Archive for November, 2008

Well, What Do You Know!
November 29, 2008

Come, blessed peace, we once again implore, And let our pains be less, or power more.

-Alexander Brome (1661)


Here I’ve been toeing the line these past 10 days to adhere to the guidelines established by the ENT physician who diagnosed my TMJ syndrome: Advil, heat, no gum chewing, soft foods, check with the dentist about a device to keep me from clenching my teeth at night, and so on.


$450 (for my lovely night guard device which makes me look like Bugs Bunny) and days later, I was still suffering pain from what I thought were residual TMJ issues. On Saturday evening, I was so discouraged, I even said to Joel, “I wish this were an ear infection instead, so I could just take an antibiotic and be done with it.” His response was, “Be careful what you wish for.”


Sunday morning I awoke and discovered I couldn’t hear at all out of my left ear (on the same side as the TMJ). The sensation felt as if I were under water, with only muffled sounds coming through. I soldiered through church and later the youth choir rehearsal that I “mother”, explaining to all that I couldn’t hear very well, so if I were off key, so sorry!


My friend Bill said, “well, I WAS going to say something!” He was making fun of the fact that I don’t really sing on key anyway, but hey, I do try! So I whacked him for his total disrespect for my singing abilities (a big joke). Aside from all that, I was still having acute pains which required more Advil, which I hate taking.


I told myself I’d call the ENT doctor back if I didn’t improve on Monday morning, which I did not. So at the crack of 9 a.m. when their office opened, I was on the phone. Dr. Hung could see me at 2:00, thankfully.


When he came into the exam room, I had a sense that he was skeptical about my complaint; perhaps he thought I was a big wuss who wasn’t doing what he had originally prescribed? I outlined what I’d experienced since our last visit ten days prior, and then he took a look.


His reaction? “You DO have an ear infection!” He was so surprised! I think he halfway expected to see a nice clean ear canal like he saw ten days ago. He said that I was only the second person he’d ever seen that had an ear infection along with a TMJ diagnosis. But now I finally had an explanation for why all my efforts didn’t help reduce the pain. It would have to be me, of course.


The good doctor cleaned out my ear, and although it wasn’t exactly pleasant, the relief from the pressure was so immediate, it felt good. He prescribed an antibiotic ear drop twice a day, with no follow up unless I still had problems after ten days.


So by that time, I should be finished with the ear drop protocol AND the night guard prescription. I cannot begin to say how grateful I am to finally have a positive outlook, and for that gift, I am rejoicing… and thankful on this Thanksgiving weekend.


Just Shoot Me
November 22, 2008

Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee: in whose heart are thy ways. Who going through the vale of misery use it for a well: and the pools are filled with water.                              -Psalm 84:5 

So we went up to Colorado for a fun filled long weekend! It was really great to see Shannon and Kat and meet their big lunk of a dog, Lucas. The kids had all sorts of things planned, including breakfast every day, trips to Boulder, a hike in the mountains and evenings out at lovely restaurants. We really had a wonderful time.


Except that on Friday, my left ear began to ache. Uh oh. I thought it might have been an ear infection that the altitude had exacerbated. Saturday it was about the same. I gamely went on our hike, which I thoroughly enjoyed, actually. The day was gorgeous, and so was the scenery. We picnicked at the end of the trail, and even Lucas got a bite.


As the day wore on, though, my ear began to throb. We bought some rubbing alcohol and an eye dropper for me to use to try to ease the pain. I made it through a rather sleepless night and hoped that a return to sea level would make this thing go away. On the airplane home I chewed gum like crazy to ward off any discomfort as we gained or decreased altitude. 


However, things didn’t improve when we returned home, so I called our doctor on Monday. His nurse said to take Advil or something and if it didn’t go away in a day or so to call an ENT group which she recommended. It did not go away; in fact it got worse… it felt like someone was sticking a pencil in my ear. I continued to chew gum and do the alcohol thing, but it did no good. So I called the ENT group on Wednesday and made an appointment for the next day. 


