Wish Me Luck

Open Wide

Open Wide

My sixth dentist in four years
The first one botched a crown,
then wanted to put a filling in
the jaw where the bone had eroded
I didn’t let him but
now I have a 9mm pocket…

The second did help me.
In the second opinion,
he identified my cross-bite.
You need braces, he said,
to save that tooth.
After being tortured
by his hygienist with the
damned Ultrasound thingy
He examined my teeth
through my new braces
and said: Well, you’ll probably
lose that tooth anyway
but at least your teeth will be straight.
Thanks, Bud…

The third, the periodontist,
was great. After looking at my mouth,
he said: You have a very weird bite.
(Really, that’s exactly what he said)
Get that fixed or anything I would do
won’t last…

The fourth, my orthodontist, is a great guy.
Eighteen months of braces
while listening to me whine,
Then Invisaligns, which I’m still wearing.
My teeth are aligning and it’s a great
weight management program to boot.
He’s been with me through all of this
And I am grateful.
The pocket hasn’t gotten worse,
maybe it’s a little better,
and I still have my tooth…

The fifth was my most recent
general dentist. I didn’t see her much
except for an exam where she
always said: You’re stable.
Hmmm, stable.
I guess that’s better than not.
The thing is, she had her hygienist
do so many superfluous tests on me
that she never had time to actually
clean my teeth, except with the
ultrasound thingy – which now
kills me because my teeth are sensitive
from the braces – even when I begged
her not to…

So why did I go four times?
Maybe loyalty, but mostly inertia.
The thought of going through
interviewing and trying another dentist
and telling my story one more time
is just plain daunting.
But I would never treat my own patients
the way I’ve been treated there…

So here I go again.
I see number six today.
Maybe today is different
Maybe this new guy will listen
Maybe he’ll treat me with respect
and just maybe he’ll be a very good dentist…

Twentieth Anniversary

I Love You

I Love You

My Dear Peter
The love of my life
My Lover
My Companion
My Friend

You love me for who I am
for who I was
and for who I will be.

How can I thank you?
I really can’t,
But I know that today
we celebrate twenty years together.
You’re it!

They Walk Among Us

Veterans. We all know them. My husband is one – Vietnam. My father was one – Korea. My uncle was one – World War II. My office mate is one – Vietnam. My only sister’s only son, my nephew, is now serving in the U.S. Army and while he has not been deployed, in all likelihood he will be. And whether you don’t have a family member or someone you know personally, you do know someone who is a veteran of war. Many serve and then carry on with their lives. And unless they’re asked about it during some related conversation, they never talk about it. They just did what their country required of them, came home and resumed. Forever changed in some way, many ways.

My husband Peter served in the Navy. He was a navigator for a large repair ship anchored in the Mekong river. His ship was one of those that went up the Mekong into Cambodia during the incursion. He rarely talks of his year in that war-torn country. He’s easy going, bright, loving and kind. But one of the few things he has shared with me and others is that when he arrived and settled in on the ship, he noticed the sound of hand grenades being fired every minute – 24/7. And then he explains that it was because anchored ships were targets for mines floating down the river. The grenades were released to detonate those mines before they reached the ship.

While Peter never saw direct combat, the sound of those grenades was a constant reminder of the danger to the ship where he lived and to himself. I think that those exposed to such circumstances, simply learn to live with that danger. They had no choice to do otherwise.

Many have turned the trauma of their war experiences into a career serving others. My friend George, also a Vietnam vet, was in the infantry and saw combat. He also doesn’t like to talk about it and he still jumps at any loud sounds. For many years he suffered from night terrors. It’s my understanding that he still does when he’s stressed. He is a brilliant psychologist and works with those suffering from trauma.

I don’t share these short stories to evoke sympathy for these men. They would not want that from me, you, or anyone else. They served their country. They have made brilliant lives for themselves and their service is now in their past. But the sacrifices they made were great. And many did not come home – they gave the ultimate sacrifice.

This past summer, Peter and I attended a free concert in our home town presented by the U.S. Air Force Falconaires – a great jazz band that travels the country and serves as ambassador for the Air Force. I am not a rah-rah military person in any way. I come from a generation slightly younger than those who actively protested the Vietnam war. And I have to say, that I was not thrilled when my nephew decided to join the Army instead of going to college.

Because our love of jazz, we decided to go and hear the band. The music was fantastic. The members of the band performed in dress uniform. Their talent and program unsurpassed. They played to a full hall and to people of all ages.

At the end of the concert, the band played the anthems for each of the five services. As each anthem was played, men and women stood up throughout the hall. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard – each represented by veterans – so many of them. When my beloved Peter stood up, I cried. The man I live with every day gave so much for his country.

He wouldn’t say it was so much. But it was. And all those in that hall that evening stood with pride, and maybe a little embarrassment, too. To be recognized for something they did, maybe many years ago, maybe just recently.

May we never forget them and may we remember them especially today.

Eric Robillard is one of my favorite bloggers. He writes an often hilarious and often irreverent blog – A Clown on Fire and he’s a really good guy. He and several others – also some of my favorite bloggers are launching a campaign which will be starting in November to raise awareness for men’s health issues. It’s called Movember and to show support, people throughout the blogosphere will be growing mustaches (or sporting fake ones if you’re of a certain gender where you can’t grow one). If you’re interested in joining, check out today’s post on A Clown on Fire. I’ll be joining the festivities and will keep you posted.




Heart Leaf by Cathy Ulrich


I knew I had forgiven you

when you came to me

in a dream.

It had been four years

since your passing.

And for the first time, ever, you came


to see me.

You wanted to know

how my life was.

What was important to me.

Who I had become.

