Costa Rica Trip, Day 12 – Barra Honda Caverns

After two days of relaxing on beaches, it was time for another adventure. Before going to Costa Rica, Dave had read about the Venado Caves near Arenal, and he was really interested in visiting those. I was less excited about the idea, due to the fact that you had to wade around in muddy water and squeeze through tight openings to get from one room to another. Thanks to Hurricane Otto and a lack of desire to take Blue off-roading any more than we had to, we ended up not going there.

So, while I was lying on the beach, flipping through our Lonely Planet Costa Rica guide, I saw that there was another set of caves in Barra Honda National Park, which was not too far from where we were in Playas del Coco. There are actually 42 caves, but only 19 have been explored and only 2 are open to the public! You can read all about it here:

It was about an hour and a half drive down to Barra Honda, and easy going, with the exception of the final several miles of dirt road. It wasn’t in terrible condition, it was just slow going and gave us the sense that we were heading into the wilderness, never to see civilization again.

Once at the park, we checked in at the ranger station. Nobody spoke English, so Dave spoke with them in Spanish and translated for me. We knew we’d have to walk to get to the caves, and the woman explained that it was a 4 km hike. That’s only 2 miles, I thought, how bad could it be? What I didn’t take into account was the fact that it would be almost entirely uphill.

We were introduced to two older men, Jose and Saturnino, who would be our guides for the hike and for the cave. We found out later that they were both in their late 60’s – Jose proudly told us he was 69. They were in better shape than Dave and I, and if it weren’t for my incessant need to stop to catch my breath or take a drink of water, they probably wouldn’t have stopped at all.

It was a beautiful hike through the forest. We saw a waterfall, lots of interesting plants and flowers, lots of Blue Morpho butterflies, and even an iguana peeking out of a hole in a tree!

The day was extremely hot and humid, so it didn’t take long for me to start wilting like a delicate flower. I didn’t want to look like a complete wimp though, so I pressed on. After a while, I didn’t feel hot anymore. I felt like a cool breeze was blowing over my skin. I even had chills from time to time. I discovered later that these are signs of heat stroke, and I probably should have tapped out right then and there.

After what seemed like half the day, we reached the cave entrance. It was literally a gaping maw in the rocks. Not at all inviting. There were two German tourists standing nearby looking down into it. They watched as our guides began stringing up the ropes which would be used for our harnesses. They wished us luck as we got strapped into our harnesses and made our way to the ladder.


I’m starting to have some second thoughts…

Jose explained (in Spanish) where to put each foot and how to grab the ladder properly so we wouldn’t slip and fall right there at the top. Then, he went down, and then Dave. Then it was my turn. It was awkward trying to get onto the ladder with all the rocks in the way. The first few feet of the ladder were angled down only slightly, and then it bent and was completely vertical. And dark. Very dark.

The ladder is 55 feet long. That’s the height of a 5-story building. It was slippery with mud, so going down was slow and a bit nerve wracking. I kept looking down at Dave and I could hardly see him. He was like an ant down there with Jose.

Eventually I made it to the bottom, and immediately was given a headlamp to put on my helmet. I was still feeling a bit out of sorts from the hike up, and after climbing down the ladder, I would have liked to stop for a minute to catch my breath, but Jose led us off to explore the cave. The floor was sloped down and very wet and slippery.

Of course it was incredibly dark in there, being a cave and all. Jose led us down to a lower room and showed us the different rock formations – stalactites and stalagmites and that sort of thing. I noticed that my heart was beating super fast, which I thought was a little odd.


This is me before I lost my marbles in the cave.

Deep in the cave there was another area with a ladder that went down to a lower room. This ladder was only about 10 feet, so there was no harness. Jose told me I didn’t have to go down if I didn’t want to, but I wasn’t about to sit there alone in the dark while he and Dave went down without me.


Smile, and the world smiles with you.

Once we were in that lowest part, Jose had us turn out our headlamps so we could experience the complete darkness and silence of the cave. I swear, my heartbeat was echoing through the place at that point. It felt like it was about to beat right out of my chest.


Two seconds away from a breakdown.

We climbed up the shorter ladder and began walking back up to the big one. Part way up the path, I grabbed Dave and asked him to stop with me so I could catch my breath. I don’t think he realized I was having issues until this point. We stopped and I tried to relax, but my anxiety was getting out of control. I tried to take deep breaths but began hyperventilating instead.

Jose indicated for me to come closer to the ladder, and he helped me into the harness. I’ll admit, I was hoping they were just going to hoist me out of there like a stuck pig, but no. I had to climb back up that ladder. This was the only point during our vacation that I actually wished I was sitting at my desk back at work.

