Thursday, December 31, 2015

Dentists, Night Guards, and Dental Splints

Over thirty years ago I had what was then known as experimental TMJ surgery. I popped my jaw joint out of whack after chomping down on a popcorn that did not pop, and it was all downhill after that. I had headaches and neck pain constantly, a popping joint, and shaved down teeth to try and realign the mess until it hardly would open anymore. Following the surgery was months of physical therapy - including increasing the number of Popsicle sticks I could pry my mouth open with on the day after surgery. For the most part, Things have been so much better with an occasional reminder now and again - I really can't or won't eat anything that is hard - so pistachios, and a lot of other favorites are off limits out of fear! Routine dental visits can be torture because I can't tolerate a lot of pressure on my jaw or keep my mouth open for long periods of time. Since the surgery, I have always had to wear a mouth guard, so as not to grind down the joint and have the misery start all over again. That required a visit to s specialist who made a form fitting custom appliance at the Medical College. Since we moved, I've been using self made products, but decided to try a splint from the dentist. They started with a harder plastic mouth guard that of course is not covered by insurance. It required two impressions of both upper and lower teeth - gag! The sad part is that because it was hard, my jaw fought with it every night and lost, creating a very sore and swollen right side. So I returned to the dentist yesterday for a less intensive "cushy" splint that needed only one impression. Hopefully it will be able to sustain the impact of nightly fights. I'll probably chew through it in no time. But as long as it works, I really don't care. I'll find out tonight! 

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

A Library of Congress Lanyard

Because of an odd situation at home, I need to carry two keys around at all times. And because not everything I wear has pockets, the best solution is to use a lanyard. Unfortunately, the one I was using broke, and the replacement was in no better condition. So what could I do? After being off from work a few days, reality returned yesterday when I went back. So I took an afternoon walk to the Library of Congress gift shop and looked around hoping to find something that might work. And there it was - a little bigger than I hoped, but it would do well. And instead of a fish line attachment at the bottom to hold the keys, there was a key chain metal piece that looked like it may be more long lasting. And while I was in the Jefferson Building I took a quick walk around the Great Hall. So in spite of it being the first day back after being gone, it was useful in a more personal way. I'm not sure I know many people who could say, or do, the same thing. 

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Sunset Over the Potomac

It was a long drive from Florida back the DC. And the last fifty miles can be dreadful. So we decided to get off the packed bumper to bumper freeway and head towards highway 1. It was the best decision we could have made and the time of the day was perfect. As we passed by Mount Vernon, we headed towards home. We've been this way many times, but not at this time of the day at this time of the year. There were a bunch of cars heading to a parking lot by the river. And now I know why! It was simply beautiful watching the winter sun sink in to the Potomac River. George Washington must have loved sitting on his porch witnessing the same magnificence. It took the stress and strain off the last hour of driving home after a long week away. Now the short work week starts. I'll have to remember what I just saw when I walk in to the office. 

Monday, December 28, 2015

Google Maps, Waze, Apple, or Car Wayfinders?

The last fifty miles can be torture, unless of course, you like to travel at 3 AM. Add the holiday traffic to the mix, and things get even dicier. But now we have all kinds of gadgets to help us navigate around congested areas - or do we? Our new Subaru Forester has a navigation system that has a lot of drawbacks. But having a map shown at all times is a good thing. My favorite source is google maps because we are used to it, and it usually works the best. Then we noticed the Waze app whenever there was a traffic accident. I read the reviews and they were mixed. But how many interruptions do we need to hear all at once? We haven't used Apple maps since they were scorned the first time out. Supposedly there are improvements. All I can say is the car system tried to take us off the freeway off a ramp and then make a u turn back on to it whenever there was congestion; Google maps sent us in the completely opposite direction when we turned off to find our hotel; we didn't bother with Waze or Apple. I still have an old hard copy map of our route from DC to Florida and back that I sometimes pull out to get the big picture. We were just happy to see all the familiar sites as we finally approached our home town, without incident and in good time. I don't know how we ever managed before! 

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Hay, Blueberries, Farms and Gators

We've been driving to Florida more than usual lately. My dad died in June and we visit my mom as often as we can. I grew up in Florida and every time we go, things look familiar but also unexpectedly not. As a family we probably drove around most of the state. And I spent four years driving back and forth from Florida State University in Tallahassee to our home. But this path takes us through the central part of the state where there are a lot of farms, which I didn't really know existed - Cattle, horses, and the familiar citrus. But it is a side of Florida that looks very different from the Gulf of Mexico, beaches, Tampa bay, Dolphins, and Pelicans that I am more used to. Nevertheless my husband and I enjoy the ride from DC - especially since we got our new Subaru Forester that sure beats our eleven year old forester that we recently traded in. So we'll keep coming as long as possible - and I hope it's for a long time more to come! 

