Sunday, December 26, 2010

Whose House Is This, Anyway?

We took my son to a Protestant church for Christmas Eve mass. I'm a Buddhist and my son's father is a Catholic, so Cracky had never set foot in an Episcopalian church. I felt the need to explain to him that it might be different than the church he attends with his father.

Once we sat down beneath the cathedral ceiling and the beautiful stained glass windows, looking every bit the Catholic church so far as these Buddhist eyes could tell, my son turned and loudly asked:

"Is this for Jesus or the Buddha?"

My little Catholic-Buddhist hybrid revealed himself before mass even started. I couldn't help but think if I ever do manage to get him to the Buddhist temple, he's going to be sorely disappointed. The Catholics and the Episcopalians have the Zen Buddhists soundly beat on pageantry and architecture.

Then when it was time to take communion, the rector announced that anyone could partake, regardless of where they were on their spiritual path. My husband volunteered to take Cracky up to the altar with him.

"Can I go?" my son accepted my husband's suggestion with such zeal it gave me a moment's pause. I knew something was up.

"Wait. Are you even allowed to take communion at your dad's church?" I asked.

Cracky gave me the wide, altar-boy eyes that revealed that Something Was Definitely Up. "I don't know," he said softly, eyes wider.

"You're not supposed to take communion until you finish your catechism classes, are you?" I asked. He just looked at me as if he were utterly baffled at what I said.

The more I thought the more I could imagine a passionate protest from his father that I'd gone behind his back and offered up the host to the boy before he'd jumped through the requisite Catholic hoops.

"I don't know..." my son repeated, same saucer-like eyes full of lies.

"No, I think First Communion is some sort of big deal in the Catholic church. I think you get a party and everything. I think we'd better wait until your dad says it's cool," I said, thankful that I'd caught my religious gaffe before I'd committed it.

My son looked down at the floor with wide, wounded eyes. I'd denied him Christ's flesh and blood and Holy Communion with his god.

But I tell you, the Catholics have marketing down whereas my husband's church could learn a thing or two. The Catholics are the Tom Sawyer of religions. Tell them communion is a big whoop-de-do that they can't do, and brother they want it.

In contrast my husband's church hands the wafer out like candy, like no big deal. I didn't see any little six-year-old Protestants that night all bitter that they couldn't take communion. They were trudging down the aisle to get a bit of cracker before they got to go home and rip open gifts.

Supply and demand, baby. Keep it elusive and you'll have the whole world wanting it.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Brace Face

I am not a good candidate for Invisalign® braces.

Unfortunately, braces are no longer a matter of cosmetics, but a matter of health. So that means that I am going to have to look like a thirteen-year-old for the next eighteen months or so.

Don't get me wrong. I'm grateful to have the opportunity to get my teeth fixed. I'm just trying to get my head around the fact that I'm going to be wearing metal braces as a forty-year-old.

I can't help but think of the Sex in the City episode where Miranda wears braces for like a day or a week or something and then has them taken off because she looks so ridiculous.

Thanks, Miranda. That's very encouraging for those of us who actually have to wear them.

So looking on the upside, I do get to pick what color the braces will be. I was thinking of either getting glow-in-the-dark or pink glitter.

What do you think?

Friday, December 10, 2010

First Appointment With the New Dentist

I had my first appointment with the new dentist.

Though I had convinced myself that my phobia of dentists was all in my head, right before I left I came down with a sudden illness. I broke out in a cold sweat. I felt shaky and thought I might vomit.

I went ahead with the appointment, just in case I really was crazy and not infected with a purely coincidental case of malaria. On my way to there, I drove two miles past the dentist's street. I know the street well. It's only a mile from my house. I drive down that street all the time. I've even seen the medical building where the dentist practices, but there I was, happily driving past it and past all of the familiar landmarks telling me I was clearly going the wrong way.

You see, Phobia had taken the wheel and it kept heading north. I think Phobia would have continued on to the Mackinac Bridge if Reason hadn't taken over at that point. In addition to that, OCD-Lite doesn't like to be late, and everyone knows that OCD-Lite trumps both Phobia and Reason, so there was no way I was missing the appointment.


What struck me right off about this dentist was that he sat down and chatted with me first. We talked about my career. We got to know each other, real social-like. I found out that his granddaughter is the same age as my baby daughter. He asked me my opinion of businesses creating Facebook pages (I think it's a "Do") and told me about writing an article for a medical journal and working with an editor for the first time. We chatted about Things That Interest Mandy until I was soothed into a state of relaxitude. Then we got to the nitty gritty back story of How Mandy Because a Freaky Freak About Dentists.