By this time I was basically out of my mind. I wanted out of that cave so bad. I climbed, shakily, looking up at the pinhole of light that was the exit. I climbed that ladder like you wouldn’t believe. Dave, translating Jose’s instructions, told me to wrap my arms around the edges of the ladder, in case my hands got tired gripping the rungs. I wrapped my arms around the rails and climbed so hard. I was moaning and hyperventilating like a damn fool, but I didn’t care. I just wanted to get out of there!

Dave called up to me from below, telling me to slow down and rest, but I wasn’t having it. I power-climbed, smashing my knees against the rungs and at one point, pulling a muscle in my leg trying to skip a rung where the rock face stuck out too far for me to fit my whole foot on the rung. (I didn’t notice these injuries until much later).

Finally, I was at the top. I can only imagine how I must have looked to the people who were waiting to go down next. They probably heard me coming – moaning and cursing, and then saw my drained face pop up, followed by my guano-covered body. I bet I looked like a distressed swamp creature.

I stumbled away from the ladder, tore off my helmet and my harness and threw them both on the ground, and clumsily stomped over to a little picnic table. I was so happy to be out that I could cry, and I did. I sat there and cried and hyperventilated until Dave came out. He came over and comforted me, while also laughing at the hot mess that I was. Jose came out a few minutes later and poured out some water so we could clean off our hands.

I figured we were finally done and could go back to the car, but that wasn’t it. There was more to the hike, which led us to a beautiful spot overlooking a valley and the Gulf of Nicoya. If I hadn’t felt like complete crap, I would have been really impressed, but I was so done at that point.

The hike back was all downhill, but even this was difficult. I felt like it took hours and hours. I finally did catch my breath, but had absolutely no energy left.  When we eventually got down to the bottom, we rinsed ourselves off in the outdoor sink and then went over to the car to change and get more drinks.

We drove all the way back to the hotel without stopping for lunch, because we were covered in mud. We showered hard – I’m not sure those white washcloths would ever be white again. We grabbed a late lunch/early dinner from Le Coq and called it a day.


We enjoyed a peaceful sunset to end the day.

Honestly, I was really surprised at how I reacted to the cave. I have always known that I am a bit claustrophobic – for example, when Dave would work on my old car, he would sometimes invite me to get down under the car so he could show me something. I could only tolerate it for a few seconds – the bulk of the car looming over me made me feel anxious. 

Being in the cave wasn’t quite the same. We didn’t have to squeeze through any tight spaces, but maybe it was the darkness that freaked me out? Or perhaps I was just so heat-stricken that I ceased to think rationally anymore and just lost it? I don’t know.

What I do know is that I will not be going into any caves that require headlamps or rappelling gear anytime soon. Good thing we had another two beach days ahead to recover from that stressful day!

Hello from the Other Side (of the Atlantic)

Goodness me, it has been quite some time since I last wrote. I was busy gearing up for my first overseas trip to Amsterdam and Germany.

Hello from Amsterdam!

But first, a story. When I was in fifth grade, I went on my first overnight school trip. We went to a place called PEEC in the Pocono mountains of Pennsylvania. I forget how long we were there for, but it was at least a couple of nights.

I have always been a homebody. Even when I would sleep over at my friend’s house next door, I would look out the window at my house and feel homesick. If I hadn’t been so afraid of the dark I would have made the trek across our yards so I could be in my own home with mommy and daddy and sleeping right down the hall.

So naturally I was really nervous to go to PEEC. I had a yucky feeling in the pit of my stomach and I wanted to cry and tell my mom I was sick and I should stay home instead. There’s a possibility that I actually DID do that, but clearly she did not fall for it.

My friend Jessica’s mom came and picked me up on the big day. She drove us to our school, where there were two big charter busses waiting. Jessica was excited. I was wondering if I could hightail it across the soccer field and make it to the cover of the woods before anyone noticed. How long would it take me to get home if I walked the whole way?

We put our stuff into the luggage compartment of the bus. As we did so, I realized that I’d forgotten my pillow. That was the final straw. I burst into tears. I was not going to survive this trip without my pillow! There wasn’t time for us to go back to the house and get it. What would I do?

Jessica talked me down from the hysteria. She pointed out that she would not enjoy the trip if I didn’t come. She told me I was one of her best friends and that she needed me to be there with her. She also pointed out that I could use my stuffed Shamu as a pillow. (Yes, I had remembered to grab an enormous stuffed killer whale before I left the house, but not my pillow.) She promised we would have fun.