The first thing that Dr. Hung observed about me was that there was a sticker in my hair. It said, “Made in China”. I was mortified! How did that get there? All I could think was that I had had to use my “car reading glasses” to read something, as I’d left my regular “purse reading glasses” back at home. Did that sticker come dislodged from them and attach itself to my hair? I hadn’t used those glasses in years, so maybe so. 


The good doctor then determined that I did NOT have an ear infection, but rather what’s called TMJ syndrome. Give me an ear infection any day! With TMJ, you have to change your behavior to alleviate the inflammation of the jaw joint, which is right beneath and in front of your ear. That means eating soft food, not chewing gum, applying heat, etc. Often, relief comes by wearing a device in ones mouth to prevent teeth clenching during sleep. 


I gamely vowed to never chew gum again. And I got out the heating pad, which became my constant companion over the next few days, especially on the really cold ones (by Houston standards), which REALLY made my ear hurt.  


Then there was the day I had to go to a meeting at church. I had the bright idea to take one of those “therma care” heating pads that ladies with menstrual cramps use to ease the pain. I opened it up and stuck it in my pocket and then applied it to my jaw whenever I felt any twinges. Shannon would have been mortified to see her mother using a menstrual cramp relief device on her face!  


It reminded me of the story my friend Jill tells about her own mother who doctored up their cat’s neck wound with a kotex pad (the old fashioned kind with the ties that affixed to a belt). Mrs. T. simply tied the pad around the cat’s neck, and when Jill came home with her high school date, there was the cat sitting on the front porch with a kotex pad tied around his neck. Mortification ensued. 


Mothers have no shame after awhile, I guess. My own idea wasn’t as embarrassing as Mrs. T’s was, mainly because my meeting was with a group of women, and to them, it was cause for hilarity. 


This chapter of my story ended today (Wednesday) with a trip to the dentist who has now fitted me with a (very expensive) device to keep me from clenching my teeth in my sleep. I look like Bugs Bunny when I apply it, and I can’t stand the sensation of it. Whether or not I last two weeks sleeping with it remains to be seen. Can one not sleep for two weeks? Stay tuned to see if I make it!


(note: after two nights, I am rather bleary. It’s going to be a long 12 days)

Mother of the Bride, Chapter 1
November 15, 2008

Here Comes the Bride!

Traditional Wedding March


The phone rang; caller ID indicated it was Shannon calling. Nothing too unusual about that, but it was not an ordinary conversation that awaited me. When she through her happy tears told me that Kat had given her an engagement ring, I also became teary in response to her happiness. What exciting news!


And so the wedding journey began. Nothing was said about plans or dates, so I had time to digest the news before our upcoming trip to CO. She took a photo of her now be-ringed hand with her computer camera and sent it to me; I duly printed it out and showed it to unsuspecting friends who invariably took one look at it and squealed with surprise!


The Dad and I flew to CO this past weekend for a quick visit, and finally got to give her and Kat big hugs in person. Over the course of the weekend, we talked a bit about their ideas, dreams, expectations and dates; their plan is to wait until after Kat is finished with his masters program, so we have plenty of time to see this through. Thank goodness! I need that time to a) save up some money and b) think about all the fine details that need to be thought about once the big picture is outlined.


Shannon mentioned that one of Kat’s grandmothers wanted to know when they were going to have an “engagement party” so that she could send an engagement gift. An engagement party? Did we have one of those? Looking back in my photo album of my own wedding memories, it appears that we did!  It was a simple wine and cheese party at my folks’ house the Christmas before we married. Nothing fancy at all; I barely remember it, actually. I think it was more like a “kickoff” event for the impending nuptials. Certainly there was no etiquette-ly ordained “announcement” of the engagement, as it was all common news by then.


