Metal Mouth (No More)

It’s a pretty momentous day here in the Riggledome.  And by “momentous”, I mean something that matters a whole helluva lot more to me, than it does to you…

In a conversation last night with “The guy” (and yes, there’s a “the guy”… after a fashion at least – there’ll be more on that later…  sometime… probably) we were talking about fitness and exercise.  When he’s not learning and developing people (there’s a cryptic detail about him), he works part-time at a local gym teaching boot camp and spin classes.  We were discussing my personal ideal fitness goals and he said, “If you want a different body, think about WHY should your body change.  If you never run up and down stadium stairs, why should it not look like an office worker’s?”  My response was “Because I’m a shallow gay man in the Bay Area and I want to look like it?”

All of that is to say that, like most everyone, I have a fair amount of vanity, and insecurities about my appearance.  I know!  It’s hard to believe!  I had always hated my smile, and didn’t like the way my teeth looked.  For whatever reason I have a slight and barely perceptible misalignment of my jaw which resulted in some crooked and prominent canine teeth.  I always felt like I had fangs and didn’t want people to see them.  I never smiled with showing teeth in pictures…  When I allowed pictures to be taken… at all.  Once I got a job that paid decently and some good health insurance options, I subjected myself to the process and began Invisalign treatment.  It seemed like a great thing, especially for a vain person.  No bulky, ugly, metal teeth.  Straightening what’s crooked.  What could be wrong?!?

It didn’t work out so well.  It requires a lot of commitment and dedication and in the end (3 years later) I had run through the whole process, hadn’t achieved what I wanted to and couldn’t go any further with Invisalign.  I had the choice to either be happy with what had been achieved, or go to an orthodontist and get real braces…  I bet you can guess which one I chose.

I got my braces off nearly a year ago and have, for the last year, been wearing retainers the vast majority of the day.  That, in itself was pretty momentous, but now, after so many years of this process, I am officially free!

Sure, I’ll have to continue to wear my retainers at night.  Everybody who has ever had braces has had that instruction (a lot of people don’t do it), but wearing them at night is a far cry from wearing them all day every day!

I’m free!  I’m free!  I’m free!  (Can you tell I’m happy?)

Freedom from metal mouth (during the day at least)!

Freedom from metal mouth (during the day at least)!

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Busy Stay-Cation

I usually make the excuse that I write at work because I’m there so much and I have no time for writing at home…  That sounds nice, but since I’ve been off work since December 23rd and I didn’t write a thing between December 22nd and really, yesterday, that’s not much of an excuse.  You’d think there would have been many blog posts during this stay-cation.

This has been one of the best vacations I’ve had in a while, I mean, you know, for not having gone anywhere.  I received an infusion of cash (insurance reimbursement for my therapy bills) just as this stay-cation was beginning which enabled me to comfortably purchase Christmas gifts for all the people on my list to buy gifts for; fancy coffee for my mother, A GPS for Michelle, an Afterglow PS3 controller for Lil’B as well as art supplies for his birthday (which is 12/31), a cordless drill for my oldest niece (this is what she wanted.  Don’t judge me.), a horse game for my second niece and a little plush, radio control fire truck for my nephew.  Everything arrived on time and was properly distributed.  As far as I know everyone appreciated their gifts.  I was concerned that the art supplies would pale in Lil’B’s eyes compared to the controller, but he said he was excited about the art supplies.

I have spent a lot of time at home during this stay-cation, which is fine ’cause it was kind of the plan.  Stay home, clean, organize, generally get things in better shape.  I haven’t accomplished nearly as much as I had hoped I would, but I’ve gotten a lot done and I’m quite happy about hat.  One of my Christmas gifts to myself is something I’ve wanted for a long time but just didn’t convince myself to spend the money on.  I decided recently that I was determined to get the item and so when I got the cash infusion, I took my 20% off coupon and headed right out to Bed, Bath and Beyond where I bought a Roomba, robot vacuum cleaner.

