Monthly Archives: February 2014

Travel theme: Yellow

In honor of a brief glimpse of sun this week, Ailsa has chosen to celebrate all things yellow in her weekly challenge at Where’s my backpack?

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Posted by on February 9, 2014 in Uncategorized


In the age of darkness

Photo copyright Dawn M. Miller

Photo copyright Dawn M. Miller

Anna pulled a tissue from her sleeve and dabbed the tears dampening Maude’s face. Another light had just gone out in her world; the encroaching darkness threatened to consume her. What good were the golden years if everyone you’d intended to share them with had left you? She’d outlived her husband, their only child, all five of her siblings, and now one more dear friend. Folding the op/ed page back over Maude’s obituary, Anna rose stiffly from her rocker, shuffled to the phone, and dialed a number by heart. “It’s Anna Hendricks. The usual spray of white stargazer lilies, please.”


Death is not extinguishing the light; it is only putting out the lamp because the dawn has come.     ~Rabindranath Tagore

Maybe it was just my mood in the moment, but this week’s photo prompt for the Friday Fictioneers struck me as very sad. It brought to mind one of my grandmother’s frequent complaints in her final years…that she had outlived most of the people she loved. So these 100 words are in her memory, and in honor of all those she loved and lost. I like to think they are all together now, basking in each other’s light.

Clicking on the blue frog will take you to a whole collection of 100-word stories inspired by Dawn’s photo.


Posted by on February 7, 2014 in Uncategorized


There will be drool

At our six-month one-year check-ups in October, the dental hygienist told the hubby we should get electric toothbrushes. I have never used an electric toothbrush and know nothing about them. Trying to get specifics about the brand and features that she recommended was like pulling teeth…all he’d tell me was “Oral-B” and “look at Bed Bath & Beyond because they’re often cheaper than Walmart if you use a 20%-off coupon.” So out of defiance for research purposes, I head straight to Walmart.

Holy dental hygiene, Batman! Do you know how many different kinds of non-manual toothbrushes there are? I had no idea—I blame my ignorance on being out of the country for five years. Lots of technology happened in my absence. I stand there blocking up the dental aisle for twenty minutes, examining package after package, trying to discern any significant differences that would make this battery-operated one $4.88 and that rechargeable one $189.95. I could buy a whole lot of batteries with the $185.07 I’d have left over if I purchase the cheap one. Paralyzed by indecision, I return home empty-handed. Further questioning of the hubby (“get a spinny one” and “she said it has a two-minute timer”) and subsequent browsing at Bed Bath & Beyond, Kohl’s, Target, and lead me no closer to the mysterious toothbrush of the hygienist’s recommendation, so I put my quest on the back burner for a few days weeks months.

Tool of the devil?

Tool of the devil?

Finally, a couple weeks ago, the hubby is with me when we happen to venture down the small appliance aisle at Costco. Being Costco, there are only about six different electric toothbrushes in stock, so there is very little opportunity for indecision. Fearing the hygienist’s wrath for non-compliance at our next appointments, I force him to choose a toothbrush, any toothbrush, and we head home with a two-pack of Oral-Bs, complete with spinny head and two-minute timer. Mission accomplished.

With the hubby at work the next day, I dutifully unwrap and assemble the new toothbrushes as directed by the instruction booklet, thinking I can sneak in a trial run before he gets home. But no. There is no life at all in my toothbrush, and it is not a quick-charge piece of equipment. Following the guidance of the little booklet, I plug in the charging bases and settle in to wait…for seventeen hours. What? Why seventeen hours? Immediately, I distrust this toothbrush. Why not twelve hours or twenty hours? Who designs a battery that requires such an arbitrary charge time? I don’t like it. Not one bit. And guess what? It takes exactly seventeen hours.

Fast forward to the next afternoon. The charging light has finally stopped blinking, and trying not to be put off by the little booklet’s somewhat dire warning that “some bleeding of the gums is to be expected” I put a dab of toothpaste on the tiny little spinny head and prepare to face the unknown.

At this point, I should probably mention my distrust strong dislike hatred fear of spinny dental implements. In the dentist’s chair, I suffer through the horrible probing of my gums with sharp instruments, the dreaded scraping of metal blades against enamel, and the tortuously sharp corners of the bite-wing X-ray films. But by the time the hygienist reaches for the spinny tooth polishing tool, arguably the easiest part of the semi-annual cleaning, my heart is racing and my palms are sweating. It’s a mixture of fear and loathing. I fear something whirling at such incredible rpms near sensitive lips, cheeks, tongue, and gums. I loathe the mind-piercing sound of something spinning at such incredible rpms. And I absolutely detest the thick, gritty, foul-tasting toothpaste they must use in something that rotates at such incredible rpms.

skydiving face

Photo courtesy of via Ron Malibu

So I angle my new electric toothbrush toward my left lower molars, push the button, and am immediately suffused with the fear I feel in the dentist’s chair. I am afraid that this toothbrush is going to catch the inside of my cheek and wrap my entire face inside out around its spinny head, so I’ve got my cheeks puffed out and lips peeled back as far as they can go, doing my best impression of a skydiver’s face. I’m afraid the same fate awaits my tongue, so it is wedged up behind the upper molars on the opposite side of my mouth. Drool, a normal physiological response to fear, is flooding my mouth. FYI, Crest does not stand up to this liquid assault like the thick, gritty, foul-tasting toothpaste my dental hygienist uses. Within seconds, minty spittle is flying around the bathroom, and I have no idea how to contain it, because I’m convinced that as soon as I close my lips around this instrument of the devil, they are going to be ripped off.

