Tuesday, November 12, 2013

If it Weren't for Bad Luck . . .

Trying to be positive.  Trying to be upbeat.  Trying to view this as "good news" rather than another damnable disaster in an endless series of them.

How about the "good news" first?

I was poring over the bills from my dental crown appointment last July.  After some head-scratching and math-doing, I came to the conclusion that our dentist overcharged us by $518.50. The math goes something like this:

Practical upshot?  Our dentist owed us $518.50.

Hubby didn't want to go along with it.  He figured that the "contracted fee for procedure" only meant that the dentist couldn't charge US any more than that, but that supplemental insurance could be nailed for as much as they could get.  

I disagreed.

So, after spending the morning on the phone with both insurance companies, neither of which was a lick of help, I insisted we head to the dentist's office.

I walked in calm and friendly, stating I had an issue with charges from my last visit.  Hubby and I were quickly brought to the billing office, where a lovely Russian woman, their head of billing, took a look at my paperwork.  She pulled up the account and immediately said "We owe you money, you have a credit here."  But then, as she dug deeper and deeper, her tone changed.  She kept saying things like "Oh, my," and "Oh, no."  And then she said, "I'm going to have to call to confirm your insurance, but it appears we owe you a lot of money."

$579.00, to be exact.

After hassling much longer than was pleasant with our insurer (who, on the first two calls, denied I have any dental plan at all), it was all hammered out.  With our lovely Russian billing manager asking if we wanted a check or credit.

Of course, I wanted a check.  This would pay off a credit card.  This would pay for our boy's promised keyboard AND the mandolin.  Only one problem.

There's something wrong with my upper left first bicuspid.  Something really wrong.

The pain started just a few days before this windfall.  It was an unfocused, all over face pain (as dental pain often is), with the pain searing through the maxilla, the TMJ, and often down into the mandible and through the ear.  It wasn't a constant pain, but rather a sometimes thing that seemed to be triggered by cold, whether it be food or outside temperatures.  I've suffered a like pain before, and had an ENT chalk it up to stress and throw muscle relaxants at me.  I've been pretty solidly stressed, so I decided to sit on it.

And then I found the source of the pain.

I stuck a finger in my mouth and ran it along the upper gum.  When I got to the spot right under the cheek bone and right above that bicuspid and pushed, there was a sharp, searing pain down through the tooth and up through the cheek.  To confirm (because I just had a crown done two teeth farther along), I tapped each tooth with my fingernail.  No problem with the two molars and second bicuspid, but when I tapped that first bicuspid, I was once again treated to wowser pain.

Understand, this bicuspid has a history.  Back in 2004 (a few dentists and 2,000+ miles away), I broke it almost perfectly in half.  I had been eating a treat and came down hard on a large chunk of walnut shell.  The tooth snapped.  It was my first time (and, hopefully only) seeing the inside of a tooth.  All pulpy and stringy and dentin-y.  This happened the night before my family was hopping a plane for SoCal and Disneyland.  Our flight was scheduled to leave at 7:30 am.  The tickets were bottom-of-the-barrel, no rescheduling, no refund-types.  And so I climbed on that plane with a broken-in-half bicuspid and off we went for the very worst vacation of my life.

And that wasn't because of the tooth. The tooth was just icing.

I couldn't see a dentist while there because our insurance swore they'd nail me with "out--of-network" charges that we couldn't afford.  They didn't consider a broken-in-half bicuspid a dental "emergency."  And so I took my Ibuprofen every six hours and I tried not to whine too much.

When I saw my dentist, his first words were "This has been open for over a week?  This is a root canal, I'm sorry."

My answer, of course, was that we couldn't afford a root canal, so if that was the only option, he was going to have to pull it.  

His name was Michael Blamires, and he decided to do his best to patch the tooth, creating a second point and protective cover with resin.  He told me that he couldn't make any promises, that, with the tooth having been open for over a week, it would probably develop an infection or decay from the inside out.  He said I might get five days, I might get a year.  Hopefully, enough time to save up for a root canal.

That was nine years ago.  So, thank you, Dr. Blamires.  You did a truly amazing job, and I've sung your praises to every dentist I've met since.  

Now, not being a dentist myself, I'm not sure it's the bicuspid, and I'm not sure I'm looking at a full root canal with crown and build up.  But I probably am.  And if I am?

That $579.00 will almost cover it.

I'm trying to look at this as a stroke of luck, since the tooth was hurting and suddenly, BAM!  I have almost 600 bucks of credit with the dentist.  But it really does feel like just another kick in the ass.  Another case of life thumbing its nose and making even my good luck bad.  


