of not putting too much pressure on me. Made sense. It was also at this school where I was chosen to be the narrator for the 5th grade Christmas play based on Bing Crosby’s Mele Kalikimaka. Apparently I was the only one in the class who could stand in front of a crowd and read, which probably explains why singing karaoke doesn’t bother me. For the play, I remember I was speaking into one of those bitchin’ classic microphones similar to this. Good times.

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No story here. I just thought this was a cool building.

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The signs at C & C Liquor have not changed. Dad would take us here sometimes on the weekend for, presumably, his Burgermeister and some snacks for us. Remember Ice Cubes chocolate candy? This is where we would buy them. They were soooo good.

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We are now in San Pedro. This is the sign at Neptune Electronics, a place that has been there forever. And like most things in the area, the sign has not changed. I remember seeing it all the time as we took Dad to work but never got the chance to get close to it until last Sunday. It was almost like a religious experience for me to be so close and admire it after all these years. Some may see a dirty, faded sign. I see something beautiful.

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Speaking of seeing things up close for the first time, here is the Warner Grand Theatre in San Pedro. For years, I’ve driven past it but because parking is at a minimum on these small streets, I never got a chance to see it. Sunday changed all that and it was worth it.

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I’m a big fan of Art Deco architecture, art, anything. So standing here looking up at this magnificent structure was one of the highlights of the day. It’s absolutely amazing.

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Ceiling detail at the Warner Grand. I swear I was born in the wrong era.

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As I made my way around San Pedro, I had to pause for a moment and reflect. These are the docks where Dad used to work, right next to the Vincent Thomas Bridge. I remember how he used to love driving over the bridge and look down (the best he could) at the water below.

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There is now a small park next to the bridge and this is there I paused, took a deep breath, and wiped a tear from my eye. I can still see him going to work. Still smell the bean burritos in his lunchbox. Still…everything. It was tough but it made me smile. Note the Calder-esque mobiles.

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Oh. These. So beautiful. These are lights that line the walkway of the park as well as the bike/walking path, and the design is based on these columns a few miles away. There used to be more of them including some near a pond filled with lilly pads, yet another place Dad used to love taking his lunch. As you can tell by the image in the link, these fixtures are much smaller but with better detail. Sadly, most of the originals are horribly weathered after years of exposure but it’s awesome that someone decided that they should be honored in this way. They are all over this park – and I love it.

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Without a doubt, the coolest BofA sign ever. EVER.

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Although this is the new fire boat, Dad used to take us to Station 112 to see the old one which is currently undergoing a major restoration. I was there when this new fire boat arrived many years ago.

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During the ride I thought it would be fun to take a picture of my bike at different, interesting locations along the way. I don’t think you can get more interesting than a battleship, right? The USS Iowa is dubbed The Battleship of Presidents for good reason, and I highly recommend boarding her if you’re ever in town. I also witnessed the USS Iowa arrive and make San Pedro her new home.

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Heading back to Wilmington. This is a relatively new structure and park. I’d never visited the park or been on the bridge so of course I took advantage of it.

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You get a great view of the harbor from up here.

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But CicLAvia was about people-watching, too. The lady in the picture rides her skateboard at every local event and this is the third time I’ve run into her. Seriously. She’s pretty awesome.

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The there’s this gentleman who was riding a recumbent bike while wearing a Russian MIG fighter helmet that he bought on eBay. Yet another cool person.

By the time I made it back to Wilmington I wasn’t really tired. If anything, I was pretty darn pumped to finally be able to see both cities in a way I never have, exploring places that I always new about but never had the opportunity to visit.

You know what else?

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Peacocks! Yes, we have them! They’ve been a part of the area for as long as I can recall and they just keep breeding. They are always fun to see but are extremely loud.

I took so many pictures. I logged over 20 miles round-trip. I ate lunch – two burgers and chili fries – at Tom’s #9, a burger joint I frequented as a kid. I ate for less that $5 since many restaurants were having specials because they had limited car access. Oh, and I got free ice cream. YES.