You guys! I’m so glad I bought this thing and I wish I had gotten it a long time ago!  It’s awesome!  It does a very effective job and it requires almost no effort on my part.  I say almost, because I do have to empty the little bin pretty much every day and I do have to push the button to turn it on…  Well I don’t have to.  There is an auto start feature, I just haven’t enabled it.  I also have to make sure there is nothing on the floor to get in its way.  This thing is surprisingly assertive and I have found that I have to make sure that all cords and cables are well out of the way or it will run over them and cause problems.  Though it is smart enough to stop running before it gets too tangled up in something, it will try a bit to vacuum the thing up, before it gives up.  My biggest fear was that it would not be able to get over the lip into the kitchen, which is the messiest room because that’s where the cat litter is, but the Roomba jumps the curb like it’s no big deal.  The other concern I had was how Mischa would react to it.  He has always been afraid of vacuum cleaners and whenever I would turn one on, he would run and hide behind a chair or something.  He doesn’t seem overly concerned about the Roomba which is louder than I had hoped, but far and away quieter than any manual powered vacuum I’ve ever owned.  What’s really funny is that the Roomba, which has a built-in extra-dirt-detection sensor, seems to identify Mischa as a pile of extra dirt and it routinely targets him and heads straight toward him.  Mischa, being the mental giant that he is, just stands there until the Roomba actually bumps into him and then he acts indignant that it came after him.  Roomba has a little side brush which is designed to brush debris away from walls and out into it’s path.  Sometimes this side brush will bump against Mischa’s feet and then he tries to pounce on the brushes.  It’s really quite funny.  But I can run the Roomba everyday without causing any great turmoil for Mischa and that’s what I wanted, so I’m really quite thrilled with my purchase and wish I had done it long ago!  Now I really want a Scooba.  It’s made by the same people and it’s designed to wash hard floors.  The problem is, it says it’s safe on “sealed hardwood floors” and I’m sure mine is not sealed.  Bummer!

 

Michelle had a “lounge” party, on Christmas Eve at her apartment.  She insists it was always a lounge party (wear lounge pants and t-shirts) but her sister kept calling it a pajama party and I swear Michelle called it a pajama party the first time she mentioned it to me.  I pointed out that I don’t wear pajamas and that no one wants to see that, and that’s when she started calling it a “lounge” party.  It was a nice time.  Her three-year-old great-nephew was there and Michelle handed him my Christmas present and asked him to bring it to me.  Somehow, between that time and the time he handed it to me, the paper… ahem… fell off the gift.  She gave me a heated mattress pad, which is something I had been wanting for a while, only, you know how when you build something up in your mind and it’s going to be so wonderful and then you actually get the thing and it can’t live up to the expectations you built…  Yeah, that.  I felt badly ’cause I want to take it back, but I didn’t want to hurt Michelle’s feelings.  When I got over to her house this past Friday to do my laundry (since Saturday was New Year’s Eve) she was in the process of repackaging the one she had bought for herself to take it back.  She didn’t like it.  She let me off the hook and told me that I could return the one she got me if I wanted.  I told her I would probably do that and that I’d bring it back to her (since she had the receipt) and she could take it back and get me something else and wrap it up for me, and then maybe I’ll get to open MY OWN Christmas present.

 

I took Lil’B to Benihana for his Birthday dinner…  Actually it was kind of confusing. I took him, on December 26th and I told him, this is a special dinner to celebrate his Birthday, where he will get his Christmas present, and then at the next dinner on January 2nd, he would get his Birthday present.  I hadn’t been to  a Benihana in many years and while I knew it was a lot of fun, I also thought I remembered that it was a long and drawn out affair so I made reservations for 5:00.  He was out of school so it wasn’t a school night, but I figured we shouldn’t be out too late.  Dinner was over at 6:50 and Lil’B didn’t want to go home yet.  I called his mother and got her blessing and we went to a movie after dinner.  I got to take him to one of my favorite Movie Theaters.  It’s just and AMC theater, but it’s in the middle of San Francisco and it’s in an old building they renovated.  It’s a 12 screen cinema, but there are only four theaters to a floor, and there are three levels of theaters.  Since they are stadium seating, each theater is two stories, so this building is about 8 stories tall and I just find it fascinating.

We saw Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked.  This movie was horrendous!  I mean, truly, truly, terrible!  Now I know, this movie is not geared toward my age group, but I thoroughly enjoyed the first two so it was sadly disappointing to me that I didn’t like this one as much, but on the plus side, there was a moment in this wretched movie that actually made Lil’B laugh out loud and if you’ve been coming around here long, you know what an accomplishment that is.  I’d sit through it again just to hear that!

