TOOTH #28

I am in the middle of having a root canal done.

For those who may not know, getting a root canal is not a one-and-done procedure.

First, the unhappy patient suspects a problem exists with a tooth.

She then consults her dentist, who examines the suspect tooth, takes x-rays of it, and then delivers the unwelcome news that a problem does exist.

In my case, my dentist referred me to an endodontist.

The endodontist examined the tooth, took x-rays of it, and confirmed I needed a root canal.

It’s tooth #28, the rotten scoundrel!

Well, not rotten. This tooth has never shown signs of decay.

Apparently, an insidious, destructive process within the tooth’s root has been ongoing.

“It happens,” the experts say.

Unhappily, my tooth requires more than a run-of-the-mill root canal. It needs an apicoectomy, which requires two incisions, followed by sutures, in the gums.

You can watch a YouTube video of the procedure, but why in the world would you?

I have endured the first part of the procedure and will see the endodontist a second time in late June. After that, I will return to my regular dentist, who will place a crown on the tooth.

That is, I will have a crown placed if all goes well.

If things go awry, the tooth will need to be removed.

I am more than angry at tooth #28.

For most of the tooth’s existence, I have faithfully brushed it and flossed around it twice a day. I rinsed it with antiseptic mouthwash. Twice every year I took it to the dentist for routine cleaning and an exam.

Despite my faithful nurturing, it has turned on me.

I deserve better treatment from this tooth.

The ingrate.

Ingratitude is an ugly business.

Maybe you have felt the sting of it when you performed a kindness and went un-thanked or were even rebuffed for your efforts.

Good parents experience the full force of ingratitude when a child, whom they have loved and tended for years, rejects and discards them. Think of the father of the Prodigal Son at the beginning of the story recorded in Luke 15:11-32.

Is there someone (Someone) who has treated you with kindness and grace to whom you are showing ingratitude?

I hope not.

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HIS IMAGE

My mother loved birds.

She was a country girl all her life and could identify the birds of north Arkansas by their sights and sounds: mockingbirds, blue jays, redbirds, mourning doves, chickadees, whippoorwills, and others.

Shortly after Mom died in November 2016, I received in the mail a little package from my cousin, Sandy.

Sandy is an artist.

Inside the package she had mailed to me was this little hand-painted, stone redbird.

Sandy had included a note in which she wrote, “I was walking along the road the other day, saw this rock, and thought, I see a redbird in that rock. I’m going to paint it and send it to Debbie.”

How thoughtful of her! And how creative!

I love my little rock redbird and keep it on my desk by my computer. It reminds me of both my bird-loving mother and my kind, artistic cousin.

I cannot imagine seeing anything in a rock. I do not have the artist’s eye.

But in addition to reminding me of my mother and my cousin, this little keepsake reminds me of a Biblical truth.

When God created me, He made me in His image. And His image is total goodness.

That image of God in me gets hidden sometimes. Influences from sin, the world, and my own mortal nature mar it.

But that image is there. God is ever working to bring it forth and make it evident for others to see.

What an honor it is to know I am made, in some mysterious way, in the very image of the Creator and Sustainer of this universe!

If I allow God’s Spirit within me to do His work, God’s image will shine forth from me.

That requires both my willingness and cooperation. I must desire that image to be apparent in my life.

If I want it passionately enough, God will make it happen.

May you be blessed this week as you allow God’s image to be seen in you.

CHALKBOARD GIRL

I am a chalkboard girl in a touchscreen world.

From the time I entered first grade, I have loved chalkboards.

I liked the smell of chalk and loved taking erasers out to the playground to pound the dust out of them.

I even had a little chalkboard of my own and can still see it in my mind’s eye. In yellow paint across the top of that board were drawings of a ball, a house, a sailboat, and a flower.

Many times I set my dolls and stuffed animals in a makeshift classroom and “taught” them using that little chalkboard.