Now it's true I had a lot of dental work done as a child. Every molar has a filing. I knocked out two thirds of my right front tooth and had to have that filed down, and then later on, had to have two steel posts inserted into the tooth. I've had two root canals. And then I had to have those two root canals re-done through the top of my gum in a procedure called an apicoectomy. Look it up. It's seriously gross. Add to that, my phobia may also have something to do with the fact that none of my childhood dentists used enough Novocaine. Did you know that you're not supposed to moan during dental procedures? Yeah, if that's happening, your dentist is supposed to take that as a cue that you are not sufficiently numbed.

Who knew?

So we now know that the New Dentist likes to play it fast and loose with the anesthesia. I for one think this could be the start of a beautiful dental relationship.

I also learned that I have an overbite. Funny, I always pictured overbites as obvious. And I never realized that the way I constantly clench my jaw is not normal. I figured it was the result of some sort of neurosis (one of many) but it turns out it's a mechanical problem. (Yay! One less freaky psychological quirk for Mandy! Success!)

This is what you get when you Google "Overbite."

And this is what you get when you Google "Animals with overbites."

Apparently all of the headaches, neck aches, shoulder pain and back pain I have could be related to the overbite. The New Dentist also pushed on my lower jaw and I said, "Ouch!" Apparently that's not supposed to happen either. This is almost as much of a revelation as when I discovered my pesky little thyroid condition.

It's amazing what you discover when you actually go to the doctor.

I have also never been to a cosmetic dentist, so I was curious about having a ceramic mirror inserted into my mouth while the doctor took pictures of my teeth from every possible angle.

Not actually me.

He also took a regular shot of me smiling at the camera. He prompted me to "Smile bigger!" and it struck me how unnatural it felt to smile that big.

I felt vulnerable and exposed. But I did it, because I kept imaging the "After" photo. I wonder if he'll loan me the files so I can use it my blog? If he's leery of creating a Facebook page, I wonder what he'll think of starring in my blog?

I go back in two weeks to find out what his recommendations are. I'm not sure how you fix an overbite and I'm not sure how bad all my chipped, broken and capped teeth are, but one thing I am sure of is that my husband and I are going to need to be fully sedated when we find out how much it's going to cost.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

My Love of Window Cleaner

Note the background a few weeks ago.

And note the background thirty years ago.

My love is real.

Monday, December 6, 2010

All I Want For Buddhakamas* Is My Two Front Teeth

When I was ten years old I ran into a wood chair and knocked out my front tooth.

I also cracked the other front tooth, but it didn't fall out or fall apart. The trauma of the impact also killed two of my teeth. As you can imagine, this one childhood accident has resulted in a lot of time in a dentist's chair. There have been lots of surgeries and procedures, and not enough Novocaine.

And now I'm going to a cosmetic dentist on Thursday to deal with an almost thirty-year-old injury.

To say I'm nervous about it is somewhat of an understatement. I know it's high time I do something about the damage that's been done and the dental work that needs replacing. But I've put it off for so long because my phobia is so strong. I don't know how sensitive dentists were to children's pain 30 years ago. Perhaps my dentist was a sadist? I don't know.

Whatever the case, I've preferred to try and hide my smile for years rather than get my teeth fixed. So strong is my phobia that I cover my mouth when I laugh rather than sit in a dentist's chair. But I'm tired of hating my smile and it's time I do something about it. Right?

Funny how this childhood accident has stayed with me for so long. Even when it happened I knew the seriousness of what I'd done. At ten years old, I was well aware that these were my adult teeth and that I could not grow new teeth. I knew I had ruined my smile for life.

Knew it.

At ten years old I learned regret.

I laid in bed and prayed to god to send me back in time so I could re-do that night. I prayed that I could have one more chance to opt out of playing tag or Ghost in the Graveyard or whatever game we were playing in my friend's basement that night.

I wished with my whole heart to go back and change something that I couldn't. The damage was irreversible and I knew it. Oh, how I struggled with it at ten, and how I have struggled with that self-same issue as an adult.

How many other permanent mistakes/changes/events would I experience as the years went by? Life lessons, all of them. I see my son's same heartache when he breaks a toy. He is quick to ask for the Superglue to fix it, and I so understand that desire — that urgent need to fix it.

And then the day will come when he realizes it can't be fixed.

