The Story of a Real Tooth Fairy

This is Tim today.

This is Tim today.

Nobody had ever called me the Tooth Fairy, but about two years ago I acquired that nickname.

 

My husband, Ed, and I were redoing our place in Montana, and, like thousands of others in the West, we were going for that rustic, reclaimed-barnyard wood look.  After the house had been gutted--think dusty, messy work site—Ed and I were stymied what to do with all the yellowed, knotty pine that lined every wall and every bookcase in his office.

 

 A young painter on a ladder, dressed in customary paint-splattered whites, introduced himself as Tim.  He jumped down from the ladder and said that with careful painting he thought he could transform the yellowed knotty pine into a faux weathered gray that would blend great with the barnyard wood floors and cabinets.  He talked more like a designer than simply another member of the paint crew.

 

As this handsome and enthusiastic young painter suggested artistic ideas with a confident authority, he seemed knowledgeable and smart—until he opened his mouth and I saw that he had practically no teeth.  Almost toothless, he seemed to me, dumb.  I understand that this could sound harsh, and I know we’re not supposed to be judgmental, but let’s face it, if you were confronted with a toothless person like this you’d probably form a similar judgment.

Tim before the procedure.

Tim before the procedure.

I can’t explain what came over me, but on the spot it seemed unfair that this otherwise attractive and clearly talented young man—I thought Tim was 28; turns out he was 37—came across as so smart until I saw he was almost toothless.   It also only seemed fair that if Ed and I could re-do a house we could help Tim re-do his teeth, if he wanted to.

 

Luckily, Ed agreed with me.  I immediately spoke to the head paint contractor, and asked if he knew a dentist in town he trusted because we wanted to find out what would be involved in getting Tim teeth.

 

Just recently “The Story In Our Smiles” aired on NPR’s On Point.  In this program, Tom Ashbrook, the host, explored the status of dental care today.  He discussed the lack of access to dental care and preventative care among low income American adults that leads to rotting teeth, full extractions and dentures, and even death from dental infections. Ashbrook interviewed Mary Otto, the author of  “The Story of Beauty, Health, Inequality, and the Struggle for Oral Health in America.”  They discussed the giant disparity between those who can afford dental care and those who can’t.  

 

Ashbrook and Otto might as well have been talking about the painter, Tim Dobbs.  Tim grew up poor in San Bernardino, California.  Too poor for dental visits.  “Teeth were on the back burner, for sure,” he said.   Then in high school a pole-vaulting accident nailed him on the mat and knocked out his front teeth.  “I had a busted grill,” he explained.  From there things went downhill pretty quickly: He had a life of decay, toothaches, not being able to eat, and massive pain.  He said he’d hold his jaw and get in a hot shower for half-an-hour to try to reduce the pain.  

 

After a consultation with dentist, Dr. Kenneth Van Kirk, came up with 3 plans for Tim:  the cheapest—full mouth extraction and full dentures top and bottom; the most expensive—all implants; and a middle of the road approach—save the teeth he had, some implants, some crowns, and some partial dentures.  The dentist didn’t think Tim, who had never had any dental care, could tolerate full implants.  So we and the dentist opted for the middle plan.

 

I hate dental pain, and require a topical anesthetic when I’m just having routine dental hygiene work, so I warned Tim that this would hurt and be painful.  It turned out that some of his dental visits lasted 2-3 hours.  

 

After the temporary upper bridge, you could see progress.  This was also when in front of the full construction crew Tim presented me, shyly, with a thank you bouquet of flowers.  I had the distinct feeling that Tim Dobbs hadn’t bought many bouquets of flowers.

 

Tim with temporary upper bridge

Tim with temporary upper bridge

 

When the extensive work required $5,000 more than the quote we’d agreed to, Tim painted the dentist’s office to make up the difference.   

 

His dental reconstruction took two years, longer than it might have since  unfortunately Tim was still a smoker, and the smoking left his gums tender and sensitive to the surgery.  

