Power of positivity

I’m not like Iggy Azalea. I’m not fancy.

My closet is about the size of my big toenail. For real though, I am constantly purging clothing because there just isn’t anywhere to store it. I’ve already taken over my seven-year-old son’s closet with my “part-time TV gig clothing”. My clothing closet is likely meant to store a couple of winter coats and old bridesmaids dresses, but it’s currently a healthy combination of flannel shirts, various gray sweaters in 50 different shades (ok, maybe more like 11), sweatshirts and Ohana gear. I have closet envy whenever I see a closet that is the size of my bathroom. Bad example. Most walk-in closets are bigger than my bathroom. You know what I mean… those closets you can “walk-in” to. Why am I envious? Is it because of their ability to organize their stuff so nicely, or because they can do a pirouette between their color-coordinated blouses and shoe shelves? I remind myself that having more space often leads to having more stuff; which isn’t always a good thing, as I have learned from 2 men who decided to change their lifestyle.

I recently watched “Minimalism” on Netflix, and was so inspired by their desire to live more freely with less material objects. In an effort to help people end their obsession with stuff, minimalists Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus share that, “Minimalism is a tool that can assist you in finding freedom. Freedom from fear. Freedom from worry. Freedom from overwhelm. Freedom from guilt. Freedom from depression. Freedom from the trappings of the consumer culture we’ve built our lives around. Real freedom.”

Sounds magical, doesn’t it? Who would have thought that getting rid of material things and living more simply would bring freedom. They share that, “Minimalists don’t focus on having less, less, less. We focus on making room for more: more time, more passion, more creativity, more experiences, more contribution, more contentment, more freedom. Clearing the clutter from life’s path helps make that room.”

I need to be clear: I am certainly not a minimalist. I store my pots and pans in my oven because I don’t have any room in my kitchen cabinets. In my defense, I don’t have many cabinets. But, I am inspired by the message and working hard everyday to live more fully with less things.

Watching “Tiny House Nation” with my kids has been a real eye-opener, too. It’s amazing how people can downsize so drastically and find themselves happier than ever before. My kids keep saying “We want to live in a tiny house!” Dude, we already do! It’s like a human pinball machine over here. I easily get wrapped up in what I need to have to feel complete or accomplished as a homeowner (I talk more about my garage envy here). Yet, I think these shows serve as a healthy reminder to change the conversation that our consumer-driven society is having. Change our focus from “I’m better & more successful with a big house and lots of expensive stuff” to “I’m better & more successful with the happiness in my life and the people I share it with.” I try to always look at my home as the cozy place where we get to share memories, holidays, life. It’s not much, it’s not fancy, and I will be making a dining room table out of my kids’ 2 desks for Thanksgiving because we don’t have a table to sit at. Nor do we have a dining room. I don’t even have matching dinner plates or fine china (because I’m not fancy) so I got some matching ones at the Dollar Tree. And, I got some plastic champagne flutes. Boom. Done.

This Thanksgiving holiday, we will all be minimizing what we normally enjoy due to COVID-19. Let’s turn our perspective towards all the many wonderful moments we get to share and enjoy. In Josh & Ryan’s words: Minimalism is the thing that gets us past the things so we can make room for life’s important things—which aren’t things at all. Happy Thanksgiving to you & all the many things you have that aren’t things at all.

Power of positivity

A timeline of my teeth and a lesson in perspective.

Let’s take a little trip down memory lane. The memories aren’t all sunshine & rainbows, because we’re going to be looking closely at my dental journey. Sounds boring, right?

Buckle your seatbelt. It’s a bumpy ride.

1985: I was born. I didn’t have any teeth.

1991-ish: Do you remember buying shoes at Caldor and they were always attached with a piece of plastic? I was about 6 years old when I realized losing a tooth meant money from the tooth fairy (cha-ching!) so I would hide behind furniture and use that plastic piece to pull my teeth out. I think I “lost” 4 in one week. Had I known that at age 34 I would be getting my permanent teeth pulled, I probably would have reconsidered. And, I apparently had not yet learned about entrepreneurship and that a lemonade stand at my parents annual tag sale would have been more lucrative.