Speaking of bad luck, remember how suspicious I was of the whole "car only needs to be inspected every two years" thing?  How I called the DMV to confirm, kept asking, "I know that's true for the emissions, but the safety inspection, too?"  And how happy I was that the DMV confirmed?

And was wrong, it turns out.

Hubby stepped out last Saturday morning to take our boy to Hapkido and there it was.  A giant orange sticker on the driver's side window, letting us know we had 48 hours to get the car inspected.   That's 48 hours from 3 am Saturday morning.  That threw the day's plans into disarray as we scrambled to find a inspection station that would see us.  We found one, dropped the 16 bucks.

And then dropped the $140 for the new battery.

Yeah, it's great that we had $140.  We'd been planning on using that to treat ourselves to a meal in Shenandoah National Park.

Again, I guess it's "lucky" we had the cash.  But barely keeping our noses above water somehow doesn't feel "lucky."  It feels endlessly exhausting.


So, have you been following the Obenshain vs Herring debacle in Virginia?  Are you as tiredly unsurprised by the smug, grinning gall of the republicans?  Changing the rules for counting provisional ballots AFTER the election and ONLY in heavily democrat Fairfax County?  I wish I could say I was stunned, shocked, or otherwise caught off guard, but fact is, the moment they said we were trucking toward a recount, I said "Oh, well, we already know about republicans and recounts.  Let's see what scuzz-baggery they pull out of their sleeves."

Never ones to disappoint, the republicans pulled THIS CHICANERY.

Not sure what they are, but I refuse to believe they're Americans.  If I believe that, then I have to wonder what on earth I'm doing here.


I've spent the past couple of weekends photographing cemeteries to record the headstones.  I find it incredibly rewarding, strolling through cemeteries, sitting down and poring over stones (or photos of them) and deciphering them.  Some are very old--1700s.  You know me and my "I don't want dead folks to be forgotten" hangup.  So this is satisfying.  I feel like I'm doing something worthwhile. Plus, I've come across some wonderful historical things that make my day--like the woman who freed her slaves in her will back in 1855, or the guy who died during one of Lysander Cutler's raids in Louisa County.  I already knew Lysander from his role in Second Manassas at Brawner's Farm. It was amazing to find that link there in that tiny little cemetery out at the end of a dirt road.

Here are some pics--not of individual headstones, but of the cemeteries in general:

Some might call it "ghoulish" or assume I've some dippy Goth thing going on, but that's not it.  I love cemeteries because they're beautiful.  They're home to the last, loving tributes to people who AREN'T anymore, people who WERE, and that makes them incredibly special.  They're history, memory, and love all wrapped up in a wonderful natural setting.  If you have a good digital camera, a pen and notebook, and an afternoon, take the time to hit your local boneyards.  Photograph each stone with an eye for clarity of inscription and shape of stone.  Then hit Find-a-Grave and go to work.  A lot of those stones are already photographed/catalogued, but your picture might be better, it might be clearer or be from a different angle that will help folks trying to decipher them.

Do it.  These stones aren't forever, and some are fading fast.  And please, don't use shaving cream or other harsh chemicals to highlight the inscriptions.  Instead, try water (or snow, if it's winter), light, mirrors (to redirect sunlight and play up shadows) or, as a last resort, talc or fine-ground flour. Not talcum baby powder (which has stearic asid in it), but pure talc.   I've never used anything, but I've seen some amazing results with these techniques, so you should look it up if you're interested.


And that's about it.  Here, have some interesting Utah names:

  • LaReta
  • Ranada
  • Ensign
  • Eris
  • ADonna
  • Rulon
  • JoOnna
  • Winda


  1. It could be worse. We have no dental insurance. Next week I will be paying over $5000 for a bridge replacement. This is in addition to the $500 I payed last spring for some prep and a temporary bridge, plus $475 for a oral surgen to remove a tiny root fragement that broke off last spring.

    Craig needs some proceedure on the two lower front teeth. He got an estimate, for which he had to pay a $135 office visit cost of $1400 for the procedure. That is with our senior and Cash payment discount. He has contacted a couple of dentists in mexico. Their estimate is $400.

    If it hadn't been for the root fragement that I didn't have out until last week, I should have looked to going to Mexico too.

    1. I find it outrageous that dental care, which is, let's face it, MEDICAL care, is so astoundingly expensive and so poorly covered by insurance plans. I remember back when I was a kid, and dental was just a part of your medical insurance, and it covered everything! By the time I was in my late 20s, it covered most things. By my late thirties? Even after insurance, a root canal was 600 bucks, and my husband's dentures were a rocking two grand AFTER insurance. And now? Our boy's going to require dental surgery and braces at some point, and possible a retainer with tooth, and our "insurance" will only cover 30%. It's astounding, it's a disgrace.