 

Last week Tim, who just turned 40, and his mom, Norma Wells, who happened to be in town, stopped by to show off his new teeth.

 

“I feel like a million bucks,” he said “I got my smile back.  I’m more personable.  I have a happy, sexy-looking smile.”  Though he admitted he didn’t have a girlfriend.  Yet.

 

He proudly showed his mother our remodeled house, especially pointing out the tricky weathered faux gray paint in Ed’s study.  

 

Then in front of his mother, Tim said, “Jo, tell me again why you helped me.”

 

“Because I believed in you,” I said.

 

As I learned from listening to Tom Ashbrook’s “The Story in Our Smiles,” there are millions of Tims out there who could use our help.  

 

My mother, who was called Babe, always said, Charity begins at home.  Tim was in our home, and once again, Babe was right. 

 

Jo Giese, Tooth Fairy, Tim Dobbs, and his mom, Norma Wells

Jo Giese, Tooth Fairy, Tim Dobbs, and his mom, Norma Wells

 

Jo Giese, author, award-winning radio journalist. Up next: Never Sit If You Can Dance:  Lessons from Babe, a quirky mother-daughter memoir.

It's Fun To Get Together With Friends, and It's Critical To Our Health!

I always knew when I'm inviting someone to dinner, or they're inviting me for a hike, that more than dinner and walking is involved.  It turns out that the friendship and connection is lengthening and saving our lives.  A wonderful piece in the NYT Science today (June 13) reaffirms this.

 

My experience with EatWith

Seafood Feast at the Beach

A few weeks ago I read about EatWith in the NYT (May 6, 2017).  I thought it sounded like a lot of fun.  A social-dining service that lets chefs cook at home.  For strangers.  For money. I like to cook. I'm good at it.  I know a thing or two about food--I was Food Editor at WNBC-TV News, and I wrote The Good Food Compendium (Doubleday)  We have a gorgeous home on a beautiful beach with a professional chef's kitchen.   (Think 2 WOLF ovens, WOLF cooktop, 3 dishwashers.  Handy for events, right?)  And it would be fun to meet new people-- travelers who are in town, passing through and want to dine somewhere unique.  So I signed up!  My husband, who is a good sport, thought it would either be wonderful or awful.  To my surprise to be accepted on their platform I had to do a Demonstration meal, which required that I post a menu, invite and book guests, and then post photos of the event afterward.  A dress rehearsal for the EatWith folks, who apparently have had some chef-hosts leave patrons wary of the experience because the chef-hosts didn't live up to the patrons' expectations. However, as several friends commented, You had to demonstrate for them?  They should have been so happy to have you, they should have recruited you!  Probably. Anyway, this Sunday I posted and hosted my Demonstration Meal--a Seafood Paella rich with lobsters, shrimp, mussels, and delicious saffron rice.  For dessert--frozen key lime pie.  Heavenly.  This is one of my all-time favorite meals.  It is labor-intensive--the key lime pie alone takes hours to make.  Squeezing all those limes? Although the idea is that this dining experience is mostly for strangers (who pay in advance), on Sunday I invited friends (no charge) and there was only one stranger--a friend of a friend, Scotty from Scotland, who happens to be in Malibu this summer working with Ringo Star.   Today my contact, Zach, at EatWith commented that the photos from the event look amazing.  That's nice.  Then he said that once I have a few solid 4 and 5 star detailed reviews on my host profile, I will be accepted on the platform and able to create additional events!   Wow.  Thanks.  However, their social site, and thus my host profile, is so cumbersome to navigate, and difficult to post photos (impossible?) that I asked Zach if my invitees could send their glowing reviews directly to him? I haven't heard back from him yet.  Boy, what a lot of rigamorarole.  Is it worth it?  Stay tuned.  Maybe I'll research if one of the other social sites --AirDine, Feastly--are easier and more host-friendly to deal with.  

A few weeks ago I read about EatWith in the NYT (May 6, 2017).  I thought it sounded like a lot of fun.  A social-dining service that lets chefs cook at home.  For strangers.  For money.