After an interminable 30 seconds, the toothbrush gives me the secret signal to move to a new quadrant, and I struggle to reposition it while keeping cheeks, lips, and tongue away from the whirling head. My lips are numb, so I don’t feel the globs of drool that are running out of my mouth until they plop onto my chest. My cheeks are quivering from the strain of being puffed out so far by the time I get the second secret signal—one minute down, one to go.

 photo drooling.gif

Drooling gif courtesy of Rick Bush

I’m resigned to the fact that I’m not only going to need a clean shirt at this point, but that I’m going to have to scrub the counters, the mirror, and the floor, and I begin to ponder the cumulative implications of these new toothbrushes. The hubby and me, brushing twice a day, usually at different times in the morning and together before bed. If we don’t remember to brush before dressing, that’s two extra shirts in the laundry twice a day, and at least three bathroom cleanings per day. These toothbrushes are going to cause a whole lot of extra work.

It seems like forever since the last secret signal, so with the toothbrush pressed against my upper molars, I glance at the digital clock on the counter and immediately wonder if we’re having an earthquake. The numbers on the clock are dancing wildly, to the point that I’m getting dizzy. The magic signal comes, and I find that moving the toothbrush controls the movements of the digital numbers—inside the upper incisors invokes a slow waltz, and against the upper molars incites an all-out boogie. Concentrating on this experiment, I forget where my tongue is, and it accidentally touches the spinny head of the toothbrush. Oh. My. God. This is the end.

Remarkably, nothing bad happens. A slight tickle from the bristles, but my tongue is not twisted around the brush or ripped out by the roots. Feeling brave, I relax my cheeks so that they, too, touch the spinny head. Again, nothing bad happens. Okay, maybe I can do this after all. But the drool. What to do about the drool?

I’m happy to report that after two weeks of practice, the volume of drool has decreased in direct correlation to the subsidence of my anxiety. I no longer have to brush while naked from the waist up to avoid having to change shirts, and I no longer have to keep a bottle of Windex in a holster on my hip to repair the damage I’ve done to the mirror.

I expect my hygienist to be pleased with the cleanliness of my teeth when I see her in April. I don’t expect that my adoption of this electric toothbrush has lessened the fear I’ll experience when she comes at me with her own spinny tooth polishing tool. But I do expect she’ll be impressed by just how far I’m able to move my tongue out of its way these days.


Posted by on February 5, 2014 in How It Is, On Me, True Life


Travel theme: Dry

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Really, the most fitting photo I could have posted for Ailsa‘s dry challenge would have been a close-up of my winter-weary hands, but I decided that would just be too gross. Instead, I sifted through the archives, wading through thousands of drizzly, soggy, drippy, sodden, drenched, and saturated shots for these few arid offerings.

Visit Where’s my backpack? for more desiccated images.

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Posted by on February 2, 2014 in Challenges, Photography



Back at it

When I finished my 2013 daily blogging challenge, I was ready for a couple days off, but I didn’t intend to let my blog gather so much dust. To be honest, the break this past month has been nice. I’ve enjoyed being released from the self-imposed pressure of posting something every day.

In the days away from the keyboard, without any guilt that I was taking up blogging time, I have:

  1. explored new corners of the neighborhood (when being outside for more than two minutes wouldn’t cause frostbite, that is)
  2. read two whole books (I am no longer the only college graduate in the US who has never read To Kill a Mockingbird)
  3. been on a week-long trip to Alabama, spending precious time with family, albeit under some very sad circumstances
  4. survived the first two weeks of a couch-to-5K training program, in preparation for an April race that will tick a box on my bucket list
  5. started an online class that will help me create meaningful lessons for students at multiple levels when I eventually start teaching adult ESL classes
  6. completed two virtual jigsaw puzzles on my iPad (not a substitute for the joy of clicking that last piece in its spot, but at least there’s no chance of vacuuming up the turret of an old English castle)

In the month that I’ve been otherwise occupied, I’ve missed my blog. I like the creative outlet it gives me, and I value the feedback I get. So, moving forward, I will be posting four days a week, devoting two days to photography, and two to writing. I reserve the right to throw in extra posts each week as the mood strikes. 🙂



Posted by on February 1, 2014 in How It Is