I made my way back to Banning Park and rode one more lap just for old time’s sake. This was without a doubt a great day and I’m not only looking forward to the next CicLAvia, but the one in this area in particular.

It really took me back.

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And Wilmington, you’ll always have my heart.

All images shot with iPhone 7 Plus and adjusted with Snapseed

Face Your Fears: The Third Chapter


In this seemingly endless series of entries that detail my fear of all things dentistry, I think I finally make peace with it all.

Today was the day of perhaps the biggest procedure of all the ones I’ve got waiting for me: the dreaded root canal. Just the mere mention of it to some will make them cringe; for dental chickens like me, it’s more like someone setting my hair on fire (and as of now, there’s lots to burn since I’m letting it grow).

To be perfectly honest, the procedure itself wasn’t all that bad but what happened during the whole thing was definitely a bit discouraging. Let’s just say I got there at 7 am and didn’t leave until 11:30 am. I’ll get to that later.

At 7 am sharp, I was taken to the chair and prepped for the procedure. That, of course, meant having my cheek injected with Novocain. While I discovered that many things in the industry have changed, the one thing that hasn’t is the size of the syringe and the pressure of the needle as its inserted into your cheek. Still slightly painful, still freaky and nightmarish to witness.

Thankfully, that would be about the only discomfort I would feel.

The doctor told me to rub my cheek in order to get the Novocain working and boy, it did. As he saw other patients, I slowly felt the right side of my face going numb. It’s always a weird sensation, especially when you have an itch in the region that is numb. How is that even possible? And how do you satisfy that? I tried to no avail.

Then the fun began. Once he gave me the sign that he was going to begin, I donned my Bluetooth headphones — better sound and no wires to complicate matters — and picked some music to listen to.

First he had to remove some decay from the tooth which was already chipped. Scrape, scrape, scrape and a little drilling. Afterward, he started to dig into the tooth in order to reach the nerve which, if it were still healthy and alive, would have bled when he finally reached it.

That’s when I realized I hated the smell of my teeth being obliterated by water-jet drilling instruments but also remembered how it used to be with actual drills. The sound is now much less frightening and the music drowned it out so it was a wash.

His assistant kept adding dilator to the area in order to open things up but it yielded no results with all the excavating. That’s where we hit a snag. The nerve was dead and there was no clear indication of when they would reach it. As a result, he had to keep taking x-rays in order to determine how much closer he was.

In between delays, he took time to juggle his other patients while I sat and waited for him to return: checking social media, texting Ann, taking pictures killed time.

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Yes, even in the dentist’s chair, I’m being all artsy-fartsy.

There would several of these delays until the x-rays showed that the nerve was finally reached. By now, the pressure or potential pain of the procedure wasn’t on my mind. What was driving me crazy was having my mouth open for so long while he worked on the tooth. Granted I shut it as he worked on other patients but my jaw was becoming incredibly sore after a few hours, and I would be in the chair until about 11:30 am or about 4.5 hours total.

Now if you’ve never had a root canal done I won’t bore you (see what I did there?) with the details. I’ll just let this picture sum it up.

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See all those miniature drills and pointy things? Once the hole was made in my tooth, every single one of them found its way down said hole and I swear it seemed like he used a thousand of them.

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Success! And digital x-rays freaking rock. If you’re old enough to remember when x-rays had to be developed in a darkroom, you know what I mean.

Once this goal was achieved, more scraping and drilling followed and after that, filling the hole with silicone and other thin, long, red needle-like things. And again, it seemed like there were thousands of them being dropped in there.

Finally, the home stretch. Bonding was added to make the tooth feel like a normal tooth again and after all of that, we were done. I was beginning to wonder if just pulling the tooth would have been easier but that’s why he’s a dentist and I’m not.

When I got home, the family expected me to be a drooling, disheveled mess but much to their dismay, I wasn’t and immediately made lunch because I was so freaking hungry after all that. It was hard to enjoy a hot dog with a sore jaw and the Novocain still not entirely worn off but I needed something in my stomach.

And while I didn’t do much but sit there and listen to music, I was exhausted when it was all over and thankful I took one of my paid Summer Days to stay home and take a nap afterward. Sure I could have gone to work but a nap felt so much better.