Though I hold memories of my own chalkboard and the ones that covered the walls of my school classrooms, I can’t remember the last time I saw one.

Chalkboards have gone the way of clipboards and carbon paper.

I won’t deny that in many ways computers have simplified our lives. More than simplifying them, computers have made it possible for us to perform acts that, back in the chalkboard era, would have seemed like magic.

Last Thursday, I talked face-to-face with a friend in Japan using Skype.

Yesterday I selected, ordered, and paid for a new bedspread using only my computer.

Later today I will pay bills, without leaving my house, using paper and a pen, or utilizing envelopes and stamps.

But I miss the simplicity of a chalkboard.

Mistakes were easily corrected, and starting over required only the swipe of an eraser across the board’s surface.

On chalkboards, I practiced long division and competed in ciphering matches.

Daily assignments were written on a designated area of the classroom chalkboard. The week’s spelling words were displayed.

Often the day’s date was printed across the top of the board, along with a reminder like Make Today a Good Day or Kindness Counts.

What person of my age never drew on a chalkboard a heart with a secret such as D.J. loves D.S. printed inside it?

Courtesy Pixabay

In a contest, computers would, without a doubt, outperform chalkboards. It seems there is almost nothing a computer cannot do.

But they can also be maddening and bring out the worst in their users.

My computer tempts me to say a bad word quicker than anything else in my house, except maybe my hot curling iron when it grazes my forehead.

Not even once was I tempted to smash a chalkboard with a hammer or throw it out my window.

Because many of you know I have obsessive-compulsive disorder, I will include one more graphic that includes a chalkboard.

It is one of my favorite OCD funnies.

HOW DO THESE THINGS WORK?

Have you noticed, as I have, that once you encounter an item or a word, that same thing crops up again and again?

Sometimes a Bible verse enters my mind, and the next thing I know the preacher mentions it in the sermon, or I see it displayed on a church marquee.

Why does that happen?

Lately, I have pondered terms common in today’s world that my grandparents never heard: email; bandwidth; bytes; unlimited talk, text, and data, etc.

If Grandma had ever heard me say dot com, she would have feared I had developed a speech impediment.

I wondered about new terms added to my grandparents’ vocabularies when electricity and telephones entered their lives.

For certain, they were quickly introduced to the terms electric bill and telephone bill.

Electricity brought to light (notice the pun) words like socket, light switch, meter reading, shock, outage, and plug and unplug.

Telephones made common such phrases as busy signal, party line, person-to-person, hang up, and please hold.

Such thoughts spiraled through my brain for several days as I vacuumed, pulled weeds, folded laundry, and waited for traffic lights to turn green.

Then, wouldn’t you know it? While reading a novel set in the 1920s, I found the following paragraph.

Life has all at once grown exponentially larger than I could have ever dreamed. Electricity, the automobile and now the telephone have made it clear that possibility is endless for an enterprising mind. I can only imagine what it  must have felt like to navigate a flat earth only to discover its roundness. (Call Your Daughter Home by Deb Spera)

How is it that I happened to read a book that dealt with the exact thoughts I had been having?

My thinking about electricity and telephone terminology could not have inspired me to head to the library and check out a book that featured the introduction of electricity and telephones into American life.

Could it?

I mean, the title, Call Your Daughter Home, does not scream, “Electricity and telephones!”

I borrowed that library book because my sister Pam recommended it to me.

Pam and I are linked, genetically, of course, but also by a preference for the same kinds of books. And our minds do tend to run along the same paths.

For example, I can be thinking about Aunt Betty, and Pam will call me and say, “I talked to Aunt Betty this morning.”

Maybe Pam had been thinking about electricity and telephones, then read Call Your Daughter Home, figured I too had been thinking about electricity and telephones, and gave me a call to recommend that book.

I don’t know.

How do these things work?

LIFE, AS WE KNOW IT

Like everyone else, Dan and I bide our time as we wait for the Covid-19 pandemic to end. We look forward to our lives returning to normal, whatever that means.

