Sunday, May 26, 2013

Teachers ... again

A week ago a particularly devastating F5 tornado smashed through Moore, Oklahoma. Helplessly caught in its 17-mile swath of destruction were a couple of elementary schools: Plaza Towers and Briarwood.

As we have seen so often lately, it seems — from Boston to Newtown to Sandy to anywhere the norm suddenly becomes abnormal — first responders were on the scene almost as soon as the danger was gone, if not sooner. It was amazing work.

But then some of the human stories that inevitably rise from the rubble reached out to us.

Many of those stories involved teachers. Again.

I'm beginning to think that teachers — certified, but not sworn to any oath to protect and to serve that I know of — are the original first responders. Maybe in times of trouble they are really the first endurers. In some cases, they are the ones being rescued by first responders.

There's a chance I'm overreacting to all of this, based, as it is, only on the news coverage that I've seen. But it seems that teachers often tend to find themselves at the point of impact, and it is their split-second decisions under trauma and turmoil that can make a difference:

• Teachers herding students into places of safety;

• Teachers sacrificing their own bodies  — and sometimes lives — to shield their students from life-threatening danger;

• Teachers providing guidance in the face of total chaos.

In a school setting, who else is there?

I suppose if I were to do some kind of scientific survey it would show that teachers are no more braver, no more dedicated, no more motivated in the face of crisis than any other cross section of the population at any given moment.

I wonder how I'd react in the same circumstances? I hope I never have to find out.

I guess it's just that I don't expect teachers to be at the point of impact in the first place. I want my teachers to be in classrooms, giving lessons, monitoring tests, being role models.

I don't want them to be heroes.

But I'm glad they are.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Getting to the root (canal) of it

Improbable as it seems, the very tooth (the No. 15 molar, for those who know these things) that was capped by a perfect porcelain crown less than two months ago was throbbing in my mouth once again.

So it was back to the dentist.

He gingerly tapped on several molars in the general vicinity of the throbber with that metal dental instrument that has a sideview mirror on the end of it. Tap, tap, tap. Ummph. Yep. He found it. Just to make sure, he gave me a chip of ice to test its sensitivity to ultra cold. Ummph. Yep. Still the same tooth.

An intimidating array of sharp, pokey dental instruments awaits your mouth.
Dental technology has made great strides forward over the years, I thought. Ice. Dental picks. Drills. Tiny hammers and mallets.

When does the laser beam and infrared dentistry get here? Sigh.

"Root canal," said the dentist, confirming a suspicion I had. Or was it a self-fulfilling prophecy? He gave me the name and number of a specialist in High Point and I made an appointment as soon as I got home.

It had been 20 years, at least, since my last root canal. I remembered it taking at least two days and several hours per visit.

This time, I was pleasantly surprised, if you can use the word "pleasant" with anything dental. The entire process, from filling out forms to final payment, lasted about two hours. The actual procedure, once we waited for the numbing agent to take effect, took less than an hour.

I've decided that root canals are no worse than having a filling. It just sounds worse: Root. Canal. Ugg.

It occurred to me while I was in the chair that we were doing this whole thing bass ackwards, what with doing the root canal after the crown has been permanently cemented into place two months earlier. But somehow the dentist was able to drill through the porcelain without any damage to the crown. I guess. Amazing.

I hadn't been chewing on the left side of my mouth for about three weeks, and I'm supposed to not chew on that side for two more weeks while the root canal heals. I've been given a prescription for industrial strength Ibuprofin and that seems to be helping.

If there's one thing that bothers me, it's that this particular tooth has now rung up an uninsured bill of $2,400 between the crown and the canal. My wife said that tooth has cost us a nice vacation somewhere. And to think I still have 27 other well-rooted teeth in my head...

It's something to chew on.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

God save the Queen

In what seemed like a week that would never end, I found myself desperately looking for a much-needed distraction from the Jodi Ariases and Ariel Castros of the world.

Thank God for Queen Elizabeth.

