Monday Morning

Last Thursday afternoon, I went to the dentist for a routine checkup.  Regina, the hygienist with gentle hands and a kind demeanor, tried to prepare me. But nothing could stave off the dread when Dr. Gina—after a mere glance at my Xrays—spoke these words:

“No, you can’t wait until July. I need to see you next week. How’s Monday morning?”

She’d been cautiously following the progress of my cracked fillings, waiting until just the right moment to take action.  If we could get crowns on those teeth before the decay advanced too much, I could avoid root canal. After nearly a decade of building a relationship with her, I trust my dentist’s judgment. And I’m not especially interested in getting to know the endodontist.

As I waited to check out, I drew a mental chart to help me evaluate the situation:



need 2 crowns have healthy gums
will need 3rd within a year will likely avoid root canal
2 hr follow-up appointment competent dentist
Passover with temporary teeth Dental insurance pays 80%


I felt frustration build as I reviewed the column on the left.  Why bother to keep my mouth and gums healthy if I’m just going to need crowns on all my molars?! Then I forced myself to look to the right and focus on the positive. I realized that I’ve been chewing on the right side of my mouth for three months—knowing full well that this verdict was coming—and I remembered this teaching of the ancient rabbis:

“One is obligated to bless for the bad just as he would bless for the good…whatever measure God metes out to you, thank Him exceedingly.” (Mishnah Berakhot 9:5)

Yes, I was disappointed to learn that, despite considerable routine maintenance, I still needed to spend at least another 2 hours in the dentist’s chair. But I was awash in gratitude that I have reasonably healthy gums and that the out-of-pocket expense would be reasonably low.

As the receptionist confirmed my appointment for Monday morning, I smiled broadly and added one more item to my chart. Same item, both columns: my rebellious spirit.

I figured that if I was getting new teeth anyway I might as well indulge over the weekend.  So I stopped at Target to buy a pack of gum—the sticky, NOT sugar-free stuff that I never chew.  I knew I could finish it over the weekend and erase the evidence by Monday morning, when I would thank God exceedingly.

juicy fruit web


I Have a Crush on the Science Teacher

Everyone was in love with Mr. Martinson, seventh grade science teacher. He was young and handsome in a California surfer way. Tall, long-limbed and long hair, with what appeared to be sun-streaked blond highlights. The girls wanted to marry him; the boys wanted to be him. If there were boys who wanted to marry him, we were unaware of this possibility, as it was the late 1970’s in suburbia. We were not terribly self-aware, just entering adolescence and naïve about how our own feelings affected our desire to excel in science. At that age in that era, it was socially acceptable to have a crush on your teacher.

A decade later, I would fall in love with another scientist. Despite my romantic history, this came as a complete surprise. In my early 20’s, I was still unaware that I found nerdy to be sexy.  It is fair to say that he was also surprised to find a Humanities Girl—I was studying to be a rabbi—so besotted with a Science Guy. In his dating experience, the phrase “I am finishing my PhD in Chemistry” was a conversation stopper.

Now I’ve fallen for a new science teacher: Neil deGrasse Tyson.  I was referring to him as my celebrity crush for a while, until a colleague taught me the proper terminology is “intellectual crush.” It’s true that I’m primarily enthralled by his mind, as I first encountered him on a Radiolab podcast and had no idea if his looks matched “my type.” I’ve been a devoted fan for several years, catching his regular appearances on The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, and following him on Twitter.

When I confessed my crush to my scientist spouse he chuckled good-naturedly.  In fact, he has been pretty indulgent—not really troubled by the competition, I guess.  On Monday, he even left the newspaper on the kitchen table opened to this article, not realizing that, after reading it, I’d spend the rest of the morning letting go of my envy of Clyde Haberman.

What do I love about Tyson? He’s smart, articulate and funny, and can discuss both Physics and Metaphysics—the nature of the universe and human nature—with ease.  But what I most admire is how he explains science in terms that make sense to the general public and makes a compelling argument for improving scientific literacy.

As children we are naturally curious about the physical world—how it operates and how we fit into it. But our scientific intellect is quashed at some point between adolescence and adulthood, when many of us become complacent about our acquired knowledge or, worse, disenchanted with science.  When people ask my spouse what he does for a living, he is often told, “I hated Chemistry in high school” or “That’s so interesting,” before they abruptly change the topic of conversation.

I think the reason I’m so enchanted with Tyson is that he has made it his mission to counteract this trend.  And I appreciate that my spouse and I can share this particular crush.


Here’s a favorite Radiolab short featuring Neil deGrasse Tyson.


In The Waiting Place

My agenda here in The Waiting Place looks the same every day. Typically, it contains just four items: write, revise, submit, repeat.

I don’t write “drink coffee and eat Nutella directly from the jar” on my agenda.

I suppose I could include some instructions regarding the mug and spoon: soak, rinse, place gingerly in dishwasher, repeat.

I might add “drive carpool.” That would bring my total to ten items.

Overall, I’ve been fairly productive since late November, when I began writing my book proposal in earnest. I spent a solid six weeks writing, revising, submitting and repeating. In mid-January I received an email from a publisher who was interested in reading as much of the manuscript as I wished to send him.  Since then, I’ve spent an additional six weeks in The Waiting Place.

nutella clock

I follow my agenda religiously. Sometimes I substitute “take a brisk walk” for “drink coffee and eat Nutella directly from the jar.”

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