This was me, in 2nd grade. Mrs. Goulding’s class. It was Halloween ( in case that wasn’t obvious) and that was not a wig, nor my attempt at witchy looking hair. That was just my hair. And my teeth pre-braces.

A year later… got the hair under control, sort of. And, all of my baby teeth are gone (because I yanked them all out).

1996: There wasn’t a question of if; it was when. The time was now. I was 10 years old and I got my braces. Funny that I used to want braces so badly that I would take bubble gum and put it across my teeth and stick earring backs to it. Yes, really. That’s what 8 year olds did before youtube & iPads.

On the left: Me with braces in 1996.

On the right: Lord Farquaad from Shrek.

Uncanny resemblance.

Me with my “brace face”… smiling big because I probably just had a dance party in my room, rockin’ out to “100% Pure Love” by Crystal Waters that I recorded from the radio on a cassette tape.

2000: After 4 years, I finally get my braces off. I smiled all the time; I felt pretty & confident for the first time in my life.

2004: I was chewing on a pencil while studying for an exam at Wagner College on Staten Island, and my back left molar breaks in half. I immediately drive 3 hours home to see my dentist. I get a root canal and a crown.

2007: I was smiling and dancing at my Mom’s zumba studio in Holyoke, when I looked in the mirror and noticed my bottom tooth was black. I thought I was hallucinating. I looked like a pirate. Turns out, a blood vessel popped underneath my tooth and the blood turned my tooth black. I had a root canal on that tooth and had it internally bleached 3 times.

2008: I didn’t wear my retainer as often as I should have (important lesson learned for anyone getting braces off!) So, my teeth shifted… and I got invisalign for 2 years.

2018: My back molar (the one that cracked and had a crown) had to get extracted due to an infection, and I had to get a flipper while the bone healed. If you didn’t know, a flipper is essentially a fake tooth that clips in. I called it my Glade plug-in. After 3 months with a missing tooth, I got a mini dental implant and a permanent tooth was put in.

2019: I feel like I have a loose tooth, so I get it checked out (no, I didn’t yank it out because the tooth fairy goes MIA when you turn 18). Turns out, I have another bone infection above the tooth next to my implant. I see an endodontist to have an apicoectomy (gum surgery) and have the infection cleaned up.

June 2020: The infection comes back. I have to get the tooth extracted, get a bone graft due to significant bone loss, get another flipper (glade plug-in 2.0), wait 3 months and get another implant. In the meantime, I order a tooth replacement kit on Etsy for $20 because my flipper didn’t fit great. Worked like a charm. Who knew?

That’s the black hole of bone loss caused from years of orthodontic work, tooth movement & infection.

Today: Thursday, October 29th, 2020, I went to the periodontist to get my implant put in. I assumed this meant that I would also be getting rid of the flipper and would be getting my permanent tooth installed. Big day!!
Turns out, the bone graft didn’t take. I had to get more artificial bone put in around the screw that was implanted in hopes that it will heal around the implant. And, I have to wait and wear the flipper for another 3 months.

X-ray taken today. The screw on the left is the implant that was just installed. The right is my implant from 2 years ago. I guess you could say I’m all screwed up.
If you look closely you can see my plug-in, Glade. Not to be confused with my boyfriend, Wade.

So, I cried in the chair. I cried because I am tired of clipping this tooth in everyday, after already having been through this once before. I’m tired of not smiling big out of fear that people will wonder “what the heck is that pink stuff” stuck above my tooth. I hated the sound of the drill, vibrating into my bone. In 34 years, I’ve seen a dentist, an orthodontist, an endodontist, a periodontist… how many dontists are there?
I hated that I have gone through so much with my damn teeth. I was angry and feeling sorry for myself. Until I checked myself up, gave myself a pep talk about perspective and was reminded of this analogy:

You are standing in a field, all alone. It’s cold. It’s raining. You are soaking wet. In the distance you see a tornado coming at you. What do you do? You run. You don’t even care that it’s raining, or you are cold, or that you are alone. You have bigger problems.

Now, take away the tornado. You are alone, it’s cold, it’s raining and you are soaking wet. You cry because you wish it would stop raining. That’s your biggest problem.