I like to cook. I'm good at it.  I know a thing or two about food--I was Food Editor at WNBC-TV News, and I wrote The Good Food Compendium (Doubleday)  We have a gorgeous home on a beautiful beach with a professional chef's kitchen.   (Think 2 WOLF ovens, WOLF cooktop, 3 dishwashers.  Handy for events, right?)  And it would be fun to meet new people-- travelers who are in town, passing through and want to dine somewhere unique. 

So I signed up!  My husband, who is a good sport, thought it would either be wonderful or awful.  To my surprise to be accepted on their platform I had to do a Demonstration meal, which required that I post a menu, invite and book guests, and then post photos of the event afterward.  A dress rehearsal for the EatWith folks, who apparently have had some chef-hosts leave patrons wary of the experience because the chef-hosts didn't live up to the patrons' expectations.

However, as several friends commented, You had to demonstrate for them?  They should have been so happy to have you, they should have recruited you!  Probably.

Anyway, this Sunday I posted and hosted my Demonstration Meal--a Seafood Paella rich with lobsters, shrimp, mussels, and delicious saffron rice.  For dessert--frozen key lime pie.  Heavenly.  This is one of my all-time favorite meals.  It is labor-intensive--the key lime pie alone takes hours to make.  Squeezing all those limes?

Although the idea is that this dining experience is mostly for strangers (who pay in advance), on Sunday I invited friends (no charge) and there was only one stranger--a friend of a friend, Scotty from Scotland, who happens to be in Malibu this summer working with Ringo Star.  

Today my contact, Zach, at EatWith commented that the photos from the event look amazing.  That's nice.  Then he said that once I have a few solid 4 and 5 star detailed reviews on my host profile, I will be accepted on the platform and able to create additional events!  

Wow.  Thanks.  However, their social site, and thus my host profile, is so cumbersome to navigate, and difficult to post photos (impossible?) that I asked Zach if my invitees could send their glowing reviews directly to him?

I haven't heard back from him yet.  Boy, what a lot of rigamorarole.  Is it worth it?  Stay tuned.  Maybe I'll research if one of the other social sites --AirDine, Feastly--are easier and more host-friendly to deal with.

 

Blown Away...By Kusama

Two weeks ago in Washington, D.C., thanks to a good friend, I got tickets to the sold-out Kusama exhibit at the Hirschhorn Museum. I'm back home in Southern California, but Kusama's powerfully seductive colorful images linger and beckon.  Last night when I couldn't sleep (again), I wandered downstairs, sipped hot tea and looked through the pages of her book Give Me Love.  I wish everyone could read her introduction where this artist writes...And I want to tell people across the earth: Stop nuclear bombs and wars, now see your shining life With my longing for eternity. Having lived in a psychiatric institute for some 40 plus years, Kusama speaks freely about abusive childhood, her mental illness, and her suicide-prone life.  After I googled her and learned that her art explodes from the depths of her mental illness, this new understanding couldn't help but color how I felt about The Obliteration Room, for example.

Two weeks ago in Washington, D.C., thanks to a good friend, I got tickets to the sold-out Kusama exhibit at the Hirschhorn Museum.

I'm back home in Southern California, but Kusama's powerfully seductive colorful images linger and beckon.  Last night when I couldn't sleep (again), I wandered downstairs, sipped hot tea and looked through the pages of her book Give Me Love.  I wish everyone could read her introduction where this artist writes...And I want to tell people across the earth: Stop nuclear bombs and wars, now see your shining life With my longing for eternity.

Having lived in a psychiatric institute for some 40 plus years, Kusama speaks freely about abusive childhood, her mental illness, and her suicide-prone life.  After I googled her and learned that her art explodes from the depths of her mental illness, this new understanding couldn't help but color how I felt about The Obliteration Room, for example.

