A Winter Root Canal of My Blog

gap tooth

Here you see a cute young person with her new tooth ready to grow in. I looked something like this only 40 year olds don’t look as adorable when toothless, and a metal cap peeked through my gums instead of the growing tooth you see here.

Last Monday, I sat in the dentist’s chair as he tried to break off the five year old ‘temporary cement’ on my front tooth, and I mentally cursed my 16 year old self for her carelessness.

Sometime in the 1980’s I had ridden my bike down a hill thinking the most important thing was to get to my job at Payless drugstore on time. I hadn’t worn a helmet (although I knew better) because it was 80 degrees outside and the sweat would mess up my hair.

I saw the stop sign at the end of the road where I had lived for most of my life and went to use my usual trick: ignore the stop sign and pull to the left side of the road, wait for traffic to clear and then move to the right side of the road. But the stop sign was at the bottom of the hill, my bike was a bit old and rickety with brakes I hadn’t dealt with appropriately and the van was coming my way in the left lane at exactly the wrong time. I looked to the right to see if I could move over and then crashed into the front of the grill, flying up onto the windshield with my face.

I owe my life to the fact that the driver had mostly stopped by the time I hit him. Every so often I envision what my nose must have looked like from his perspective, squashed up on the glass in front of him. I’m sure it wasn’t my best look. I didn’t see him gasp. I had shut my eyes.

I was remarkably lucky and only lost my front tooth to the incident along with a few aches that will never go away in my neck and knee. I made it through 20 years with a root canal and then the shell of a tooth snapped on a Starbucks sausage sandwich, of all things.

Since then I’ve had an implant with a slightly grey gum line just above it. My dentist was trying to fix the color for me. He snapped off the cement of the white tooth cap and unscrewed the hardware in my jaw to hand it to the lab guy waiting and looking down at me as they discussed how to best rework the porcelain to ‘pink-up’ my gums. The lab guy needed to work on it overnight so I left the office with an embarrassing gap, praying I would not have an accident or get a ticket as I drove.

I went directly home that night to my sweet family and listened to them chuckle a little as they said it didn’t look that bad. No, my son would not go to junior high looking like that. “But,” he said, “we’re family, Mom. It’s fine.”

I rushed back for my tooth first thing the next morning eager to comfortably say words with fricative sounds once more. The gum is now slightly less grey, and the experience certainly made me grateful once again that modern dentistry helps me with my past mistakes.

As I thought about it, I realized mistakes like running my bike into a van have helped me have the courage to step forward with other potentially mortifying experiences like blogging. I’ve found that in posting over the past year and a half, I’ve made plenty of blunders that aren’t unlike walking around toothless with my IQ lowered by 10 points just by smiling. It’s not that anyone openly mocks me. But in my imagination, at least, plenty have turned away and said something to their friends.

All of which is leading up to my next step in this writing business. I’m talking a break from my mostly weekly postings. Using a book by Dan Blank I am sitting back, looking at where I’ve been, pondering where I am going and exploring what I’d like most to do with this space I’ve created on the web. I expect this blogging root canal to take about a month which means I’ll be back online in some form by February 1st. In the end, I may decide an implant is needed and completely recreate the blog. We’ll see. Whatever I do, I know I owe thanks to the writers who have gone before me for sharing their wisdom like I owe my dentist with his medical magic.

How Food Can Be Love



The pain started as my students finished their writing tests. It wasn’t unlike a lot of the pain I had been feeling lately in my gut — just more intense. I stood up to see if that would help as my last two students wrapped up their sentences and spoke to me about their worries.

Standing up didn’t help. I tried to focus on what the last two students were saying but found my head going cold and my thoughts losing focus. I started to sweat and tried sitting back down. By then the pain was gone. My new worry was this feeling that I would soon either pass out or throw up. I kept thinking when the student finished telling me about her own medical troubles, I’d be able to go get some help. Then it occurred to me that when she left me I would be all alone. Finally, I asked her to go get help from the adminstrative assistant as I leaned over the table. She insisted I drink her water as I sat down on the floor and then she ran off.

I tried one sip and then decided that, no, sitting was not going to do it. Things were starting to go black. I laid down on the floor and drifted until my student flew back in with the assistant, who asked if she needed to call for help. I said, yes, I could not get up to do anything so I guessed she’d have to.

My dear student then began to pray fervently over me in Romanian which, honestly, made me a bit more anxious, so I told her in my teacher voice to be calm from just before blacking out. Maybe the teacher voice pulled me back, so the prayer worked in some goofy way.

This all happened two days before Thanksgiving. It’s the most intense pain my digestion has given me but not the most aggravating. The most aggravating has involved months of a distended stomach, wondering what was going on, trying to see a doctor and waiting too long until I tried going without wheat (I know. ‘Gluten.’ But gluten sounds evil to me so I’m sticking with the word ‘wheat.’  I’ve decided to call my tormentor something a bit less scary.)

I felt remarkably better within 2 days. My stomach size returned to normal, my fingers quit aching, and my back pain all but disappeared. My head felt clearer and I began to really look at labels to see what might hide wheat.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t careful enough. I thought just a bit wouldn’t matter so I let myself have that package of nuts with ‘trace amounts of wheat,’ a bit of Vietnamese coffee and even some questionable oat milk. I didn’t want to be OCD about all this.

After lying on the floor at work with the medics hovering over me thinking I was having a heart attack, I’ve decided OCD is better. The gurney ride down the hall with the five point harness not unlike my son’s car seat, and my colleagues looking at me in shock convinced me even further.

So now I say no to a lot of food. I stare down aisles in Safeway, marveling at how much looks like poison to me. I take the ‘gluten free’ station (there’s that god-awful word) for communion, hoping to high heaven that the person who prepared it hasn’t touched the regular divinely delicious bread before handling my drier version of the sacrament.

And here is where the love comes in. Love comes in a student and coworkers who helped me through my worst pain episode. Love comes in a husband and others who hold me when I have my occasional pity-me moments. Love comes in a sister-in-law who double triple checks that the rice crispy treats she made are okay. Love comes in my sons who help me more in the kitchen. And love especially looks like this:

A week before my gurney ride, I came home from work to pick up my son late from daycare. Phil was on bereavement leave after his father had passed away and had been helping his mother take care of details all day. No food was waiting for me at home. The old days of slapping together a tortilla with cheese and salsa were over. I was contemplating a corn tortilla with lettuce when I got a call from my dear friend Ruth asking when I would like the dinner she had made me.

I almost cried when she handed me a wheat-free casserole, bread and a salad with enough for my whole family as well as wheat-filled rolls and a cherry pie the boys enjoyed. Maybe we feel love even more in our food when the wrong food holds the danger of a ride on a gurney.