Archive | December, 2012

The Truth about Santa Claus

22 Dec

I clearly remember the day that I discovered the truth about Santa Claus.

Obviously I had my suspicions about the whole thing, or I wouldn’t have known that I needed to sneak behind my parents’ backs and get to the bottom of this question. So, one afternoon, I went down to the back of the house and pushed open a vent that opened up into the basement and saw two blue bicycles (one for me and one for my sister) each with a banana seat and a sissy bar, and the awesome world globe that I wanted. WOW! Just what I had asked Santa for and he had stored them at my house…hey, wait a minute! Santa Claus is not some fat man with a white beard and red clothes but Santa Claus is (are?) my parents!!!

Most of the time when I hear folks’ stories about how they discovered “there is no Santa,” it is coupled with a lot of disappointment. Or even anger. They are angry that their parents had tricked them, sad that their fantasy world was shattered.

I never felt that way. I was THRILLED. I now knew a secret that only my parents and I were privy to in our household. I was now a keeper of the secret that my younger sister and brother still believed. I loved knowing something and being on that end of the surprise. This was great news to me. It was almost as if I was now part of Santa Claus’ team.

I recently told this story to Professorgrrl who said this about my discovery: “You discovered that the secret is that WE are the ones who bring the gifts, who offer the care, who share the love.”

At the age of 7 or 8, I am sure I wouldn’t have been able to put my feelings into those words, but I think she hit the nail on the head. Giving gifts and showing love is not about “magic Christmas dust” as Professorgrrl put it, but it is where the rubber hits the road. We get to BE the Santa, no matter our size or shape, whether or not we are abled or less-abled. We show love to others and we share our gifts as a response to the Love that has been shone to us.

Messiah Moravian sanctuary

Copyright S.G. Hunter and Banjogrrldiaries, 2012-2017


Christmas themes

17 Dec

I just can’t help myself. I cannot enter the Christmas season without thinking about…you’ve probably guessed this already…teeth. Oh, you mean you don’t associate Christmas with teeth? Hmm…how can you not?

I guess it started w…a…y… back in my childhood with that old Christmas favorite, “All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth.” Remember that song, sung by a kid with a prominent lisp due to missing his two front teeth? I may even still have that little 45 rpm record in my collection somewhere. If I don’t have it, my sister has it in a box in her garage.

I guess that’s where the association started. Then, from there, it moved to my absolute favorite Christmas TV show, “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Poor Hermey the Elf…he was such a misfit because he wanted to be a dentist, NOT a toy maker for Santa Claus. No wonder he and Rudolph bonded…both were expected to fit into society’s expectations for their life and career paths, and they just could not. And, then of course, I couldn’t help but feel terrible for poor Bumble the Abominable Snow Monster who was constantly in a very foul mood due to his, you guessed it, toothache.

I imagine that many XLH-ers can relate to the Misfit theme AND the bad teeth theme, since we not only have to deal with the challenges of being under-tall and the other bone challenges, but the added challenge of getting a mouthful of…well, problems. And so, Christmas time comes around and I’m thinking about teeth. My teeth, Bumble’s teeth and that poor kid who’s missing his two front teeth. We are not alone.

Now, my dentist actually has said to me that XLH-ers are no more likely to have tooth problems than Mercedes-Benz owners. The day he said that to me I thought, “Only people with good teeth probably own Mercedes Benz’s since they haven’t had to spend so much money on their teeth!” Anyway, I didn’t argue with him when he made that declaration because, well, I just love my dentist. He’s no Hermey, of course…he’s very tall, and not elf-like at all, but he’s hilarious and makes me laugh in a show-my-teeth kind of way, which I usually try not to do. But, thanks to my dentist, the childhood Christmas-is-all-about-teeth theme is still a prominent theme in my adulthood.

It started sort of like this…I was at a routine visit, sometime in the fall a couple of years ago, and he discovered I needed yet another crown. So, that year, sometime around Christmas, all I got for Christmas was a crowned back tooth. Anyway, since he knew I was a banjo-picker, he told me that he would love to learn some Christmas carols on the banjo and asked if I would teach him. I said sure, just as long as he didn’t want to learn “O Little Town of Bethlehem.”

