Monthly Archives: January 2010

spontaneous root canal

I have had a toothache for a few days. Doesn’t that just sound so Victorian? In the modern era, who gets a toothache, really? But this was a toothache, an ache under and around a tooth that’s been giving me problems lately. It’s the second-from-the-back tooth on the right side of my mouth, which had a root canal six years ago, and a crown that recently came off for no apparent reason. It started aching on Saturday, and by Monday, I was in real pain. By Tuesday, it had started swelling. I had thought maybe the crown needed to be adjusted at first, but when the swelling under my jawline started, I knew something was very very wrong.

I went in to my dentist on Tuesday, and found out what that was. An X-ray revealed an infection around the roots of the root canal, and a need for immediate action. My dentist referred me to the same oral surgeon who did the root canal on the other side of my mouth, and arranged for me to go over immediately. I walked back to my office, packed up, explained I was leaving, and drove over to the surgeon’s office to find out my fate.

It turned out the infection was rather severe, and the root canal would have to be re-done. Immediately. I shrugged, and said, “Let’s get it over with,” and lay back to begin the process. For those of you who have escaped root canals, they’re pretty brutal – the entire tooth is basically gutted. There’s drilling and a sort of excavation process almost down to the jawbone…and although I was under local anaesthetic, it was still extremely unpleasant.

I left shaking a little, with a prescription for antibiotics and Vicodin. I picked those up at Vons on the way home (and got in a little grocery shopping while there) and immediately took the pills and went to bed. I managed to play with Ben a bit, but between the painkillers and the pain, I wasn’t in good shape. I passed out early, woke up at 6am, and realized I was still in pain. Not as much as the night before, but enough that between the pain, and my still swollen jaw, I was in no shape to go to work. I took another painkiller, went back to sleep, and napped through enough of the day that I actually felt much better when I woke up.

But since then, I have been recovering. The swelling from the infection is down, and I was actually able to use both sides of my mouth to chew my dinner tonight – for the first time in days. My tooth aches again from eating, but overall, I know I’m getting better. And while I still have another session at the surgeon in a week, the worst of it is over. It was just very bad over the last couple days.

Overall though, I’m thankful to live in a time and place where we have such advanced dentistry. In the Victorian era, I’d have suffered horribly for weeks and then probably lost the tooth. In Los Angeles in 2010, I have fantastic health care available to me (albeit with a co-pay), and can get a problem this severe fixed, while nicely anaesthetized against the worst of the pain. Two hundred years ago, if you lost your teeth to decay, that was it, and you ended up having to pre-macerate your food before eating it, with little table implements designed for that purpose. As it is, I have a mouthful of teeth, which were straightened out with braces, filled and capped when needed, and are generally in good shape. I live in the 21st century in a Western nation. I may have had a rough few days, but I’m still extremely lucky. And now, I feel that last Vicodin kicking in, so I’m off to sleep.

the wrongfully assigned debt siege: day 13

I have good credit because I worked on it. I raised my score over two hundred points in four years by hammering away at it. I should add, I didn’t pay anyone to do it for me – I did it for free, all by myself, and it worked. But the reason I had a terrible score in the first place was partially due to the collections accounts placed there when my ex-boyfriend, Big Scary Mike, failed to pay the bills in the apartment we shared in 2002. I cleaned those up, piece by piece, by disputing the debts constantly with the credit agencies. Now, in 2010, all but one of those black marks has dropped off, either due to unanswered dispute (as the debts were re-sold to other collections agencies and lost in the system) or due to the time elapsed (seven year max, and if they try to resurrect it and start over by re-reporting the debt, you can push to kill zombie debt, too). I may yet write a one-page site on how to clear up credit, so people stop paying credit clearing agencies – predatory sharks that they are.

But now that I’ve done all this work, the last thing I want is for Mike’s parking tickets to show up on my account. Because I was registered on the car (despite him telling me in 2004 he’d had my name removed), all his tickets from 2004 to 2007, plus collections fees and interest and fines, are my responsibility. There is no way I”m paying $1400 of my savings (that’s a month of daycare!) to pay it…unless it goes on my credit report. Mike knows this. Which is why he’s being such a dick and refusing to address the situation. Hence, it’s now my battle to fight.

I’m fighting it with Alliance One first. I’m going after them for failing to follow the Fair Debt Collection Act – I haven’t seen a scrap of writing about this debt in eight business days. I’m also going after they for refusing to disclose the items that make up the debt – the interest, fees and so on. I’ll continue to attack them as much as possible, to buy time and try to get them to negotiate with me for a settlement. Meanwhile, I’m trying to get the City of Seattle to take me off this file, to make it Mike’s responsibility. My preferred solution is just to extricate myself from this whole sorry mess.