Now, take away the rain. You are alone, it’s cold. You cry because you are cold. That’s your biggest problem.

Now, take away the cold. You are alone. You cry because you are alone. That’s your biggest problem. However, none of these other problems even phased you when you had a tornado coming your direction. Our problems seem so big if we neglect to be grateful for what we do have.

If I had some of the problems that so many people are unfortunately living: job loss, loss of a loved one, a terrifying diagnosis, house fire… this tooth would be no big deal. Of course, we are all allowed to feel sadness, despair, frustration and feel sorry for ourselves. We are human. But as I came home to my 2 kids, safe and healthy, my warm home, a comfy couch, a cozy blanket and friends and family offering to help me out, I realized I can live another 3 months with this damn plug-in tooth, because I have so many blessings that far outweigh the negative. And it’s very ironic… a compliment that I often get is “you have really nice teeth.” If you ONLY knew. And now you do. And guess what? Teeth or no teeth, I will never stop smiling, because I get to live another day above ground. And because I no longer look like Lord Farquaad.

Power of positivity

If only I could park my car in my garage.

Jealousy. What causes us to feel this? And why does it seem to consume us and eat us up inside? I remember feeling lots of jealousy growing up.

Jealous of the girls with clear skin. Jealous of the dancers who were naturally flexible. Jealous of Linnea Bauer who always got a 110 on her tests. I mean, how did she ALWAYS get 10 points over perfect?! And, she was tall. Talk about double whammy of jealousy.

In many ways, those jealous feelings are what motivated me to work harder and be a better version of myself; as a person, dancer and student. It had me doing my splits to improve my flexibility, studying hard to get an over-perfect score on my test. I tried every acne medication to help me clear up my skin (literally, everything. Props to my parents for that). Can you remember back to what made you feel waves of jealousy as a teen growing up?! Funny how those things seem so silly now, but how important they were to us then. And, how they helped shape who we are today.

Fast forward to adult life: I still feel jealousy, not as frequently or as often… but about the most ridiculous things.

What am I jealous of now?

People who don’t have to clip a tooth in everyday. Broadway stars with voices that fill your soul with their power (though I do pretend I have the voice of an angel when I’m belting out show-tunes in the car). People who don’t have bunions (#dancerlife). Those who have the willpower to say no to a Wendy’s Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger with fries and a Diet Coke. Cars parked in a garage.

Do you hear how crazy that sounds?

Cars parked in a garage.

Whenever I drive by a house and see their cars parked IN their garage, I get jealous. Am I jealous of the cars because they look so cozy tucked in there? Am I jealous that the homeowner doesn’t have a slew of bikes, buckets, firewood and plastic lawn ornaments cluttering their garage? Maybe I’m jealous of their sheetrock walls with perfectly organized shelves. Why does it give me a feeling of not being good enough?

I’ve been obsessing over it and have made it my mission to clean out my garage, just to park my damn car in there. And then, of course, garage-envy leads to shed-envy which leads to shed-location envy which leads to how-is-their-grass-so-green envy which then makes me green with envy… it’s a vicious cycle! So, when I finally do park my car in my garage, will it make my life better? Will I be happier? I finally checked myself and changed my perspective. I now look at my garage as what I want to define it as: a tiny home for all the fun toys, gadgets, bikes, decorations and remote control cars that will bring us countless memories to cherish. My car is currently parked in the driveway and will be for the foreseeable future.

Funny how we can’t just be content with what is. All these things we wish we had or could do. But, look at all we do have; the blessings all around us.

I’ve done a lot of self-work, read a lot of books about focusing on what matters and have really discovered what it means to be happy and content with what I have. I have posted quotes on my vision board about how “we spend so much time worrying about what we don’t have that we forget about what we do have.” I’ve found so much truth in the blessings and fulfillment that “community over competition” brings. I’ve had the realization that I may not have everything I want or need right now, but what I’ve got is pretty damn amazing. We’re human, jealousy happens. But let’s check ourselves when it does. What we do and don’t have, eat, wear and own doesn’t define us. We define us. And that is a beautiful thing. 💛