The next day, I went to therapy, did a little shopping and went over to hang out with my friend Karin and her two kids.  I ended up staying through dinner and had a nice time.  She introduced me to some fancy operations that my iPhone is capable of and I wasn’t even aware… Giving me pause to consider the value in some new equipment purchases.  I’ll have to give that some thought.

 

Friday I went to Michelle’s house to do my laundry and hang out.  I got there early and after I started my first load, she and her great-nephew and I went to breakfast.  The boy was quite rambunctious and energetic.  It was fun though.  He runs kind of hot and cold when it comes to me, well, anyway, hot and luke warm.  Apparently, since he was a baby baby, I’m the only male, outside his immediate family that he would let hold him.  Other men would pick him up and he’d immediately squirm and cry and want to get away and with me, he was fine.  Now that he’s a little older and has a personality, he doesn’t dislike me, but he often doesn’t want to engage with me.  But this day, as soon as I walked in he was all over me, asking me questions and talking to me and wanting to sit with me.  It was almost too much, but it was still nice to see.

 

I’ve mentioned in the past how I do not want to be home on New Year’s Eve.  My mother never went anywhere or did anything and all we ever did was sat in the living room and watch TV.  Theoretically, watching “the ball drop” only my mother was forever surfing channels trying to get away from all that horrible secular music that was always on the network shows.  We would watch something from Washington, DC on PBS, which was always live and therefore an hour early, plus fireworks on TV just do not have the same effect.  From 11:00 to 11:58:30 she would surf around trying to find something that wasn’t rock and roll music and then at the last second (sometimes after the last second) turn the TV to one of the networks.  We’d say “happy new year” and then go to bed.  I swore that when I had it in my own power I was not just going to sit around at home on New Year’s Eve.  This has proven to be problematic from time to time because I hate crowds too, but I make the best of it.

In years past I’ve gone out of town for New Year’s Eve spending a few days in another place away from home and with more excitement than I’ve got here.  Most of the time, New Year’s Eve was just the excuse I needed to go on a trip, but I still enjoyed myself.  I’ve been to Las Vegas a couple of times, Los Angeles a couple of times, Reno a couple of times.  Last year we got a room a the Embarcadero Hilton in San Francisco and had a really lovely evening, but it ended up costing as much as a three night trip out of town.  This year, Michelle and I had 10:00 reservations at a restaurant called Skates on the Bay, which is, as you might imagine, on the San Francisco Bay.  I had never been, though Michelle had a couple of times.  The plan was to have dinner and then stroll out side to the water front where we would watch the fireworks from San Francisco at midnight.  In an all too familiar scene, Michelle was in the bathroom at midnight and I stood by the windows of the restaurant where we had JUST gotten our check and watched the fireworks by myself (le sigh).  It’s okay.  This is kind of terrible for me to say, but I feel like midnight on New Year’s Eve is a moment that, ideally should be shared romantically and I don’t have any romantic feelings for Michelle, maybe being alone at that moment was better.  The fire works display was nice, though I feel like it looses some of its splendor when you can’t hear, and just as importantly, feel them.  The display was the same one we watched last year, which means it was shot off from a barge outside the San Francisco Ferry Building, about six and a half miles away.  I’m always caught a little by surprise at how small they are from what seems like such a short distance.

After dinner, I took Michelle back to her sister’s house, dropped her off and came home.  I would have liked to have been somewhere else for a little vacation and I got a wild idea that may not really be financially feasible that I’d really like to go to Australia for next New Year’s Eve, but as long as my 19 1/2 year old cat is with me, that can’t happen.

Last night was another dinner with Lil’B.  We went to a local place I’d never been to called The South Shore Cafe.  It was very ordinary, but it was something new for both of us and I’m trying to expose him to new things, so it was fun.  We talked a little bit about his birthday.  He said he couldn’t remember what kind of cake he had but that it had Oreos on it.  I asked him if they had ice cream and he said no, so I had to rectify the no birthday ice cream problem.  We went to a local ice cream shop called Loard’s (I learned it is supposed to be pronounced “Lo-ard’s” as it is a compilation of the two founders last names.)  Loard’s is a 100% local company that makes its own ice cream in a local factory and it was really quite good.  When I was looking at the flavors on the board I was caught by surprise and was a little grossed out by “Avocado flavor” but I had to taste it.  It was surprisingly good, although, honestly, it tasted mostly like Vanilla.