And she was right. Once the bus pulled away from the school and the waving parents beside their minivans disappeared over the horizon, I began to feel better. I ended up having a blast and whenever I think back to those days I recall the PEEC trip so fondly. It was the highlight of fifth grade.

Why am I sharing this, you ask? Well, all these years later I still struggle with that same feeling of dread when approaching a trip. Even if it’s a trip I actually want to take.

I am still a homebody. I could easily stay at home for an entire week and not feel restless whatsoever. I love being home. Sometimes, I need to stop at the store on the way home from work to pick something up, but mid-drive I will decide that I’d rather just go home.

Of course I do enjoy traveling. I want to see different parts of the world and experience different cultures. It all sounds interesting and fun until it comes time to pack the suitcase and begin the journey.

One of the other things that stresses me out about traveling is making sure I have all my accoutrements, as I like to call them. Pretty much the most important items on my list are: eye drops, eye lube for bedtime, eye scrub, toothbrush and floss, mouthwash and lotion. If I ever forgot any of those, I would break down. And no Shamu pillow would help.

Last week I was feeling a bit irritated about EEC and how it means I have to carry a bunch of extra crap (see above list), and if I don’t, my eyes will flare up and make me look horrible. I was also fretting about how my eyes would hold up during the flight. It is an overnight flight, but the night is shortened by the fact that Amsterdam is 6 hours ahead of us, so by the time you get there it is early morning.

Fortunately, with some forethought and planning I was able to manage. I brought my eye lube with me on the plane, and when I was ready to attempt to sleep, I went to the bathroom and put the lube in my eyes. When I got back to my seat I put on the eye mask that Dave got for me. It’s a really nice one. It has a layer of foam in it so it’s really soft, and then there are indents where your eyeballs go, so the mask is not pressing on your eyelids. It’s so comfy.

I put the mask on and attempted to sleep. I didn’t get much sleep for various  reasons, but my eyes were still loving the rest. It felt like my eyeballs were sleeping without me.

When we were about to land, I put some eye drops in and wiped away the extra lube with a tissue. My eyes were still more tired than they would have been on a full nights sleep, but they felt better than they would have if I had not used the lube and the mask. Of course I was also putting eye drops in like nobody’s business all day. But it really helped keep my eyes going.

Anyway- so I was in Amsterdam yesterday and then we took the train down to Dusseldorf, which is where I am now. I wanted to write about all my observations of Amsterdam and Germany so far, but now I am tired. I should get to sleep soon because our meetings start tomorrow.

I’ll try to write again soon and talk about the actual trip, not how I kept my eyes moist the whole time.

auf Wiedersehen!

A Life in the Dentist’s Chair

On a regular day, the history of my mouth isn’t something I even think about, but the moment I walk into a dental office, that familiar smell nearly knocks me to my knees with dread. Memories of countless times before, sitting anxiously in the waiting room, flipping through magazines, wishing I was a model with naturally perfect teeth, wishing I was anywhere but there.

To say I’ve had a lot of dental work is a bit of an understatement. I’ve already written about some of it, and the anxiety I developed over the years in my post Oral Fixations. You would think that having been in the dental chair literally hundreds of times in my life would mean that I would approach the chair like an old friend. Not so. Not so at all.

Tomorrow I am having a consultation with my new dentist to talk about updating my bridgework and fixing my bite alignment. I really do want to do this. My jaw clicks when I chew and it’s uncomfortable. My bridgework is nearing 20 years old, and could use some refreshing. I want to be able to chew my food comfortably again, and, if possible, do it more gracefully.

In preparation for tomorrow’s visit, I was looking through some of my old dental records. I came across some x-rays and other weird things so I thought it would be fun to share. It reminds me of how far I’ve come, though looking at some of my earlier x-rays makes me kind of sad. I wonder if I was going through all this now, if they could have done more to save my natural teeth, and perhaps eliminated the need for 10 implants. I’m told that they would never do so many implants so close together now. But I’m also told that my doctors did a great job on my mouth, so that is good to hear, and I suppose it means it was all worth it.

Walk with me now, through some of my mouth’s greatest adventures.


My first dental appliance – at least the first that I still have in my possession. This was the obturator that Mom and Gram had to wrestle and hold me down every morning to put in. It fit across the roof of my mouth and closed the hole in my palate so that I could drink my baby formula. (I have no conscious memory of this happening.)



A snippet of the new patient form my mom filled out when I started with Dr. Prusak. Thank goodness for him. He was so kind and gentle and he really knew how to handle a scared little girl like me.