You told me you were proud

to know me.

That you wished that you had tried

to know me

when you lived.

But from the other side

you saw.

Only when I had forgiven,

could you come

to me

and tell me

that you loved me.

©CathyUlrich and LargeSelf, 2012

Stress, Rescue and Confidence

Two Trunkfish by Cathy Ulrich

I have a long-standing policy about diving. That is: I don’t dive where it’s cold and I don’t dive where I can’t see. Last weekend I did both.

Peter and I completed our certification for Diver Stress and Rescue on Saturday. It’s a class that we’ve wanted to take for a long time but never seemed to get around to. We could have done the training on one of our vacation dive trips, but unlike the Deep Water Diver or Night Diver or Boat Diver Certifications, you don’t really get to do much diving.

Stress and rescue training encompasses recognizing stress in divers, preventing stress situations from turning into panic modes, and rescuing divers when panic or accidents do happen. So when Peter asked me if I wanted to schedule the course while we were in the Caribbean, my answer was: “No, I really don’t want to spend my vacation repeatedly fishing your butt out of the water!”

Given those constraints, we decided to do the training here in Fort Collins at our local dive shop, High Plains Scuba. We got our course manuals a few weeks before the class, read them, answered all the study questions and started with classroom work on Thursday. Friday was the pool work – four hours of it. The three of us in class – me, Peter and Tess – learned how to recognize stress in divers and we reviewed basic and advanced dive skills to help us be even more confident in the water.

Greg, our instructor, started the pool class by reviewing things like taking our masks off underwater and recovering our regulators (the device you breathe through). Then we progressed to new skills. We had to take off our masks and breathe through our regulators while our dive buddies guided us in an underwater lap around the pool. Then we learned how to breathe from a free-flowing regulator. This happens when the breathing device gets stuck in an open position so air is surging out so hard that you can’t keep the mouthpiece in your mouth. I had to hold the mouthpiece to the side of my mouth and breathe the large bubbles coming off of it. Again, it was intimidating, but after I got the hang of it, I realized I could do it. All of the skill exercises we did were designed to build confidence and practice in case of an equipment failure.

As the pool practice progressed, we learned how to tow a tired diver to safety, how to subdue a panicked diver, and how to rescue an unconscious diver. Finally we learned how to do search patterns to find a missing diver.

Then the big day came, the open-water part. Remember what I said at the beginning of this post? So, when I dive, here’s what I like to see:

Swim Through by Cathy Ulrich

On Saturday, here’s what I saw.

Okay – by Cathy Ulrich

Not that I mind seeing Peter giving me the “Okay” sign, but this shot was taken about eighteen inches from his face!

Yes, we did our open-water training in our local lake – Horsetooth Reservoir – where the visibility is less than two feet and the water temperature is 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Good luck finding anything in there – much less a missing diver. And just so you know, most of the places where we dive in the Caribbean boast visibilities of 120+ feet and water temps of 85 degrees or higher. We had to borrow wetsuits from the dive shop because ours were not nearly enough protection for the cold water. Our tropical weight suits are 3mm thick so we wore those and then put a long sleeved 7mm suit over them. I felt like the Michelin man. This much neoprene makes it extremely difficult to move! Ok, enough whining.

Greg took us out to into the lake about 50 yards from shore where he had placed what he called a platform – really it was a long PVC pipe attached to buoys and augured into the bottom of the lake. We were to descend down to 15 feet and practice all the skills we had done in the pool the night before. Visibility here was just crazy-bad, but we all three passed those tests. Then we practiced all of the rescue skills on the surface.

Finally, Greg’s assistant Monica (who is training to be a Dive Master) descended to the bottom of the lake and each one of us had to go get her, bring her up and then lead a rescue operation. A funny aside here – we were told not to shout, “Call 911.”  Instead, we just gave a nod to Greg. Apparently a couple of years ago, some people on the beach by the lake heard one of the students say this. They called 911, and by the time the student had gotten the mock victim up from the bottom of the lake, there were multiple emergency vehicles and a helicopter sitting on the beach. Fire Rescue was not amused…

These are just some of the highlights of our training. It was an invigorating day (even with effectively 10mm of wetsuits), but very well worth the time and effort. By learning how to recognize stress in myself, Peter and other divers, it may be possible for us to prevent a dive accident on a future trip. And by practicing rescue strategies, I have a greater sense of confidence about what to do in the case of an emergency. As in any sport that carries risk, the more skill and awareness one learns, the more able one can be to make safe and effective choices.

It’s like life, really. The more I can be present, aware and conscious, the more I can make choices that serve myself and those around me.

And for you landlubbers, here’s a photo of the lake on that beautiful Colorado day.

Horsetooth Reservoir, Fort Collins, Colorado – by Cathy Ulrich



©CathyUlrich and LargeSelf, 2012

Half-made Bed

I love my husband and I love my cats. This is a common occurrence in our house: Peter (and I do appreciate it) makes the bed almost every day. But if there’s a cat either lying on the bed or the decorative pillows on the floor (which we had placed there the night before to remove them from the bed so we could get in it), he either won’t make the bed or he’ll only finish up to the point where he doesn’t have to move a cat.

Cielo loves to occupy the warm spot on the bed that has recently been vacated by me. And either Leo or Cielo will also lay on the pillows on the floor. I’m not in the office today and have been working at the computer this morning, catching up on emails and blog comments. So when I went into the bedroom to get dressed for my run, here’s what I saw.


Leo on Pillows

And this:

Mostly made bed minus the pillows that are underneath Leo

What should I do?

1. Move Leo and finish making the bed?

2. Wait until he moves himself and finish making the bed?

3. Leave the job undone for the rest of the day?

What do you think?