The second fight I’ll have to take it to, if that doesn’t work, will be to get Mike to either pay it or re-pay me if I have to pay it. And that will be UGLY. Obviously, this is his problem – but he doesn’t believe HE should have to pay it, and therefore, if I’m stupid enough to do it, that’s my problem, not his. I don’t want it to get to that kind of horrible personal level – and I don’t want to have to try to get blood from a turnip (ie. money out of someone who likely doesn’t have it).

In the meantime though, this is making me miserable. I’m going in to work late today because I have to make phone calls related to this whole sorry mess. I couldn’t sleep last night because I was stressed out about it. I’ve been too angry to get a good night’s sleep – angry with AllianceOne for failing to send me anything in writing, for making me feel helpless, angry at the system that trapped me because I was too stupid to go up to Seattle and make sure that paperwork was done to extricate me from that car in 2004. And I”m angry at Mike, for having the sheer gall and self-importance to get me into this, and then, instead of apologizing that I have to take hours and hours of time and energy to deal with it, makes horrible remarks about me “needing my meds” and being “mentally lazy” in the one email response he has sent me to date.

Originally, I posted this as a status update to Facebook, and then took it down – it’s too much to be contained in a status update. And I’d tagged it “FML” And now, I’m not going to accept it as a “FML” thing. I’m going to fight like crazy. “FML” is short anecdotes from people who have something bad happen to them, and they kind of accept it as part of their general crappy lot in life. But my life is actually really awesome, and this is an anomaly. And I’m not accepting it. I’m going to push back…and when I push back, I usually get what I’m pushing for. I’m going to do the work to turn this around as best I can. FML? F-that. This siege will end eventually, and when it does, I intend to be proud of the battle I waged to get it to go away.

easy resolution #3

Remember to use – the only REALLY free credit report site ( is a total scam). I will remember to use this either before the end of 2010, or as I need to, instead of letting a free credit report get away.

easy resolution #2

Today, I was walking down Beverly Drive, on my way to get lunch. As usual, I was trying to skip past the panhandlers without them appealing directly to me. Yes, we have panhandlers in Beverly Hills, but only on the block where my office is: north of Wilshire, the BHPD keeps the streets clean. In the SoBev business district though, there’s fewer tourists, so no-one cares.

Anyways. Today, one woman asked me, “would you buy me some chicken, honey?” And honestly, it wasn’t that I didn’t want to spend the money, but that I didn’t have the ten minutes it would have taken – I was needed back at my desk. So I went into KooKooRoo and bought a gift card for $10, and gave that to her so she could choose her own lunch.

So that leads to resolution #2: hand out at least one food gift card once a week. I’m not Frances Hodgson Burnett’s “Little Princess” (although I always did like Sara Crewe because she was the only heroine with my coloring, pale skin, dark hair and green eyes), and I’m not going to hand over five out of six of my hard earned pieces of bread to a beggar child. But I do think of that line – “I’m not starving,” she said, and put down the fifth bun,” because, well, we’re not. I save the $10 daily by bringing my lunch anyways, so one day out of five, I can give it to someone else. (Although, now that I think about it, I should have made it $15 for two meals).

And apparently, that $10 did come back to me tenfold. When I got home, there was a cheque for $100 in the mailbox, a payment from Virgin America’s travel insurance partner. I sent in the claim at Thanksgiving when Ben got sick, for our flight change fees. And it had been so long, I’d forgotten about it. So aside from buying off my middle-class guilt for the day, I apparently amassed a small bit of positivity from the universe. And generating a small bit of positivity is, despite my cynicism, something I love to do.

easy resolution #1

I’ve decided to come up with a series of ridiculously simple resolutions. I’m going to try to cough up ten in total. Maybe these apply to everyone; maybe not. But my first one is simple enough: no more stockpiling. In resolution form, it looks like this:

1. I will stop stockpiling things, by being more mindful of what I already have, and making it a priority to use those things first.

That means going through the remaining five jugs of Goth Woolite before buying more, even if it IS on sale at Costco and I’m afraid Woolite will stop making it. (Need to get your darks darker? Woolite makes a dark clothing laundry detergent. It’s made for goths!) That means not rushing out to buy more Celestial Seasons Sugarplum Spice tea until I’ve finished all the open boxes of Red Zinger. That means….oh, you get the idea. I will be more mindful of what I already have (I’m already drinking more tea) and stop stockpiling. It stacks up. It takes up space. And $10 spent on beauty products I forgot I already have, is $10 that could have not been spent. Even if I get through everything eventually, it doesn’t make sense to have it now

So that’s one down that shouldn’t be too hard. What are you all doing for resolutions? Anyone got any more easy ones that would be easy to implement? Let’s all get that sense of accomplishment from completing a goal…even if it was the simplest one possible.

everything in its place

The Western New Year shouldn’t have that much impact anymore. It’s one of three major New Year’s celebrations in Los Angeles – the Chinese New Year is a big deal here, as are the Jewish High Holy days. It seems ineffective to choose January 1st as the day to start a new life, because it is a new calendar year – assigning significance to a day that was arbitrarily chosen by record-keepers in Rome centuries ago. Yet we all keep it, and use it as the turning point at which to evaluate our lives and begin again the regimens that will make us into whoever it is we want to be.