So I pulled out my trusty etiquette book (circa 1976) and read about the finer points of how to do engagements/weddings. Given that in this day and age, everyone gets news instantly via the internet, I didn’t see any point in spending money to make this momentous announcement in the paper. The book did mention an engagement party and offered the proper wording that the Dad might use to officially “make the announcement”.


Hmmm. I began to think about timing. Given that the kids will be here a week at best over Christmas and uncertain as to when they would be able to return (with job responsibilities precluding any visits in the short term), I figured, why not do it while they’re here? Let’s just have an open house after Christmas and folks can come and go, meet Kat if they haven’t already and just bask in the glow. The house will still be decorated… so why not?


Then I thought, why not just use our annual Christmas card to announce the news and include an insert to those whom have been a part of Shannon’s life over the years and whom we’d like to stop by the open house? It would kill two birds with one stone and certainly save on postage! In these frugal days, that’s a good thing.


The etiquette book said that the bride’s family should first contact the groom’s family (whom we’ve already met), so I sent a note to Kat’s folks via e-mail (horrors! What would Leticia Baldridge say about that!). In it, I expressed our delight about the engagement of our kids and mentioned our tentative plans for this party in late December, in hopes that they could come down (from PA) to meet the folks down here. Maybe they’d enjoy the opportunity to get away from the ice and snow to bask in Houston’s balmy climes?


And so I have taken the first “proper” baby steps in this wedding journey. My brain is now firing on all cylinders to jump over this first hurdle, and then it will be on to the next challenge. Stay tuned!

Trick or Treat
November 1, 2008

 “The goblins gonna getcha if you don’t watch out!”


Halloween fell on a Friday this year, and because of that, we armed ourselves with a variety of “treats”, thinking that we’d have a parade of costumed visitors who would be begging for candy. I had the bright idea to purchase the type of candy that I use to fill the birthday cups for my Pure Sound Youth Choir’s weekly birthday celebrations; my inspiration was to not have any leftovers to nibble on! I’d just scoop up what was left and take it to church for the kids to enjoy on their birthdays, so as to not tempt either of us. 


The reality was that we had exactly two groups of trick or treaters, both early on, both nicely costumed, both very young and both totally unfamiliar to us (i.e. not the kids on our street). It was kind of disappointing in a way, but then, I think the tradition of trick or treating has mostly gone by the wayside.  


Sad to say, it could be a function of our over-protective society; back in the halcyon years of Shannon’s childhood, boy did we celebrate this day! We decorated on a large scale with a simulated graveyard that had an open coffin with dry ice spewing fog, sound effects and such. Carving the jack o’ lantern was always great fun (and a great mess), and seeing its spooky glow after the sun went down really set the scene. It seemed like we always had a steady parade of kids coming to our door.  


But even then, I knew it wasn’t like the good old days of my childhood when scores of kids would roam the streets and collect vast hordes of candy. Half the fun was pouring out my stash to compare and contrast with my siblings’ piles; we’d trade favorites amongst each other and try to make the candy last for weeks.


Of course, our costumes were always homemade; no store bought for us, unless we re-used former ballet recital attire. As we got older, we would invariably be “tramps” complete with a five o’clock shadow that my mom would apply to our skin after burning the end of a cork to produce soot.


One doesn’t see many homemade costumes these days. On the day before Halloween, I found myself stuck in a traffic jam over by a local “party” store that sells decorations, costumes and the like. Cars were parked everywhere around, including on the grassy banks of nearby White Oak Bayou. Traffic cops directed folks to keep moving, because the parking lot was full. I dare say that the fact that Halloween fell on a Friday had something to do with this crazy rush to purchase cool costumes that would impress everyone at the parties or on the streets.


But with no little Halloween celebrant to generate excitement at our house, I’m afraid we just put a string of skeleton lights in the tree by the front door and stuck an uncarved pumpkin out there, as well. Maybe I should try a little harder to attract more customers? Nah, then I wouldn’t have as much leftover candy!


Oh wait. I forgot. I’m not going to have any leftover candy anyway.




(pewperson will return on Nov. 15)