Pano of my 5-year old mouth. Look at that beautiful bilateral cleft! My eye sockets look misaligned because I moved my head during the x-ray. I actually had a lot of teeth for someone with ectodermal dysplasia. Notice the creepy orbs with adult teeth buds in them in my lower jaw. I was probably scared out of my mind getting this x-ray, but I have no memory of it now.


Dr. Bond created this to push my front teeth forward and my canines outward. It worked. It was attached to my upper arch with brackets on my back molars. I couldn’t take it out. I spent a lot of time working food out of it with my tongue after meals.


Heres that contraption at work. My two front teeth started out twisted and pointing inward. Dr. Bond devised the metal sculpture to push those teeth forward. Every time I saw him he would adjust the wires just a tad until my teeth were finally in position, which it looks like they are here. This was before the bone graft to close my clefts, obviously.


Another pano at age 12. Post bone graft. I was already sporting a mouthful of metal. You can see that some of my molars were still baby teeth with no adult teeth behind them.

Fast forward about 20 years – post LeForte Osteotomy and post implants…


This is about how my mouth looks now, give or take a root canal and a crown or two. Talk about a metal mouth. I still have 9 real teeth, though they have been enhanced by crowns and root canals…


This is a plaster model of my recent mouth situation. (They look like horse teeth.) The bottom ten teeth are part of a bridge that is screwed in to my jaw on 6 implants, and the top six teeth are a bridge that is cemented onto the top 4 implants. Only my molars in the very back are what remain of my natural teeth.

I expect I will be getting another pano x-ray tomorrow. If I can get a copy of it, I will definitely post it. Of course I will post about whatever ends up happening with my future dental work too.

You may be wondering, after seeing my current model, what I could possible still need to have done. Well, the top bridge has a terrible habit of coming lose and falling off. And you can’t tell from the model but there is a slight gap between the top of my bridge and my gums, which means whenever I eat, food squeezes through and nestles in the cracks between my teeth. Since they are fake, I can’t feel it, though I have learned to constantly be checking my teeth for bits of food, it’s really not ideal, and makes for some awkward social moments.

Also, as I mentioned – my jaw alignment has somehow fallen out of whack. And I’ve broken two teeth off the bottom bridge… because it takes three licks to get to the center of a tootsie roll pop… I can’t resist biting things I shouldn’t! 🙂

Stay tuned for whatever’s next in my dental adventure… xx

Vacation Required

A week from today the NFED family conference will be kicking off. My mom and I are heading out to Colorado this Saturday for a little vacation before conference starts. Boy do I need it.

Yesterday I found out that one of the three other people in my department is quitting. I almost cried when she told me. I already feel like I am at the max capacity that I can handle, and now she’s leaving and just casually shrugging off all the workload that she had been carrying. Even if we are able to get a temp in the next few weeks, they are going to need a lot of hand-holding and guidance and…

Yesterday as I left work I was thinking that when I was my co-worker’s age, I did the same thing that she’s doing. I gave no thought of the future, or how my presence (or lack thereof) affected anyone else. If I didn’t like the job, I just gave my two weeks and peaced out. I get it. I won’t lie that I haven’t thought of doing that with my current job, but I think that’s the difference between being 25 and 35. I’d like to think that if/when the time comes that I am going to leave this role, I would give them the courtesy of more than two weeks, so there’d be time to find a replacement and train them before all hell breaks loose. 

That’s enough about about that. I am just glad I will be on vacation next week and will be able to forget about it all for those few days. I have ambitions of posting on the blog every day to keep track of the adventure and let my reader(s) follow along. Whether or not that actually happens… we’ll see.

Of course I am also excited to reunite with my friends at the conference. It’s always great to catch up with old friends and meet new ones. I’m even going to be leading the Young Adult session (called Adult Life 101). It should be fun!

This was taken on the last night of conference last year. I had a rally bad sore throat and was just about to head to my room to sleep and get up super early for my flight the next day.

This was taken on the last night of conference last year. I had a wicked sore throat and was just about to head to my room to sleep and get up super early for my flight the next day.

Well, that’s all for now. My next post will be coming at you from Colorado!

Busy Bee or Drama Llama?

Ever feel like a star shape not fitting into a square hole?

Ever feel like a star shape not fitting into a square hole?

It seems I have been slacking with posts again. I am often thinking about this blog and what story to tell next, or what issue to discuss. Sometimes I think it would be cool to have a way to transmit thoughts directly from my mind into the computer, but then again, that could be pretty freaky. Plus I guess that’s what fingers and keyboards are for. Or microphones.