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Florida in December - And Memories

It's been warm everywhere, and even warmer in Florida. I grew up in Florida and do not recall a Christmas like this. We took a ride after dinner to the beach. It was 85 degrees. It was hard to distinguish the holiday decorations from the usual surroundings. It really is a different vibe and culture here. Whenever we think about maybe moving back after I retire, it seems less likely every time we visit. Since my Dad died six months ago there are a lot of reminders and memories. My mom is doing okay, but it's difficult. We always used to come home at the beginning of December. But this year was different - in a big way. The surroundings look the same, but somehow I feel different. 

Thursday, December 24, 2015

British Airways and Etsy Orders

It all started before Thanksgiving. I received two digital art orders for Christmas gifts and was pleased folks were ordering so early! This time of year can be tough to turn around a lot of artwork in a very short period. But we also planned a trip to visit friends in England and then meet our French friends in Barcelona, leaving little time to work on anything, even though my studio travels with me. When we got back to England, the requests were piling up and I needed to start organizing my work in a way I could get a grip on it before over committing. So one afternoon I started writing down dates, person, request, and deadlines. I didn't have my usual neat methodology in place, so I used the last page of my British Airways information sheet as my inventory management sheet. That thing has been through the ringer and I had to refuse work this year to keep my sanity. So, from the time we returned back home on Thanksgiving weekend I completed twenty two cats, dogs, and birds in all different configurations; sketched out nine more with IOU's to complete within the next couple of weeks - including six K9's for the trainers at an academy in California; and negotiated a couple for specific dates in January. All I can say is "Whew!" and thank you all for noticing my digital art. I'm still working on several of the portraits and really enjoy doing it. Just to think something I made is being wrapped as a gift for someone who lost a pet, just adopted a puppy, or just plain wanted a portrait of their furry or feathered friend, makes me feel humbled. Merry Christmas everyone! I just can't go on vacation this time of year!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Passing Through Lawtey, Stark and Waldo Unscathed

The last time we drove through Florida we ended up with a big fat speeding ticket in Lawtey, which we now know is known for its speed trap. I reported this nuisance to both Senate and House of Representative congressional staff upon our return to DC. I never heard from any of them, but did hear from the state senate and congressional staff about this known problem. So as we passed through this section of Florida between Jacksonville and Gainesville on highway 301, we were extra cautious. Bradford county is no friend to us and we were happy to leave it unscathed. It was amazing how everyone driving around there seemed to know about it because they all must have at one time received a speeding ticket too. Everyone was driving at or well below the speed limit. We had driven that way many times before and never had a problem. But now we just can't forget it. Beware: use caution when driving around this part of Florida. You'll thank us for it if you do! 

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

On the Road Again in the new Subaru Forester

The last road trip resulted in us finally buying a new 2016 Subaru Forester. Our 11 year old Forester finally bit the dust. We got it in the Midwest, it went through a lot of snowstorms, and carried around a very big dog. It transported us to DC when we moved here a few years ago. We have lots of memories riding in that car. Getting a vehicle today is a lot different than getting a vehicle from so many years ago. We need months to figure out how to just open the door! Everything is automated - surprise! So this road trip gives us an opportunity to read up on the basics. This car has a lot of extra safety features, which is one of the reasons we waited to get a 2016. The cruise control works nicely, but the adaptive cruise control is quite interesting and also works very well. It's amazing to feel the car slow down and speed up on its own whenever it gets too close or far from to the vehicle in front of us. It also warns you when you meander out of your lane, and really warns your when it thinks you are getting drowsy. We learned that you cannot reprogram a lot of things if you are driving - you need to stop first. That's another safety feature. I'm trying to get my husband to familiarize himself with the hands free options, and to use the steering wheel gadgets. We finally got the music to play from his iPhone, which was programmed via Bluetooth. Now I just need to figure out how to get my iPhone on there. We probably won't use half of the features on this car, but we feel safer and certainly have a smoother ride. This is our third Subaru, and we aren't at all disappointed. Looking forward to even more road trips - now we have a great excuse. Wonder if we'll ever use the off road functions!?