Lee is probably not her real name.  Well, maybe it’s an Anglicized version of Li.  I don’t know and I’ve never asked.  In my mind’s eye I simply spelled it “Lee.”

Lee is the owner of the dry cleaners where I take my spouse’s shirts, where I used to take my “work wardrobe” when I had one. It’s not the most convenient to our home; it’s near the grocery store we used to frequent when we first moved to town and that was the only grocery store.  Now we have a choice of five or six, and I rarely head that far south on the main road.

It may not be the least expensive or best quality.  We have a choice of five or six dry cleaners in town, too, but I’ve never tried them.  Because Lee offers the best customer service. She is always upbeat, asks about my kids, is willing to hem a skirt on the same day if I need it immediately, and holds my forgotten items for months without holding a grudge.

She never needs to see the ticket.  As I pull my van into the parking lot she pulls my clothes from the rack.  By the time I enter the store, she’s already punching numbers into her ancient calculator.  When  I can’t get there and my spouse stops by to pick up his shirts, she asks after my health.  Her sociability makes stopping by the dry cleaners my most enjoyable errand.

In Mandarin Chinese, the surname Li means “minister.” How fitting it would be if that is the origin of her name, because Lee ministers to the residents of our town.  In Hebrew, “lee” is the first-person, possessive pronoun; it means “to me” or “mine.”  This, too, is a fitting description of her.  Although I am pretty sure that Lee provides friendly, personal service to each of her regular customers, over the years I’ve come to regard her as MY dry cleaner.


Dental Delusions


How long have I been sitting in this chair? I should have worn a watch.  I’m sure there is no clock in this room because some consultant—the same one who told my dentist to paint the walls a soothing shade of purple—thinks a clock will cause patients undue stress.

My body clock is sounding an alarm: Your “five minutes” is up!

She enters the room, maintaining her comfortably slow pace.

“Okay, open your mouth, please.”


I smile, happy to oblige.

There is a long pause.

I shake my head slightly and try to speak: “I can’t open.”

In my brain I can hear myself enunciate each word clearly, but my ears detect only a gurgling noise, followed by a choked cry. I feel my eyes widen in panic.

She picks up on my non-verbal cues and pats my arm gently.

“Yes, you can. Just pull them apart.”

And I do.

“Oh! But I thought they were stuck.”

“A lot of people think that,” she reassures me.

I wonder what causes this delusion.  Is it a side effect of the topical anesthetic? Perhaps she is just being kind because I’m a nervous wreck.  Looking up to assess her motives, I see that she is waiting patiently for me to leave.

“You’re all finished for now. We’ll call you when the permanent crown comes in.”

I’m getting a crown, but I don’t feel particularly regal.  I suspect that some drool has escaped my numb lips and is headed for my chin, maintaining its comfortably slow pace.

I push myself out of the chair, feeling a vague ache in my lower back.  How long was it, really? Long enough to make my back sore; long enough that my jaw will be stiff for hours after the Novocain wears off.

She escorts me to the door. “Do you want some Advil?”

And I do.

But I tell her, “No, thanks. I’ll take some at home.”

Is she delusional? How can I swallow a pill if I can’t feel my mouth?!

Driving home, I marvel at the trick my brain played on the rest of my skull.  I was utterly convinced that my jaw—clenched on the gooey substance used to take impressions—was sealed shut.  My anxiety became my reality.

Reaching up from the steering wheel, I rub the side of my face, which is still quite numb from the Novocain.

I just wanted to make sure it was still there.


Mumford & Moms


I am about to reveal a “bad mother” moment, and I fully expect to receive a call or Facebook message from my spouse as soon as this post goes live.  Nevertheless, I choose to share my story in the hopes that you will avoid a similar fate.

* * * * * * *

I love to listen to music and I have pretty eclectic taste.  Although not a fan of country, rap or “screamo,” I enjoy and appreciate the work of individual artists in any genre.  Occasionally, when I hear a relatively unknown artist featured on NPR, I download his or her latest song to my iPod.  I especially revel in sharing these discoveries with my teenage daughters.  You know, so they will see how cool I am…until this recent incident, I thought I was a cool mom.

I am driving the Mom Van one morning—taking my two younger children to school—when my 14 year old daughter asks if she can play music. She sits beside me—in the passenger seat that is also DJ’s mission control—and plugs in her iPod.

“You know,” she says casually, as she scrolls through her playlist, “that you downloaded the explicit version of that Mumford & Sons song.”

I bristle at her accusation. I always check the iTunes description for “explicit language” warnings.

“Which song is that?” I ask in my most innocent tone. The van is cruising along, but I am stalling.

“Little Lion Man.  It drops the F-bomb in the chorus,” she chides me, clearly enjoying her role in this morning’s drama.

My 10 year old son stifles a laugh—a guffaw, really—from his seat in the back row of the Mom Van.  Usually he complains that he can’t hear us talking, but he doesn’t miss a word of this exchange.

I run through the lyrics in my head: “I really f*@$!ed it up this time, didn’t I my dear?”

Yes, I did.  Swiftly, I choose a new strategy and launch my cross-examination.

“Is it on your iPod?! Has your brother listened to it?!”

“Don’t worry,” she replies calmly. “He just changes it to ‘I really messed it up’ when he sings it.”

“Yeah, it’s not big deal,” my son agrees. Then he adds, “We’ve heard you say that word plenty of times.”

I glance in the rearview mirror to see my little lion man’s widening grin.

“Well, we need to delete that song.” I smile and attempt to regain my composure. “We can see if there’s a radio version.”

This is unlikely.  Mumford & Sons are alternative and British; and they are VERY cool.

It’s clear to me now that I’m NOT a cool mom.  I’m not sure I’m a competent mom. Among my many mistakes is my occasional use of profanity, even when I know that my children may be within earshot.

Best parenting lesson I learned from my kids:  They listen to my words as carefully as they do any song lyrics.

As we pull into the carpool line, I wonder if Mumford kisses his Mom with that mouth. I unplug my daughter’s iPod as they exit the Mom Van and NPR’s Morning Edition fills the space around me.  Maybe I’ll learn something on the ride home, too.