I am always hesitant to say I am busy or overwhelmed, because I feel like I don’t have the right to complain about stuff like that when I don’t have kids and I don’t have a high-stress or even a high-importance job. The truth is, a lot of the stress and anxiety I feel is in my own mind. I feel pretty overwhelmed most of the time, but if I step outside my mind and look at my life I am kind of embarrassed to see that from the outside it doesn’t look so bad.

I mentally carry around all these projects and these tasks that I want to do, but the truth is, my time-management skills pretty much suck. Maybe it is the curse of being an INFJ that I get too wrapped up in my own head, and the way things feel to me, rather than seeing things as they really are.

Here’s something I wrote in my notebook during a particular angsty lunch break the other day:

Most of the time I feel like a star-shape not fitting into a square hole. Maybe in the grand scheme of things I am being too picky and too spoiled. I mean, I know there are people a million times worse off that I. Like the poor people in Bangladesh who are losing their land daily thanks to rising ocean levels. They literally have nothing but the clothes on their backs, and here I am feeling sorry for myself because I have to spend 8 hours a day in an office in front of a computer when I would rather spend 10 hour days in an art studio or writing stuff that I want to write, not some boring business mumbo-jumbo. I realize I make more money in one hour than those poor people make in a month. But it’s not all about money! I mean, of course living here in CT, a lot is about money and I did just buy a new car and am planning TWO trips outside of corporate-paid travel. Plus medical expenses.

I think that is my curse in life… I feel like the fear of unforeseen medical expenses is what keeps me tethered to a “real” job. It’s not like I think I will have cancer or an accident. It’s the stuff I KNOW will happen, thanks to EEC. I’m already dealing with trying to get my dental work updated. My eyes require constant care and will likely get worse the older I get. My ears, despite all the surgeries, will need life long maintenance. Even if nothing else goes wrong, just my normal medical maintenance schedule is quite pricey.

So is it just an excuse I use to keep up from trying something that scares me? There’s that expression I like about how outside your comfort zone is where the magic happens. What if I never try for fear of going broke or being let down somehow? All I know is that I can’t live life in complacency. I want to SOAR. I want to live! To be creative and express my passion… and to GET PAID to do that!  

So yeah. That’s where I’m at lately. This is a pattern I have seen multiple times in my life before, but I think it is time I do something different to resolve it. Despite being easily frustrated by petty things in my current position, I am in a place where I can plan ahead and figure out what I want to do next, rather than just leaping headfirst into the next opportunity that opens up. I think my past issues with job dissatisfaction resulted from my tendency to just take whatever job opened up next, rather than really saying “does this suit me?”. Ok, there was that one time I turned down a job where I’d be working for a certain helicopter company near here…

Well, that’s enough rambling for now. I actually do have a lot of “real” stuff to do today, and tomorrow I am off to the New England Vegfest.

Hopefully I can pull myself together next week and post some new and exciting blog posts!


I’m a sparkly star shape and I don’t fit in!

A Mouse in the House

Yesterday was a gorgeous spring day and literally the first day of 2015 that we could leave the house in short-sleeved shirts. Of course we spent most of the day outside, cleaning up all of the sticks that fell through the winter and raking up all of the leaves that had been plastered to the ground beneath all the snow.

Spring is really here!

Spring is really here!

One of our spring cleaning projects was to clean up our sunroom (or Florida room, as my Dad calls it). Throughout the winter, this room acts as our catch-all for anything that we don’t have room for in the house. After the long, dark months of winter, it can get pretty scary out there.

So yesterday, Dave spent several hours cleaning the room and getting it ready for warm weather. His ultimate goal is not that he and I should have a nice place to relax and put our feet up, but that the cats will have somewhere new to sun themselves.

I'm going to touch you!

I’m going to touch you!

In the late afternoon, after we had completed our yard work and various projects, I went into the kitchen to begin making dinner. Dave left the sunroom door open so the cats could explore this room that they hadn’t seen since last fall.

As I laid the cutting board on the counter and prepared to cut vegetables, I saw Sophie (the black cat) walk into the kitchen in my peripheral vision. Absentmindedly, I greeted her. I turned to look at her and saw that she was holding something in her mouth. Something brown and plump, with shining, beady black eyes. My first thought was “Wow, that’s a realistic looking mouse toy! I wonder where she found that?”

Then, unconsciously, I began to scream. The screams rose up out of my chest like they had a life of their own. I couldn’t stop myself. Sophie dropped the mouse on the floor and began batting it around like a toy. I screamed louder and pranced around like I was barefoot on hot coals.