 

This morning I had an orthodontist appointment, I wasn’t holding my breath, though I was hoping today would be the big day.  No such luck.  In fact based on the conversation I had today with “Dr. Jeff”, (I always wondered how the staff differentiated between the father and the son, now I know) it looks like two to three more months.  The day Dr. Jeff put them on he told me 12-18 months, this is the 13th month.  On the plus side though, I paid my final payment today and have one few debts hanging over my head! Yay!

 

Tonight I have dinner with an old friend of mine, and tomorrow Michelle and I are going, over-night, to Cache Creek Casino and Resort.  It’s an Indian run casino about 90 minutes north of here.  We’ll go and play for the afternoon, then spend the night in a hotel room, have breakfast and head back.  That’s about as long as I can leave Mischa on his own since he’s confined to the cage and he eats canned food, but it’ll be nice to get a little tiny break anyway.

 

*Oh by the way, I guess I’m supposed to say that despite my glowing report (and despite the two additional people I’ve about talked into it – my mother says I should get a commisison) I am not being compensated in anyway by Roomba, or Bed Bath and Beyond or any other products or merchants I may have mentioned here…  Dammit.

Counting Thoughts

Some people say that Holiday’s like Christmas are all about giving.  “‘Tis better to give than to receive,” and all that hooey.  I have very mixed feelings about the gift giving holidays.  I want to get presents.  Let’s be honest, don’t we all?  I think anyone who says, “I don’t care about receiving presents.  I just like giving things to people and watching their faces light up when they open the package,” is lying through their artificially whitened teeth.  (I don’t know why the teeth are artificially whitened, that’s just the first thing that came to mind and we’re going to go with it.)

I like to GET presents, but I HATE to give them.  I do.  It’s not because I’m stingy or selfish.  I’m not.  I do like to give people presents that they genuinely enjoy and appreciate.  There is a commercial that keeps playing on the radio right now: I think it’s for Roku (Obviously not a very good commercial because I had to try six different spellings, “Orocu, Orokoo, Arocu, arocoo, etc.” before I actually found ROKU with no O or A in front of it.)  The commercial says something about knowing the different between genuine appreciation and fake appreciation when you give a gift.  I?  I get the fake appreciation most of the time.

I don’t usually try to give people gifts that will blow them away.  I don’t make any sort of effort to surprise people, because I suck at it.  I ask people “What do you want?” and then if I can afford it, I give it to them.  If I can’t afford it, I ask, “What else?”  I hate it when they tell me, “I don’t know.”

I’m just not very good at gift giving.  I suck at gift giving and I come by it naturally.  Observe:

One year, when I was about fifteen, my mother decided, seemingly on the spur of the moment, that she was going to give us something for Christmas.  She ran out on Christmas Eve, in search of some kind of gifts for her children.  The next morning, after we had our traditional Pillsbury cinnamon roll breakfast, we each opened a small package with our name on it.  Each package contained one embroidered dish towel and one pot holder…  with Santa Claus on them.  Again…  I WAS FIFTEEN.

Last year my mother sent me a green t-shirt with a giant Grinch face screen printed on it.  She couldn’t have known by looking at the shirt that the dastardly smiling mouth on the shirt only serves to highlight my much maligned and despised gut.   I also don’t appreciate being referred to as “The Grinch”, which is what she calls me when she’s not calling me Scrooge.  I never have and never will wear the shirt out of the house.

Last week I received a text from my mother:

“I’ve ordered you some Christmas goodies from Harry & David.  Don’t know when they’ll arrive but be on the lookout.”

By chance I came home that night to a box on my front steps.  I opened it up and found a metal tin inside with three different flavors of Moose Munch.  If you don’t already know, this is Muse Munch:

And these are my teeth:

Give or take a few months and a different color rubber band.

I texted her, “This is some awfully mean stuff to send a guy with braces.  😉  Good thing they’re coming off soon.  :-)”

“I completely forgot about the braces!” she told me.

I answered, “It’s OK.  They’ll be off in a few weeks.  That stuff will certainly keep.  Thanks for sending it.  Should be tasty.”

She asked, “Did you get both boxes?”  I told her I only got one.  “The other one will be a little more braces-friendly, I think.”