We have appointments to get our first Covid-19 vaccinations later this month.

On October 27, Dan had an aortic valve replacement.

Then, on February 1, he had spinal surgery, a laminectomy. This procedure is intended to relieve the nerve pressure that caused pain in his back, hips, and legs.

Therefore, Dan has spent much of the winter convalescing.

His back surgery restricted him from heavy lifting, and, until yesterday, I did all the driving.

During our 47-year marriage, Dan has done 99% of the driving when both of us are in the car. I don’t like to drive, and I appreciate Dan’s willingness to take the wheel.

Dan and I have differing approaches to driving. Dan’s goal is to arrive at his destination as quickly as possible. He takes the most direct route, gets angry at traffic lights that slow his progress, and critiques other drivers.

My goal, when I drive, is to arrive at my destination with as little stress as possible. This means I often take non-direct routes to avoid confusing roundabouts and the necessity of making left-hand turns in heavy traffic. I pay little attention to other drivers and don’t mind stopping at red lights. Those pauses give me a chance to put in the next CD in the audiobook I’m enjoying.

When I must act as Dan’s chauffeur, the patience of both of us is tested, but we persevere.

During our long marriage, we have learned to work out differences, work through conflicts, and work with each other, in general.

The operative word in that paragraph is work.

We enjoy watching birds eat from two feeders that hang off our back porch. Cardinals, sparrows, doves, and woodpeckers have entertained us during our forced semi-hibernation.

The birds ate together peacefully until yesterday when a flock of starlings descended upon our backyard. These big birds are aggressive and greedy. All other birds were driven away while these rude pigs of the bird world emptied both feeders before noon.

Today we bought a new feeder designed to discourage starlings. We also bought safflower seed, which starlings supposedly don’t like to eat.

We’ll see.

We haven’t returned to church on the weekends but are happy we can stream services.

I read a daily devotional from Mornings With Jesus. (I regularly get this book as a Christmas gift from my friend, Jan, and give it as a gift too.)

Dan has returned to his old hobby of creating string designs, and I am embroidering.

We read and watch a little television.

I do a bit of writing. (I will have an article published in the Boomers section of The Daily Journal on Saturday, March 6.)

Dan naps and waits for his back to heal.

The highlights of each week are visits from the kids and grandkids.

This is life, as we know it, during the winter of 2020/2021.

I THINK HE WAS RIGHT

My mother possessed a great sense of humor.

In other posts, I have written funny things about her:

  • Her use of the mixed metaphor, “grabbing the mule by the horns.”
  • Her goofy antics (pushing through Wal-Mart a cart full of reduced-price tennis shoes, thinking she was navigating her own cart).
  • Her tumble down the little hill in her back yard when shooing a squirrel away from her flower bed.
  • Her kitchen snafus (forgetting to serve the dressing she made for Thanksgiving dinner, and failing to prebake a pie crust before pouring in the cream filling).

In all these situations, I didn’t laugh at my mother. I laughed with her. She could see the humor in her own mistakes.

One day she and I were discussing some random topic, and Mom said, “Well, Jesus taught (such and such) . . . and I think he was right.”

After a few seconds, we both started laughing.

Of course whatever Jesus taught was right. He doesn’t need our affirmation of His words.

At least, in my mother’s and my opinion, He doesn’t.

Not everyone, however, agrees.

Many people today are eager to explain away or completely disregard Jesus’ teachings.

They also claim God’s moral laws outlined in the Bible no longer apply.

The writings of the Gospels, according to them, are partly fiction.

The admonitions about righteous living found in the Epistles were only for people who lived in the Apostle Paul’s day, they say.

All people choose someone or something to be the authority for their lives.

My mother and I chose the Bible.

What have you chosen?

STUNG

Many years ago I had a friend I’ll call Dottie.

Dottie and I shared several similarities.

I loved her sense of humor.