This is not the end of things by far, but I don’t think any of them will compare to this. My dentist was incredibly patient with me and explained everything in detail. An excellent job and I couldn’t be happier with him. And my wallet is a little shorter now but insurance paid a whopping 80% of the procedure so there’s that, too.

I’ll definitely be ready for the next thing, and it’s safe to say that my fear has finally gone away – even if my jaw is still sore as I write this.

Face Your Fears, Part Deux


About two months ago, I had mentioned in a post that it was time to get over my somewhat rational fear of dentists – or at least they work they do – and get the ball rolling with an exam and whatever else the dentist may recommend.

Today was that day. And the results of my visit were anything but favorable.

I went to a local office that has a sparkling reputation on Yelp! and is also where Anthony and my mother-in-law go for cleanings (she usually takes him so they get it done at the same time).

After filling out what seemed like an endless questionnaire regarding my personal health and dental visits, I was called into the back where I took a seat and had a series of 18 x-rays taken.

Things are definitely different now – they are digital. The last time I had them done, you still had to bite down on a small piece of plastic or cardboard whose corners felt pointy when the nurse stuck them in under your tongue. Then they had to develop them. Now you bite down on a device that transmits the image to a computer. So far, so good.

Then the dentist sat down next to me, introduced himself, went over the x-rays and pointed out everything that was wrong in my mouth (aside from the occasional profane language that slips out of it). Next, he let me know what he thought should be done first based on the severity of each condition.

Yeah. There’s that much. Fuuuuu…

It was during this consultation when I explained my fear and he told me that, of course, it wasn’t uncommon. He also told me how some of his patients were actually worse than me. (For privacy, I won’t go into details.) But the fact that I was sitting there speaking to him and preparing myself for whatever treatment he thought necessary put me way ahead of those he mentioned. I was already on the field ready to play; they hadn’t even shown up to the clubhouse.

His first recommendation was simple: bonding my two front teeth, both of which were a bit jagged at the bottom and could possibly chip at any moment. He also explained that this would be a great way to ease myself back into the patient’s chair and dental care as a whole.

And that’s where we started. I asked if I could listen to music during the procedure and he had no objections. In fact they supply their own if you need them but I’m not sure what kind of music I’d be listening to and I’m pretty picky with my headphones, so I used my own earbuds and thank goodness for Spotify Premium and my iPhone.

He told me to raise my left hand if I felt any discomfort during the procedure and amazingly, I didn’t. As he and his assistant blazed through the process of bonding my teeth, Avenged Sevenfold’s City of Evil kept my mind off of what was doing on inside my mouth. About the only thing that got to me, despite the volume level being somewhat high, was the scraping of the bonding material from the teeth. I feel myself cringing just typing about it.

(Listen to the album here)

And that was it. I had gotten this far and with only a few beads of sweat on my forehead and maybe a slightly left watery eye. And naturally, a sore jaw that is still sore. He told me that if I can survive this procedure with no anesthetic then the next one – a pretty big one – shouldn’t be an issue. He also referred me to an oral surgeon who will be handling the extraction. I’ve seen him before and he’s good, at least from what I can remember with the twilight sedation I was under.

Even so, I’m still worried about the next thing since I’ve never had it done. And after that I’ve got a laundry list of other things that needs to be checked off. Strangely, the tooth with missing parts wasn’t the worst one. Sure, it will still have to get extracted but the x-rays showed that another one that I knew was slightly chipped had worse damage to it, and that’s the next thing to be taken care of in a few weeks.

We had planned on taking a road trip to San Francisco this year but unfortunately, it looks like the summer will be have to be scheduled around all of my procedures. Additionally, the job gives us three paid Summer Days that we can take for three-day weekends if we wish. Those plus my remaining sick hours and possibly some vacation days will most likely used for days I need to have work done.

Then there’s paying for all of this. Even with insurance, it’s goodbye, Vacation Fund!

But at least I’ve taken the first step toward having better dental hygiene. It will take some time and money to get it all right but I know it will definitely be for the best.