Dave, meanwhile, was in the shower and could only hear a hint of my screaming. I imagined that he would come running out in a towel, dripping wet, to rescue me, but he did not. (Good thing I wasn’t actually being attacked!)

Finally, I came to my senses and grabbed Sophie from behind. She struggled and fought, but I was able to get her away from the mouse. I threw her into the living room and returned to see the mouse escaping beneath a cabinet.

I have always thought (quite proudly) that I was not one of those women who would scream and make an exaggerated fuss when exposed to a flying insect or spider. I’ve taken entomology classes. I know insects can be beneficial and harmless. In fact, we have a spider that lives in our bathroom, and I let her reside there because I’m cool like that.

But somehow, a cute little mouse in my house will cause me to lose my mind.

A Brief Recap of Recent Life

Hey ya’ll! My apologies for the serious lack of posts lately. As often happens, life seems to rise up and consume my time like a ravenous beast. I haven’t even taken time to do my morning Zentangles this week, which is an outrage. Here are some of the things I’ve been up to:

Last Saturday I noticed my upper bridge was a little wobbly. Ugh! I think I’ve mentioned before that it is cemented on to four implant posts. I guess that was cutting-edge technology in 1997, but it doesn’t seem to be the best long-term way to give a person a solid grille.

So I noticed it was wobbly, and being the neurotic person I am, I immediately began wiggling it to see how loose it was. Like a kid with a loose tooth, I couldn’t leave it alone. So of course I wiggled it until it came off. I had denture paste in the medicine cabinet, which will hold my bridge in enough to get by for a few days. So I used that, but then I was annoyed by the gross denture paste slime in my mouth, and the fear that anytime I talked or ate, the teeth would fall out again.

Fortunately I was able to get in to my dentist on Monday to have it cemented back in. Still that was an adventure in itself because while I was there, he decided to try and fix my bite alignment, which has been off lately. So he just randomly started grinding down one of the crowns in the back of my mouth. One of the crowns that I paid over $1000 for less than two years ago.

You may wonder why I would let him do that. I thought it was just one point of the tooth that was high and causing my bite to be out of whack, so I thought it would be a quick little adjustment. By now you’d think I would have realized that nothing with my mouth is ever quick. It ended up being a half-hour process of grinding down random bits here and there, lots of rinsing and spitting, and biting on carbon paper (or whatever that stuff is) and repeating the process to get my bite aligned. Even now it’s not really perfect, but I think he had to stop before grinding my molars to stumps. Ugh! I hate my life!

Just kidding, I don’t really hate my life, but I hate moments like that. I was lying there wondering why people are turned on by things like 50 Shades of Grey and BDSM, because I feel like my dental experiences involve dominance, bondage and masochism, and let me tell you, it does NOT turn me on. It just makes me want to punch someone.

Moving on. In exciting news, I finally bought a new car this week. I’ve been talking about it for at least five years, but there was always some obstacle that prevented me from doing it. Namely, being up to my ears in student loan debt. But in the last couple of years I’ve been saving money like a squirrel hoarding acorns and I finally had a nice amount in my savings account so I feel comfortable having a car payment in my life again. My credit score was through the roof, so I was able to get a ridiculously low interest rate, which also made me a happy camper.

In equally exciting news, tomorrow is the NFED Regional Family Conference in White Plains, NY. It sounds like there are a lot of people signed up to go, and the weather forecast is clear, so it should be a great turnout. I’ll be zoom-zooming down there in my new car and I can hardly wait to reconnect with people and to meet new friends!  I will write a blog post about that once I get back.

Now it is time to get ready for work! Happy Friday Ya’ll!  Here’s a little happy tune for you.

Illustrated Personal Rant Session

Once again, I’ve let slip my morning writing habit. Of course, this time it has been in favor of spending the time drawing instead of writing. So creatively, I feel like I’ve been accomplishing something. Unfortunately it doesn’t really translate to the blog. Or does it?

Day 25. 😍

A post shared by ✨Heather McKelvie✨ (@_callunita_) on

Despite all my fun drawing in the mornings, I’ve been feeling a bit low lately. I guess a lot of that can be attributed to the massive quantities of snow we’ve been getting. I get to feeling a bit trapped. When we don’t have 5 foot snowbanks lining all the roads, I like to go out for walks with Dave, or by myself just to clear my head. While it’s not impossible to take a walk right now, it’s not exactly safe. Plus, it’s pretty stinking cold out there too. Normally I enjoy the snow – it does make everything look pretty.