At the Hirschhorn Museum, we were each handed a small sheet of colorful stickers to apply wherever we wanted to what had once been an all-white room. It felt playful, happy, colorful, and participatory.   We were  helping the artist "obliterate" the white room.  I mean, when is any museum-goer ever asked to add their two cents, or colorful stickers, in this instance?  Most of the time we're told, Do Not Touch The Objects.  But here we were enthusiastically encouraged to slap on our stickers wherever we wanted.  It was fun.  And Ed even sat down and played at the colorful Kusama piano.  But after I learned that Kusama's mental illness had led her to want to be obliterated, to obliterate herself, my reaction to this exhibit is more complex and nuanced.  And I suspect yours would be, too.

Infinity Mirrors at the same exhibit.  So mesmerizing I didn't want to leave after the guard told me my 20 seconds in the room was up.  

19th century (female) doilies turned into 21st century (male) art?

I was dumbstruck today at the Renswick Gallery in Washington, D.C., when I came across a larger than life-size "figure" by Rick Cave called Soundsuit.   The art is made of numerous, colorful doilies of all sizes and shapes sewed onto a life-like shape.

My grandmother, Josie, a woman born in the 19th century, used to crochet doilies exactly like the ones the artist used.  I wondered how she'd feel if she were still alive and she came upon this work of art?  Would she be proud or puzzled, ashamed or flattered?

And I also wondered from where did the artist get his hands on this treasure trove of handmade lacey doilies?  From the older women in his family? 

And I bristled a bit at the idea of what was always a woman's hand work turned into a man's art?   I don't want to be part of the gender wars, but I would probably have embraced this work of art more warmly if it had been done by a woman.

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Crossword Puzzles

I was telling a friend about my crossword puzzle work.  

I don't do crossword puzzles.  I don't understand them, all their obtuse clues--Bestselling Michale Buble album--make my eyes glaze over, and all those blank squares waiting-to-be-filled-in make me tense.  So why every morning am I cutting these puzzles out of the newspapers we get delivered--The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times--and  decorating them with stickers?  I wait until I have a pretty big pile and I stuff the whole bunch into a colorful envelope--turquoise, pink, orange--and send it to my niece in El Paso. 

"That's a random act of kindness," said Johnnie, bequeathing unto me a huge, unexpected compliment out of the blue.

I hadn't thought much about my crossword puzzle "work;"  and I hadn't labeled it one way or other.  About a year ago, my husband and I were visiting Chris, my nephew, and his wife, Jennifer, and somehow she mentioned about loving to do crossword puzzles.  She said they help her relax.  As the 30-something mother of two young boys, I could see how some relaxation, just for her, could be helpful.  She also said that she never gets any mail in her mailbox.  It would be fun for a change to get some mail.  

I had been so uninterested in crossword puzzles that I'd been oblivious to their existence.  I hadn't realized most newspapers carry them regularly, daily.   As soon as we got back home, I noticed crossword puzzles everywhere.  In the second section of the Wall Street Journal, the Arts section of the New York Times, even the sub-par Los Angeles Times has a crossword puzzle. 

Every morning I started tearing out the puzzles, and because I wanted Jennifer to remember me,  just a little, as she was solving the puzzles, I decorated them.  Depending on the season, and what stickers I had on hand, I glued on stars, pumpkins or Christmas trees.  I was careful only to put on the stickers where they wouldn't interfere with the puzzle.  

Jennifer said getting my colorful envelope was the highlight of her week.  That might be hyperbole.  But still nice.  She said that when she went away, she'd take the envelope on the plane and it was her way to relax.

When I started tearing, clipping, decorating, and mailing these puzzles I had no way of knowing that this activity would assume the quality of a daily zen ritual, and also send a message: We may live 1,000 miles apart, but I think of you daily, Jennifer, and I care about you.

I certainly had no way of realizing that once I started, I wouldn't stop.  And I had no way of knowing that my friend, Johnnie, would say, This is a random act of kindness.

Cranberry Bread

This is special and festive enough for the holidays.
I also like to make a special bread with cranberries. Taking advantage of the cranberry’s availability, I’ve made this in the spring. As in my cranberry conserve recipe, this also features cranberries with oranges.

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