I’m no exception, because I get caught up in the resolution/evaluation culture. And with that, I look at my life, and I think, yes, everything is actually just…right. I’m here. I have Paul and Ben. I work, I see my friends, I live this life that is absolutely right, in which so much fits me, and where I fit into so much. Paul is the other half of me I didn’t know was missing until I found him in 2006. Ben is the baby we were meant to have, the little boy who combines so much of us with so much of his own quirks and personality. My mom is here, for the winter, which also feels weirdly right, having her so close by. I talk to my sister daily in one way or another, even if its only a text message. My work is going well – I fit in well as a vital part of the organization I work for, at least. I have my friends, all those people life brought me to over the last few years. I have learned to be more comfortable in my own skin, in the way I dress, in the way I handle my weight. I feel like I have become who I was meant to be, over the last few years, and it’s a very comforting idea…to know, everything is in its place.

There’s a line in a Matt Good track, well I have a psychic and she says I’m lonely / she says my destiny is turning out all wrong, and I remember feeling like that…and not knowing how to fix it. And then, I went back to UBC and to Vancouver, and everything started changing back to where it was supposed to be. I don’t know quite how to express the inverse of that concept – of my destiny turning out all right. But as 2010 starts up, as this new decade starts that we’re all celebrating, that’s how I feel. Especially when my little boy grins at me, or my husband holds me…I don’t believe love like this exists unless everything around it is in the right place.

There are minor blips, of course. One of those right now is the Reappearance of Big Scary Mike. Well, not so much him as his parking tickets and a collections agency. Alliance One would like me to pay those, because I was co-registered on his car during the timeframe when the parking tickets – and subsequent non-payment fines – were issued. And if it was a reasonable amount, I would, but it’s well into the four figures here, and I am not taking away from my husband and son to pay the debts incurred by an ex-boyfriend. Nor do I intend to let it be reported to the credit agencies so that it costs us more on our mortgage. And that’s also why I’m not going to go into details of the sheer stupidity Mike’s displaying in all this (“parking tickets don’t HAVE names on them,” he tells me…which is why they assign them to the person registered to the car). This may well go to court. In Seattle. I’ll go after the collection agency first, and see if I can just get myself removed from the situation before I have to go to court on a personal level. But hey, if it comes to that, maybe I can swing up to Vancouver while I’m up there!

Yes, it has been eight years and change since I broke up with Mike, which means that his credit problems have affected my life for almost three times as long as the original relationship (which was only just under three years, and was a mistake from the get-go…I learned that the next year.) I’ve had this recurring blip of a shadow on the edge of my life, affecting my credit and my finances, for years. I keep trying to figure out why this latest round has come back to haunt me, and what possible purpose the universe could have in throwing it at me. There’s certainly no lesson to be learned from it that I haven’t learned already. I’m starting to think that the collections accounts and black marks that showed up on my credit over the last eight years is a sort of payment to the universe, a little bad luck and undeserved problems to make up for all the good luck that has augmented my life in the last few years. Or it could just be that bad things happen to good people, especially those who were too nice and naive for their own good ten years ago, when I co-signed on that stupid car. I wish I could go back in time and tear up that paperwork. That mistake has brought me more misery than I thought possible ever since.

So. That aside, everything continues to sort of chug along here. My mom is here, subletting in WeHo for the time being (until February). She was over today to Ben-sit, which was a HUGE HELP. I actually managed to get my desk cleared and organized, while Paul installed some much-needed Ben-proofing. Ben LOVES his Nana as well, which is also a big plus. They read stories and played and went for a walk while we tried to tidy up and rest a bit. I’m exhausted today because I was out past midnight last night. Combined with the workout yesterday that has put my entire body in pain, I had to take some of that time to lie down and read. But Paul and I didn’t leave the house at all today, except for an abortive trip to the Hollywood Farmer’s Market, which ended before we even got off the 101 due to Ben passing out early for his nap.

The house is much tidier now though. Paul and I have been running on constant cycles of clean and organize, as we’re always optimizing the house a bit more. You know how piles of random stuff – mail, papers, books, magazines – pile up places, and then you stop noticing them until you really look? Maybe this only happens for me. Something will sit out that makes the place look & feel more cluttery, but I have to stop and really look at it to move it or clean it up or organize it. I went around the room today doing just that with some of the shelves and the stuff on my desk, and it’s a big psychological improvement on the headspace.