Day 29. Feathers! #zentangle #onezentangleaday #zenlove

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I also get to feeling low because I sometimes feel like I just don’t get other people (aside from Dave and my immediate family… though sometimes I don’t get them either, hah). Or I’m frustrated that they don’t get me. I start feeling sad because I think of the few people in my life that I’ve really connected with, and they all live far away or they aren’t friends with me anymore for some reason or another.

I really want to have deep, meaningful relationships with people, but most of the interactions I have are insanely superficial. Especially with certain people I work with, who are constantly judging others by physical appearances and ridiculing their clothing and hair choices. It’s like high school all over again. I try to remain above it but it’s hard when it hits that nerve and reminds me of being 15 and awkward and not fitting in.

Lastly, I get down on myself because I think about all the things I’d really rather be doing with my life, and I start feeling really anxious. Like if I don’t quit my job and start DOING a bunch of things, I’m never going to get anywhere in life. First of all, I can’t just quit my job because I’m getting paid better than I ever have before, plus the insurance is great (except for their stubbornness about paying for my dental work), and oh, I am still working off these $#&#*)&( student loans.

I know I need to make a solid plan. I have to believe in myself first, and sometimes – especially when I am feeling low like this – I find that really hard to do. I’ve accomplished a lot of things in my life so far, but somehow I forget all that and I see myself as inexperienced and useless. It’s like my mind gets clouded and I forget that I’m intelligent, I have artistic ability, I have a bachelor of science and a bunch of certificates. I escaped what is most simply described as a religious cult (this is where I lost a lot of friends!). I’ve had a variety of jobs and I was never fired from any of them – I left them all on my own accord. I’ve survived numerous surgeries and medical torture procedures. I’ve seen close family through major surgery and depression. I’m a survivor!! Why is this so hard for me to take strength from?

Ok. I feel a bit better for all this ranting, even if it makes no sense to anyone else. I hope you at least enjoy the pictures. These are some of the Zentangle drawings I’ve been doing for the past month. If you want to see more, just click on one of the images and it should take you to my Instagram page. Follow me and like my pictures to give me a fleeting sense of worth!

Oral Fixations

This past Thursday I had to get a root canal. I’ve had two before and found them to be among the least annoying dental procedures I’ve ever had. Despite that knowledge, I still felt that familiar sense of impending doom as the hours passed and my appointment time drew nigh. Logically, I know that I have survived countless dental procedures before this one. Logically, I know that the endodontist has performed countless root canals before this one. Logically, I know that getting this root canal will make future dental experiences more bearable because that tooth will no longer send me angry pain signals every time it is touched. Despite all this logic, I would still rather not climb into that chair.

The first memories I have of going to the dentist was when I was 3 or 4 and my mother had to take me to several before we found the right one. One dentist looked in my mouth and shook his head. “This is beyond my expertise.” Another pediatric dentist had straps on the exam chair, to restrain the arm flailing and leg-kicking that ensues when you frighten a small child. Thankfully, my mother said no to that place.

We ended up with a pediatric dentist named Dr. Prusack. He reminded me of the picture of Shel Silverstein in “Where the Sidewalk Ends” I was both charmed and intimidated by this man. On my first couple of visits I tried to pull some tricks. The waiting room had a play area with a tunnel that went under the magazine table where I halfheartedly attempted to hide. I cried and I kicked my feet, but Dr. Prusack would have none of it. He’d tell me to knock it off, and if I relaxed and just let him work, it would be easier for both of us. Because of my ectodermal dysplasia, most of my teeth came in with pre-existing cavities, or with very thin or non-existent enamel. So I saw Dr. Prusack often for fillings and crowns in addition to regular cleanings. At the end of each visit, I’d get to select a plastic trinket from the toy chest at the end of the hall.

When I was 9 or 10, it was time to start orthodontic work. A few doors down from Dr. Prusack was Dr. Bond, James Bond. (Really.) He fitted me with the first of many “appliances” which were designed to expand my palate and push my front teeth forward. Because of my cleft palate, my upper jaw was narrow and my two front teeth grew crookedly on a gum-island that was separate from the rows of teeth on either side.

Orthodontic work was never a fun time. Because of the thin enamel, my teeth had always been extremely sensitive to cold and touch. I compensated for this while eating and drinking by warming up cold foods on my tongue until I could chew them, or by avoiding my teeth entirely. Cold (or hot) drinks were delivered directly to the tongue and down my throat without meeting the teeth at all. I always brushed my teeth and rinsed my mouth with warm water. So plunging my teeth into a tray of cold impression material was nothing short of agonizing. I can’t even think of a way to describe the feeling. The pain sent chills through my entire body, making my stomach lurch and my eyes water. I really don’t think the dentist or assistants understood how awful this felt because they’d always coo and tell me to hang in there, it would be over in 2 minutes. After a while I learned to ask them to mix up the material with lukewarm water, and while it was still unpleasant, it saved me from feeling like I was going to die in that chair.