One day, Dottie said to me, “Well, I’m ready to die now.”

“How’s that?” I said.

“I pulled out my kitchen stove and cleaned behind it,” she said. “And I finally dealt with some underwear I had been soaking in a bucket in my garage for weeks. I hated the thought that anyone who came to clean my house after my death would think I was a slob.”

I laughed.

Dottie and I discussed recipes and our kids, and we talked a lot about the number one topic of women: losing weight.

I shared with Dottie that I had held onto a black skirt I had worn in the past but had “outgrown.” I was trying to eat reasonably and exercise so I could again wear that skirt.

Happily, I reached that goal and wore the skirt to work one day. I stopped by Dottie’s desk to share my success with her.

“Congratulations!” Dottie said. “Now that you’ve lost weight, you just need to do something with that hair of yours and you’ll be looking good!”

Dottie had a way of doing that. She would utter what sounded like a compliment and then turn around and slap you with her next comment.

I’m sure my hand flew to my hair when she said what she said.

“I think you should get a perm,” Dottie said.

“No!” I said. “I hate perms! My hair soaks up perm solution like a dry sponge absorbs water. I always wind up looking like Richard Simmons.”

“You need to see my hairdresser,” said Dottie. “She is fantastic. Let me make you an appointment for a perm. You’ll love it.”

The appointment was made, and Dottie and I planned to meet for lunch afterward.

I visited Dottie’s hairdresser.

My hair soaked up that perm solution like a dry sponge absorbs water. I looked like a curvy Richard Simmons.

I met Dottie at the restaurant right after my hair appointment. Her mouth dropped open when she saw me.

“Oh, Debbie!” she said. “That’s awful.”

She laughed her loudest laugh. I tried to laugh but couldn’t.

Encounters with Dottie often ended that way. She would be laughing, and I would be failing to see the humor in the situation.

I haven’t seen Dottie for years, and I don’t want to see her.

Before you judge me too harshly, allow me to say if I did see her, I would be kind. I’d ask about her kids and grandkids. I might even ask if she had pulled her kitchen stove out for a good cleaning lately.

But I would NOT suggest we get together and renew our friendship.

The middle knuckle of the middle finger of my right hand has a knot on it. The knot resulted from a wasp sting I suffered back in the summer while I was working in the yard.

It was a particularly painful sting, and it left me with that knotted knuckle.

I plan to be more careful as I do yard work this summer.

I hate being stung.

WAITING

When I was growing up in rural Arkansas, my dad owned a general store. It wasn’t an impressive place, but it offered most of the things people needed.

It sat just up the road from our house. Every day at noon Dad walked home for dinner. (In the south, daily meals are labeled breakfast, dinner, and supper.)

No “hours of operation” were ever posted at the store, but everyone knew when it was open.

One old man always wanted to buy his groceries between noon and one o’clock.

He did not drive to the store and park his car there. He knew the store was closed.

He drove to our house, where Dad was eating dinner.

Mr. Grump didn’t park on the side of the road by our house. (We had no driveway.)

He drove his old-timey, heavy, black car up to the verge of our yard.

There he sat, scowling, waiting for Dad to open the store especially for him.

From behind our living room curtains, my siblings and I watched him: an angry old man, hunched inside a gangster car, its shiny grill aimed right at our front porch.

We pivoted our heads to glance at Dad and then at the man in our front yard.

Everyone waited.

Nervously, we kids waited for what might be an explosion.

The old man waited for Dad to leave his hot dinner on the table and open the store for him.

Dad simply waited to finish his meal and do whatever he usually did during his dinner break. Probably he visited the bathroom and checked on his hunting dogs in the pen at the back of the house.

Then, with a nod to the waiting shopper, he walked back to the store, the black car trailing him.

It strikes me today, reflecting on this memory, that we are all waiting.

Like memories, some of our waiting is short-term. We wait for the toast to pop up, and for the commercial to end so we can resume watching our show.