Don’t get me wrong…that is a beautiful song. But it has a ridiculous number of chords in it, and since it only gets played a couple of times a year in the month of December, I can never remember the chords. Whenever I have been asked to accompany Christmas carolers with my guitar, I always say, “Please don’t sing ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’ because I don’t remember the chords and I can’t see the music out here in the dark.” Great song, but I have to relearn it every year.

Anyway, Dr. Tooth, which I will call him for the sake of his privacy, said, “Well, then, THAT’S the Christmas carol I want to learn on the banjo! I will pay you for lessons and I want you to teach me that song.”

Well, of course, I could find no arrangements for “O Little Town of Bethlehem” on the banjo. No books or cd’s for banjo had that song at that time. So, I wrote an arrangement for the banjo. I kept it simple, feeling very sure that he could learn my arrangement. I even wrote it in tablature, since he couldn’t read music. (Tablature, in case you’ve never heard of this, is a system of writing music that is a very simple chart that one can read to know which string to play and which fret to press on a banjo.)

We worked on this for several weeks. I met him at his office, and we sat out in the lobby, plunking out this familiar tune on an instrument that you usually don’t associate with quiet, sweet, melodic Christmas carols. And let me tell you…I have succeeded in a lot of things in my life, but teaching Dr. Tooth how to play “O Little Town of Bethlehem” on the banjo is not one of them.

So, just last week, I went to see Dr. Tooth for my 6-month check-up. I guess I should mention that LAST December, right before Christmas, I had another tooth that decided to kill itself. I am not kidding, either. It’s called resorption and there are two types: external resorption and internal resorption. In external resorption, the tooth attacks itself from the outside and works towards the inside. In internal resorption, the tooth attacks itself from the inside and works its way out. It really sounds to me like some kind of video game invented by dentists, but he said that though it’s very unusual, he had seen it before. (I think he said I had internal resorption, not external. External resorption is generally the result of an injury.) Anyway, he sent me to someone else to have him pull that tooth, and low and behold, when the oral surgeon was done, he said, “You should go back to your dentist today, if possible and let him take another look. The tooth behind the one I just pulled out is probably going to have to come out, too. Same problem.”

So, I went a few days later and Dr. Tooth agreed that it would eventually have to come out, too. That was a year ago. It’s still hanging in there, but last week Dr. Tooth said we should go ahead and just schedule to pull it out and what was I waiting for? I told him that I knew it had a silver filling in it and I was waiting for the price of silver to go up a little more before he pulled it out. He didn’t buy that. Oh well. Here we go again. Another December tooth event to add to my list.

Of course, while I was there and since we’re in the Christmas season, he said he really wished he had been able to play “O Little Town of Bethlehem” on the banjo with all those lessons I’d given him. I told him that I felt like I had failed him as banjo teacher, since I had not been able to teach him that song. “Oh no,” he said, “I just couldn’t get my fingers to work right. It’s not your fault. Using my fingers to play the banjo is a different muscle movement than using them to pull teeth.” That is true, but still, still, still…I wonder, as I wander.

Now, every December, every Christmas season, I think of teeth. Hermey, Bumble and his toothache and subsequent bad mood, the singing kid with the missing two front teeth, my disintegrating teeth that tend to need attention in December and my crowned teeth, my dentist and “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” It’s all there. I have told Dr. Tooth that eventually we all end up eating mashed potatoes, so what’s a few missing teeth (as long as they’re mostly in the back.) It worked for Bumble, who now has a very charming smile and no teeth, thanks to Hermey‘s dentistry skills. And I love mashed potatoes.

And my dentist. And “O Little Town of Bethlehem.”

O Little Town of Bethlehem in Banjo Tablature

Should you have the misfortune of having a banjo-picker in your life, here’s a little last-minute stocking stuffer for him or her. If there’s a big enough demand for it, I might even post a recording.

Copyright S.G. Hunter and Banjogrrldiaries, 2012-2017




4 Dec

I have been inspired to write about physical disabilities today. Unfortunately, the inspiration came from a neighbor who recently had a fall…in front of my house!