The next day a second box appeared on my steps.  “This box has air holes…” I texted to her.  “Did you send me a puppy?”  This box had six pears, a small bag of mixed nuts and a block of cheese.  (See the picture of my mouth above.)  I’m not particularly fond of fresh pears, though I don’t know if it’s realistic to expect that she ought to have known that.

It’s clear my mother doesn’t know how to give good gifts, though certainly she means well.  I wrote yesterday about all the pressure, expectations,  and demands on holidays and this is just part of it.

I’ve been thinking, these last several days, about gifts and how I feel about them.  There was a time when I bought into the addage, “It’s the thought that counts” only, I don’t think I believe it anymore.

I’m fully prepared for the one person who actually comments on my blog with any regularity (and the one person who just has to talk to me in person about it because she’ll explode if she puts her thoughts down on the blog instead of – or maybe in addition to – talking to me about it in person) to give me all kinds of grief over this, and that’s okay, but just hear me out.

I have so much stuff.  Way too much stuff really.  I don’t need more stuff.  And I’m beginning to feel like gifts for the sake of gifts? are just stuff.  It’s stuff I can’t throw away, or give away or return, because if the giver catches wind that I got rid of his gift so that it won’t be just stuff, the giver will get his feelings hurt.  The thing is, if the giver gave me a good gift, then it wouldn’t be just stuff it would be something of value, something I might treasure and therefore, would not get rid of it.  I’m coming to a point where I feel like, if  I don’t need, or didn’t already really want, the item the giver is giving me, it’s actually a burdon.  And because I feel this way, I feel very ambivilant about giving gifts because I don’t want my gifts to be seen that way, and so I’m just adding to the pressure on myself to give good  gifts so that they won’t be just stuff and I’m no good at it.

If you’re like me, though, you buy yourself all the affordable things that you need or really want and it’s the things that you can’t afford that you really want someone to give you, only they can’t really afford it either and so there’s nothing for them to give you because you’ve already bought all the things that people can afford that you want.  It’s a vicious cycle.

I’m not sure, now, where this post was going to go, though I’m certain it was a very different direction.  What I do know, now, though, is…

Give money!

I think that’s what I’m going to do from now on.

If everyone who was going to give me a gift, just gave me money instead, maybe I could pool all that money together and spend it on something I really wanted, like an iPad or a new television instead of a box of pears and a —  Well, I don’t know what else, because I really only expect to get one other gift and I have no idea what it will be…  probably Glee DVDs.

Apparently, Michelle was going to buy me a new printer since the one I had doens’t work with my new-ish computer…  But I bought myself one on Saturday so now she has to come up with something else.  Way to go, me!  But in “me’s” defense, Michelle stood right there and watched it happen and didn’t say anything until we got back to her house with it.  She could have stopped me.

OH!  I know where I was going with all that!

I’ve been struggling for the last several days with the idea of gratitude and appreciation vs. expectations and dissappointment.

When I opened the box of Moose Munch, I was dissapointed that my mother sent me what amounts to caramel corn and chocolate chips.  (You Moose Munch enthusiast can just back-off.  I’ve never had it and I can’t eat it for at least another two weeks and probably six.)  It’s food.  She sent me food for Christmas.  I can afford to buy my own food so this didn’t fill a need.  A quick glance at the Harry & David website tells me she probably spent close to $30.00 on this caramel corn and chocolate chips.  Plus she sent the pears and cheese.  Another $40.00? At least it is food and will go away.  It’s not just stuff.

On the other hand, there were lots of years when she didn’t give me anything.

So I can’t help but wonder…  Am I making too much out of this?  Is it really “the thought that counts”?  Am I just ungrateful?  Is it my own fault for having too high expectations when I find out someone sent me anything at all?

Then again, it occurs to me that since I can’t remember any of the gifts I did get when I was a kid, and more often than not, I can’t remember a few months later what I gave anyone or what anyone gave to me…  Maybe it is the thought that counts…

The truth is, I’m feeling simultaneously grateful and dissapointed, I just would like to open a package and just be delighted by what I find.  But the fact that I feel grateful and dissapointed at the same time is soemthing in itself.  I’m certainly not accustomed to the ability to acknowledge two contradictory feelings at the same time.

By the way, the pears are awesome, much to my surprise.