Yesterday, I was actually relatively busy. I went to Pop Physique in the morning. I still have a couple classes left from the Groupon I got last summer. Pop Physique is hard to explain, because it’s a sort of mix of Pilates and ballet barre and resistance training that pushes your muscles hard in the best way possible. It would actually really help me tone up if I kept at it. But then, after that, we went to lunch at Souplantation, and then went home for Ben’s nap, and then went back out to go to the post office and the library and have dinner with Mom, and then I went out again later on to go to Talya & Joel’s farewell party…and it was just a ridiculous day. So this morning, when I woke up, I was slightly hung over and exhausted from not going to sleep until 1am, and then I realized I was stiff & achy to boot from the class yesterday. The party effects wore off by noon, but it still hurts my abs to sneeze.

Now though, I feel the effect of all this activity, and it’s time to crash. Tomorrow is a weekday, and there is very little room for error in those anymore. In the mornings, I wake up, try to get to the Wii for a short cardio workout, play with Ben when he wakes up, shower, dress, help dress Ben, pack lunches for me and Paul, eat breakfast, and drive to work. In the evenings, I get home, play with Ben for a bit, make/feed Ben dinner (or help Paul with it), help Paul give Ben a bath and get him in pajamas, read Ben a story, give him his bottle and rock him to sleep, get dinner going for the grownups, work out with the EA Sports Active “game”, eat dinner, go to sleep. Occasionally I ditch in the evenings for a social event, or I sleep in and miss the mornings, but that’s generally it. Everything may be right in my life, and everything may fit…but free time isn’t one of those pieces I included there.

ben’s count von count imitation

count von count Over the course of Sunday, we learned that if we count to three, Ben does a little Count Von Count imitation.

ME: “One! Two! THREE!”
BEN: (grinning) “Ah-ha-ha!”

He even does this when we’re not prompting him, like when Paul was just counting the pieces we had for an IKEA item:

PAUL: “OK, let’s see if we have all the pieces here…one, two, three…”
BEN: “Ah-ha-ha!”

I’m so proud of my baby. If he has to imitate a character on the show, I appreciate that he’s imitating the Count.

I was going to try to write a longer post here, about going to IKEA this past weekend, and about the sinus infection that’s been plaguing me, but realized that even with snark, it sounded banal. Therefore, I’m cutting it off at another Adorable Ben Anecdote.

new year’s eve. now with more steak!

Last night, Paul and I stayed home for the 3rd year in a row. We considered going out to the Malediction Society party a few blocks from here. Unfortunately, our babysitter got sick. That would be my mother, who caught Ben’s sinus infection two weeks ago, and, like me, hasn’t quite recovered. So we decided to stay home again this year.

I stopped off at Whole Foods in Pasadena after picking up Ben last night to procure a steak for dinner. After much deliberation, I settled on a New York style loin. There was actually a pretty serious run on steaks at Whole Foods – between the Rose Bowl parties and the staying-in trend, the steaks were flying out of there. The woman in front of me was doing exactly what I was: staying home and cooking dinner for her boyfriend. I suppose, with the ridiculous prices for New Year’s Eve dinners, and the crappy economy, more people are staying home and cooking high-quality meat rather than paying $50 – $60 apiece for it in restaurants.

So I came home laden down with groceries, and, after making sure a certain Tiny Boy was asleep, began dinner preparations:

  • Steak, with chanterelle mushrooms. I spooned some butter over the steak while cooking, a Martha Stewart idea, and then cooked the mushrooms quickly in the combined drippings afterwards. The steak was perfectly medium-rare and tender, and the mushrooms were cooked just enough in the fat to be succulent
  • Parsley mashed potatoes
  • The Smitten Kitchen recipe for creamed spinach (it was perfect!)
  • Upside-down Black Forest Cake for two, with whipped cream and cherry sauce

    I also broke open a bottle of the excellent Andrew Murray Syrah to go with the meal. And then we sat down to a quiet, romantic, candlelight dinner, in our own home. We didn’t have to deal with parking/driving/other people on the most overhyped party night of the year. It was a lovely evening for us both.

    And we even made it to midnight this year! We stayed up to watch the Kathy Griffin/Anderson Cooper NYE coverage…which I seriously couldn’t believe was running on CNN. There was no part of that broadcast that wasn’t ridiculous. But as soon as it was New Year’s out here, we went to sleep. Immediately. And then Ben woke up at 5am. Fortunately, to thank me for the steak, my husband got up with him, or I’d be in a much grumpier mood right now.

    BTW, you can catch up on my New Years’ past on my old Livejournal. They have decreased in ridiculousness over the years…but fortunately, have equally decreased in consequence the next day.