Some of our waiting is long-term. Right now, we are all waiting for this virus to run its course and leave us in peace.

Some of us wait nervously, fearing the worst.

Others wait angrily, personally affronted and wishing someone would make the world spin to their liking.

But some push past fear and anger to keep moving forward. They keep, as nearly as possible, to their usual productive routines.

Patience cannot be overrated.

My dad, Bob James

1930-1995

He learned patience through the things he endured.

NO LIST

Writers like me are always looking for inspiration.

Many of my article ideas come from watching and listening to my grandchildren, as well as from observing nature and reading Scriptures.

This morning I was inspired by a bottle of laundry detergent.

I poured detergent into my washer, loaded the dirty clothes, closed the lid, and started the machine.

Then, as I began replacing the lid on the detergent bottle, I discovered I had started twisting it on in a crooked way. I had to take off the lid, align the grooves on the lid with the grooves on the bottle’s top, and begin again.

Then, as I twisted on the lid, I heard a satisfying “click,” which told me I had secured it properly.

I wish all misalignments in my life were so easily fixed.

Forever I am striving to secure that satisfying, all-is-as-it-should-be click in the following efforts:

  1. Get organized.
  2. Declutter.
  3. Finish what I start.
  4. Take better care of myself.
  5. Write more.

If I were to compose a list of new year’s resolutions, these items would be on it.

But I’m resisting the urge to do that this New Year’s Day.

I don’t need a list to remind me to work toward achieving those goals.

There is no chance I will forget to try to get organized, declutter, finish what I start, take better care of myself, and write more.

Those are the very efforts that occupy my mind, my time, and my life every day. Why write on a piece of paper the goals I couldn’t not work toward if I tried?

The truth is this.

No matter how hard I work at it, I will never hear that elusive click informing me I’ve achieved success. I’ve reached my goals. I’ve arrived.

No click, so no list.

This year, I resolve to love better. To love the way 1 Corinthians 13 instructs me to love. To love more nearly the way God loves.

Consider joining me.

STORIES

Our lives are made up of stories.

No matter how mundane the story seems, each one impacts us and the people with whom we share it.

When all my stories are put together, that compilation will be the narrative of my life.

My parents were married in 1951.

Dad was stationed with the Air Force in Kansas City, Missouri. These newlyweds rented, as their first home, a curtained-off portion of a basement in a house owned by a woman on Virginia Street.

A humble abode it was.

When I came along, surprisingly to me, Mom had a diaper service. How she and Dad afforded that luxury, I do not know. Maybe it was a gift.

Anyway, clean diapers were brought in and soiled diapers were taken away. I believe they also had milk delivered.

A deliveryman, be it of diapers or milk or some other item I don’t know about, was in Mom’s kitchen one day as she was washing dishes.

One item she placed into the draining tray was a sharp knife, and Mom stood it with the sharp point facing up.

The deliveryman reached for the knife.

He said to Mom, “You’re going to cut yourself, Sweetheart. Always stand your sharp knives in the drainer with the blades pointing down.”

Maybe you expected a different kind of story when I mentioned a deliveryman reached for a knife in my young mother’s kitchen.

But that is the totality of the story my mother told me when I was older.

Times were different. People may have been more trustworthy then. Calling a young woman “sweetheart” in the way this man did was not considered sexist or offensive.

How many times do you suppose I have thought of that man’s advice to my mother?

I have thought of it as many times as I have placed a knife in a dish drainer or into my dishwasher.

I always position the knife with the sharp end pointing down.

Possibly that man’s words prevented my mom or me from cutting ourselves badly.

Little life stories may turn out to be significant or irrelevant. We don’t know, as they happen, what effect they may have.

But this much is certain. A steady stream of good life stories makes for a happy narrative.

My mother and me at our first home in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1952.

For friends who share common interests with me and enjoy reading lighthearted, inspirational, and entertaining articles, many with spiritual applications.