The day after Thanksgiving, my neighbor informed Professorgrrl that a couple weeks prior, she had tripped over an uneven section of the sidewalk in front of our house, late at night when she was walking her dog. Her fall landed her in the emergency room with cuts on her face and knees and a sprain in her ankle. She wanted Professorgrrl to know about this in case we wanted to call the city and let them know of the accident and that she had “taken photos” of the sidewalk where she fell. She said that in her hometown up north, if two people fell in a particular section of sidewalk, the city would take action to repair the sidewalk. But, two people have to get hurt before they will do anything…

Professorgrrl is VERY passionate when it comes to the subject of access for people with physical disabilities. She recently bought a car specifically because it would hold her, me, her mother and her mother’s walker at the same time, so that we could all go to church together. One of the reasons that she chose this particular church to attend is because the handicapped access was so easy…there is parking in front right at the door, a ramp, a place to park the walker and wide aisles in the sanctuary. She is also considering getting a new hair stylist for her mother because the handicapped entrance at the current beauty shop is through a narrow back door that leads into the break room where the hairstylists are hanging out between appointments and not real interested in moving their butts out of the way when “Mama” comes through with her walker. We’ve found another place that has a very nice ramp into the front of the building, and so we’re going to check it out. If this new stylist doesn’t cut “Mama’s” hair as well the stylist at the other shop, though, then we’ll keep taking her to the place with poor access, since for “Mama” beauty trumps convenience.

Professorgrrl is also sensitive about this because she knows that I have been known to stumble or fall when my legs or knees aren’t cooperating. And just as an aside, last year on one of our early morning dog-walks, I tripped over some uneven section of the sidewalk about this time of the year. I remember that because I was wearing a hoodie. I clearly remember the sidewalk rapidly advancing towards my face as I was falling forward when all of a sudden, I felt a hard pull on the neck of my hoodie and I stopped in mid-air, my face inches from the sidewalk. Professorgrrl had caught me by the hoodie mid-fall and stopped the fall before its potentially painful conclusion. That was the strangest feeling I have ever had. It was as if some angel had reached down from the heavens and rescued me from a LOT of pain. I am pretty sure I would have broken a knee or two or something, but fortunately, I did not.

Unfortunately for my neighbor, though, there was no one to catch her before she hit the ground one night a couple of weeks ago when she tripped on the sidewalk. And this has really made me think about how I am very unaware of some of these dangers for others who are unsuspecting because I am usually so extra careful, that I often pay excessive attention to every step I take, including those in front of the house. It had never really occurred to me to call the city to repair those sections, because I know they are there and know to be very careful. Another neighbor, who was curious as to why the city was spending so much time in front of my house, was not surprised when I told her they were replacing two sections of the sidewalk. She said she always warned her granddaughter to be careful and not run on the sidewalks on our block because they are so uneven.

So, I realized that because I now scrutinize every place where I’m about to place my feet, I have assumed that others do the same. That’s just not the case. They’ve not needed to think about whether or not they’ve lifted their feet high enough or if they can catch themselves and keep themselves from falling.

I wonder if, perhaps, most people, like my neighbor who fell, go along in life for 60 years or so and one day find out that they are not as sure-footed as they used to be. They may trip and almost fall, or they might actually fall and all of a sudden, they might think, “Oh. I didn’t see that thing that tripped me up.” Or, “Oh, I’m a little stiff today and I guess I didn’t step up high enough.” We all probably do it. One day you’re going along and can read size 8 font and then all of a sudden, one day you realize you need a size 18 font to read comfortably or, worse, reading glasses, a magnifier and a flashlight.

I have never been extremely sure-footed, and am getting less sure-footed with age, and as a result, it never occurred to me that perhaps I ought to look around and notice the sidewalks in my neighborhood that might trip SOMEONE ELSE up…someone who doesn’t realize how treacherous old sidewalks in an old neighborhood can be and hasn’t constantly monitored their every step before they take it, because they didn’t need to.

The GOOD news is, Professorgrrl called the city last Monday, and on Tuesday morning, they were out there at 9 AM pulling up five bad sections of sidewalk…two in front of my house and three in front of the church next door. On Wednesday, they had poured concrete into the forms they had made for the sections in front of the church. On Thursday, they came and poured black asphalt in the sections in front of my house. I was informed that this was something new the city was trying…where the sidewalk sections are crumbling and being raised up by tree roots (planted in the median by the city) they are pouring asphalt (which has more “give” to it than concrete, and won’t crack as much as concrete will as those tree roots continue to grow). This Monday morning, one week after the phone call, they sealed the asphalt sections and painted those sections to look like concrete. They also filled in dirt, planted grass seed and spread hay where they had dug around to replace the sections in front of the church building.