Or maybe it can? Maybe some thirty years later you'll have an opportunity to fix it. If you're brave enough, that is. I guess I've been torn between accepting myself as I am versus fixing what can (and should be) fixed. I don't think fake teeth were meant to last 20 years or so, and if I want my teeth to last for more years, I need to do something about them. So I've been torn between fear of the dentist, the lofty goal of self-acceptance, and the desire to smile and laugh unselfconsciously.

We'll see how badly I want that smile back.

Although I do have some reservations about looking like Matt Dillon's character Healy in There's Something About Mary. You know, when he misunderstands that Mary likes guys with "big teeth" and he gets a bunch of enormous fake teeth installed?

I don't want to look like that.

*Buddhakamas is an entirely made-up holiday (of my own imagining) in order to satisfy my over-the-top love of Santa Claus, Christmas trees and presents.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Yoga Is Not Buddhist. But Both Are Evil.

What is it with this whole "Yoga is the exercise of the devil" business?

Are you even aware of this? Apparently amongst certain Christians yoga is a no-no and is a decidedly unchristian and "evil" activity in which to participate. Now before you start thinking I have some dog in this fight, let me point out that I do not do yoga.

Let me also point out that though I am Buddhist, I do not do yoga. This may surprise some folks, but yoga is not Buddhist. Buddhists meditate but we don't do yoga. Well, we can do yoga, just like some Christians can do yoga, but we're not doing downward dog at our Buddhist temples.

Yoga is Hindu, and while Buddhism is an offshoot of Hinduism just like Christianity is an offshoot of Judaism, it doesn't mean all Christians light menorahs or eat matzoh. My husband loves to joke that yoga is Buddhist and that all Buddhists do yoga. He knows it's a sore spot for me, and thus hilarity ensues anytime someone mentions yoga.

This stems from when I was on and if you check the "Buddhist" box you wind up getting a lot of emails from people who say, "I love yoga! Do you do yoga a lot? Yoga is cool. I think Buddhism is cool too." That sort of thing. Drove me bonkers.

And so now that yoga is evil, you know Buddhism is getting thrown in with the Devil's bath water too. I read an article about the evils of yoga, and there, out of the blue, while Buddhism wasn't bothering anyone and was minding its own business, the writer made a point to write: "Hinduism and Buddhism are evil."

Oh great.

Then the writer points out that Christians should have nothing to do with "evil" and hence, yoga, Hindus, and Buddhists are out.

This is where I start sighing. Heavily. And no, it's not some sort of Buddhist deep-breathing practice. Or yoga even.

It's so strange to think that I'm evil to an entire group of people. My husband and I used to joke about what a "selfish" religion Buddhism is because someone once said that as a way to slam me. I mean, it is kind of laughable since the whole religion is based on 1) cultivating compassion and 2) maintaining awareness. We practice these two things in order to do no harm, or to do as little harm as possible.

You know, selfish stuff like that.

So now in addition to being a "selfish" religion, I also find out that Buddhism is evil. While my mind tries to figure out how cultivating compassion and awareness in order to do no harm can possibly be construed as "evil," my husband points out that this is an opportunity to practice my beliefs.

Getting angry about it won't help and won't change the perception that Buddhists are evil. Ha. I just imagined myself going postal over it and the headlines that would follow: "Pissed Off Buddhist Goes Apeshit at Yoga Studio. News at 11:00."

So I'll have to think about it and try to understand why someone would say that we're evil. I guess it's harder to fathom when the source of this article came from one of my Facebook friends. Of course I immediately wondered, "Well, why are you friends with me if you're supposed to avoid me?"

Maybe this person is friends with me so they can have an opportunity to convert me and then save my soul? That's pretty compassionate, actually, if you think about it.

This person means well, right?


I guess the bottom line is that people are going to believe what they're going to believe. I can't really change any of that, especially not by getting mad about it. That's for sure. I can only control my own actions and thoughts. If I behave in a compassionate and patient manner, one would hope that I come off as less "evil" than the writer of that article would have you believe.

Or maybe not.

I can't do anything about what anybody is going to say or write about me or Buddhism. I'm completely helpless in those matters.

I can only do something about myself. I can't control what people are going to think of me. Hopefully most people will come to know that I am neither evil nor a practitioner of yoga. I suppose I could make t-shirts:




"I don't do yoga and I'm not evil."

Wait. That's too many "I" statements. Way too selfish. Skip the t-shirt. I'll just keep my mouth shut and meditate on it. But I will not stretch while doing so, okay?