Something perplexing began happening to me during those times. Lying back in the chair while Dr. Bond worked in my mouth, I’d begin to feel anxious. Waves of heat began passing through my body and then a terrible itchiness would erupt under my skin. It was like the chair was made of prickly material and the back of my legs, my butt and my back were being poked with it.  I’d squirm in the chair and scratch here and there to try to stop it.  The more itchy I felt, the more anxious and hot I’d get and the worse the itching became. Finally the squirming would become so disruptive that Dr. Bond would ask what my problem was. I don’t know why, but the itchy feeling embarrassed me and I never told him about it. I would excuse myself and go to the bathroom where I would quickly yank down my jeans, press cold wet paper towels to my skin and scratch myself like a dog covered in fleas.

As if all the discomfort of dental work wasn’t enough, I now had to have this baffling discomfort with my skin too?  My mom switched laundry detergents, thinking that perhaps I was allergic. I began putting lotion on every day before I got dressed, thinking it was a dry skin issue. Nothing seemed to help.  I knew that the itching was heat related, however, it didn’t always happen when I was hot or in a hot environment. Finally it dawned on me that it was stress-related. For people with skin that functions properly, when you start feeling stressed, you start to sweat.  In my case, all the areas that would get itchy were areas that couldn’t produce sweat. Whenever I would feel anxious or stressed (at the dentist office or in the middle of a math test), I’d feel those dreaded waves of heat and itching. I still don’t know whether this prickly feeling comes from the nerves simply getting too hot, or if I actually have some semblance of sweat glands that are just trying to do their job and can’t. Luckily as I have grown up, I have learned to recognize when that itch is about to start and I am usually able to calm myself and cool myself down before the itching gets really out of control.

It may seem like I have digressed from the original topic of this post, but bear with me. The anxiety that I often felt during all those years of orthodontia can return to me in an instant when I am at the dentist. Even though now I am all grown up and can make my own decisions about treatment and such, when I lie there with that little light shining down in my face and the smell of latex gloves under my nose, I am once again at the mercy of the dentist. While for the most part I can lie back and let my mind go elsewhere, there are still moments in which I feel that familiar heat rising up inside and I have to hold back the tears because I am suddenly afraid and defenseless.

Recently I was having prep work done for a crown. It’s normally a boring, routine procedure.  (Except nothing is ever routine with my mouth.) Several things happened on this visit that wore me down. First, due to all the scar tissue in my gum and cheek area, putting the Novocaine in is so painful it brings tears to my eyes. Then, he couldn’t get the temporary crown to come off, so he was using a slide hammer to try to whack it off even though I’d asked him specifically NOT to do that. Imagine taking a screwdriver and placing the tip against your upper canine.  Then, take a hammer and whack it a couple of times.  Awesome, right?  So my nerves were quickly getting frazzled and the temporary was not coming off.  He ended up using the drill to break apart the temporary crown. Later, when he took an impression of my upper teeth, my bridge came out with it. It’s really not a huge deal because the bridge is just cemented onto my dental implants. It doesn’t hurt or anything and can be quickly cemented back in. But it is a weird feeling to have it off because suddenly my upper lip caves in and I can’t talk without a comical lisp. The dentist gave his assistant my bridge so she could clean it up a little before putting it back in. Then he left the room to check on another patient. As I sat there trying to calm myself from the sting of the needle, the jarring whacks to my face, the drilling and now the insult of sitting there without my front teeth, it was all I could do not to burst into tears. I really wanted to get up and walk out at that point, but my bridge was out and the tooth to be crowned was still unfinished. On top of all that was that another tooth in that area was being sensitive, even with the Novocaine. Which is why I ended up needing a root canal.

So on Thursday I was feeling just a tad nervous about voluntarily putting myself back in the chair. My hands were shaking as I sat in the waiting room. Fortunately the endodontist was incredibly gentle about giving me the Novocaine. It stung only a little and the whole procedure went by smoothly. That night and the next day I didn’t have any pain at all, except for a little tenderness where the needle had been. So of course I’m glad I did it, and having a good dental experience like that reaffirms the notion that sometimes you have to push yourself to get through something for the benefit of your future self.