Sidewalk repairs- asphalt with sealantSidewalk repairs- asphalt with sealant

I have to say I was impressed with the speed in which they made this repair. I guess nothing says “fix this ASAP” like “emergency room” and “took photos of the sidewalk.” The new sections look great. In fact, they look so good, I wish they had gone ahead and replaced the entire length of our property so it would all match. But, that’s the Martha Stewart side of me coming out. I thanked the guys last week for coming out so quickly but now I even feel inspired to call the city transportation department and thank them for making our little section of the block safer. In fact, I’m thinking that I may also encourage them to take a look around the neighborhood at several other spots that I have now noticed are actually as bad or worse than those sections they repaired in front of my house. I hate the thought of more neighbors having to take a fall before the city does something about this. I thought about all the neighbors on my block…the youngest one is 50 years old. We’re not getting any younger on this street and changes in our mobility will likely occur…hopefully we won’t become disabled, but likely we will become “less-abled” or “differently-abled.” We XLH-ers have perhaps gotten an early start in that department, but we’re certainly not alone. And there are many folks out there who have it much worse.

Sidewalk repairs- painted asphaltLooks like concrete…but it’s not. It’s painted asphalt. Martha Stewart would not approve.

So, I am now reminded that I need to look around and think more of those around me who might not be aging so gracefully. Professorgrrl’s mom often complains of back pain, something new that she has acquired in her senior years, and is convinced, to hear her tell it, that no one has suffered like she is suffering with her back pain. For her, this may be true, because SHE has never suffered like she is now suffering. It’s new to her, and it has come as a shock to her system. It’s not just the pain she feels…it’s the shock and sense that her body has now betrayed her in painful ways that she never imagined.

That’s just not the case for me. I have always imagined it. Something about wearing braces as a child gets into your psyche, I guess. I have always imagined that I would end up as physically challenged as I was when I wore those stiff metal and leather leg braces when I was four years old. That thought was reinforced to me when I was 22 years old, a recent college graduate, and my parents presented me with a life insurance policy after I had gotten my first job and said, “Sign these papers for this insurance policy. We think you should have it, because it has a disability clause should you ever become unable to work and support yourself.” The thought occurred to me that maybe they knew something I didn’t know. So, it has not especially been that huge of a deal to have some new pain or physical challenge, because I have always assumed that I had it coming.

But for Professorgrrl’s mom…it’s all new and a huge slap in the face! She is not aging very gracefully and it took a lot of convincing just to get her to start using a walker. Of course her dad also had a unique perspective on physical pain, which I have always found to be somewhat amusing. It was pretty much this: “When the doctor asks you to rate your pain on a scale of one to ten, always choose a nine or a ten. That way, you’ll get the most medication you can get for your money. Maybe even some free samples.” He loved a good bargain.

So, I have a new resolution for myself. When I take my morning walks, I need to pay attention and view the sidewalks from others’ points of view. Are they wheelchair accessible? (I have seen two neighbors over the years who used the sidewalks for a daily outing in their wheelchairs, one of them even walking her dog as she drove her electric wheelchair. Accessibility not only includes safe sidewalks, but there should not be any tree branches that would impede a person in a wheelchair.) Are they accessible for someone with a walker? (I’ve seen one elderly neighbor who used to take walks with his walker on our sidewalks.) Are they baby-stroller accessible? (One huge bump might send a baby flying out of there!) Can you walk on them at night safely? (That might include making sure all the street lamps have working bulbs. Seeing an uneven section of sidewalk before you walk over it may prevent an accidental fall.) These are all things I need to think about…things that will make my neighborhood “walking-friendly” and safe for my neighbors, most of whom I like.

Tucker the Beagle and Deacon the Jack Russell Terrier, would also add: “Is our path free of all things that might otherwise prevent my humans from safely walking me every single morning without fail, through rain, sleet or snow?”

We all know that they are only thinking of me and Professorgrrl and not themselves, of course.

Dogs_and_shadowsSafety patrol

Copyright S.G. Hunter and Banjogrrldiaries, 2012-2017