Not that I'm a monarchist, mind you. I'm a dyed-in-the-wool voting democratic (small "D") capitalist who celebrates the Fourth of July with gusto, along with a Weber-grilled steak, my mother's home-made potato salad recipe and a nice little microbrew from Wisconsin.

But, geez, what a week.

Until the Queen opened the latest session of Parliament, wearing the Imperial State Crown (ISC). She was just what I needed.

Queen Elizabeth II opens Parliament while wearing the Imperial State Crown.
It was all so ... so ... so British.

I took a quick look at Wikipedia and found out that the crown she was wearing is one of several of the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom.

This particular crown that crowns her crown has 2,868 diamonds, 273 pearls, 17 sapphires, 11 emeralds and five rubies. The rocks surround a purple velvet cap that is lined in ermine. In other words, it's just what you'd expect a crown to be.

She must be wearing about a bazillion dollars in jewels. Imagine Fort Knox on your noggin. She does look a little nervous in the picture above.

The thing that struck me, though, was that the ISC must be a little uncomfortable to wear. I mean, holy smokes, it weighs two pounds. That's a pretty hefty load to keep on the top of your head, especially if you're an 87-year-old woman who is already shouldering the weight of her country (well, figuratively, anyway), not to mention a sometimes unruly family that includes the likes of Prince Charles and that Camilla woman.

While I was watching the newscast of this Parliamentary mini-event, it occurred to me that Elizabeth looks a whole lot like a chess piece while she's wearing the crown. I dug up my ancient chess set and sure enough, I found the White Queen.

Do you see any resemblance to the Queen?
There may not be as much of a resemblance as I might have hoped, but by the same token, there is a simple elegance about it. I have to say, it's been years since I've played chess — probably as long ago as high school, when I was in the chess club and relentlessly got scotched by the Big Bang Theory brainiacs.

There was this one kid who kept tapping his foot while he played the game. I guess he was in a rhythm, like an athlete. I could never beat him, and I felt vindicated when I somehow made our matches last longer than five minutes. The moral of that story is that I learned there is some satisfaction in moral victories after all.

Here's the thing: back when I was playing chess in junior and senior high school, 40 to 50 years ago, Elizabeth was the Queen then, too. So I guess I'm saying the ol' gal has been around for quite a while now.

As it turned out, when I went on my cross-country odyssey after graduating from college in 1973, we ran into Queen Elizabeth at Monticello while she was on a state visit. She was not wearing the crown jewels at the time.

It's kind of neat how the Queen keeps showing up when I — we — need her the most.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Weather, or not

There it is, right there on my computer's weather app:

The icon showing rain for today. Rain for tomorrow. Rain for Tuesday.

Plus, the additional information that it will be 58 degrees today, 64 degrees on Monday, 66 degrees on Tuesday. Uncommonly cold for May. And uncommonly wet.

I'm a little weary of this (as I'm sure we all are), since it seems like that's been the weather forecast for the past month or so. Rain. Cold. Windy.

And here we are, in the first week of May, still waiting for spring to arrive. Still waiting for baseball weather a month after the season opener.

I know, I know. I sound a whole lot like I'm complaining when really I'm just commenting on the state of the weather map. I usually look forward to my weekends because that's when I plan to get a lot of my yard work done. Kim and I spent the past few days dodging raindrops while pulling weeds from our garden in preparation for the mulch we plan to throw down.

But we haven't gotten our load of mulch yet because if we do, it's liable to wash away into somebody elses's yard.

That's only a slight exaggeration.

In the meantime, the weeds keep coming back. You know. Because of all the rain. And I can't go out to pull them because, well, it's raining.

Meanwhile, the furnace keeps cutting on. I'm still wearing my Under Armour. I haven't put away our space heaters yet.

I think I'm probably a prime example of be careful what you wish for. My weather icon predicts the rest of the week after Tuesday to be sunny and in the 80s, no doubt with the temperature rising day by day.

Too hot, no doubt,  to work in the garden.