Deaf Expo

This past weekend I took my daughter with me to the Deaf Expo in Pleasanton.  It was almost an hour drive to get there early in the morning. My role was to answer questions about dentistry.  However, a lot of questions were about insurance coverage and not dental health. With literally hundreds of insurance policies in existence, it was difficult to answer all the questions. It’s hard enough to have to explain it to my hearing patients, can you imagine signing it in ASL?  Thank goodness for the awesome interpreter, Pat, sitting next to me.  He was more than generous with his time and skills!  I just met him that day and after an hour, we were friends.

Truth be told, I didn’t think he was friendly at first.  Apparently, one is not to talk when one is amongst the deaf.  I never understood that because I’m a hearing person who learned ASL so I can “talk” to my hearing-impaired friends/patients.  But it’s considered rude.  So that first hour was very quiet on that side of my table. But within 30 minutes, their interpreters and hearing friends were all talking.  The code of silence was no more.  I wonder why a hearing person cannot talk and sign at the same time? It is so much easier, at least for me, than to sign without talking.

Pat watched me signed and took some of my business cards as he’s an avid believer in a more comprehensive medical/dental results when your doctor can communicate in your language, or in this case, ASL.  Logically, it makes the appointment goes by quicker as there’s no writing back and forth. But for me, it’s just fun to be able to sign.  I love it. Not to mention when I am working, my patients can sign to me without choking by talking.

So, after introducing my daughter to a different culture, I asked her what she has learned from the experience.  She replied:


  • Deaf people are happy. When they sign, they’re always smiling.  I told her deaf people just have to use their face to express what they’re conveying as tones and volumes of words are non-existent for them.  However, on that day, it did seem people were happier.  As I found out later, it was also a day of gathering and reunion for so many people as they were able to catch up with friends from far away.  That would explain why people were hanging around all day long.
  • Blind people who can “read” hand signs just by touching with one hand are amazing. I completely agree with this.  I can’t explain it to her but to witness it left me without words.  To be blind and deaf and still able to communicate so well is simply God’s gift. I was in awe watching it happened that I almost forgot to answer their questions.


She concluded on our way to the car, “People are people.  It’s just how nice they are…”  She had multiple opportunities to interact with deaf, hearing and hard-of-hearing visitors.  She found many to be very friendly and nice, be them deaf or (hard of) hearing. Hopefully this is the lesson she will continue to take with her throughout her life.  You are you, different from others and it’s okay. Sometimes it’s cool to be different. Mommy is cool.

Transition Fair

After a long day at work, I ran in the pouring rain to the Transition Fair held at a local high school.  A patient of mine had recommended me to the organizers and they asked if I would help out.  I agreed to be the dental consultant for parents with special needs children.  Upon my arrival, I was met by the parent volunteers.  They looked at me and took pity.  They helped me set up as I was soaked and wet from carrying boxes and bags without an umbrella, running from the parking lot to a hall on a campus I’ve never been to before.  Luckily, there were students around who were nice enough to guide me in the right direction.

Once settled, I was told to grab my dinner ticket before the event starts.  I went outside again and grab my tacos.  When I went to the cookie table, they told me, “Only one.”  I was only eyeing one cookie anyhow.  As I took my spot back at my own table, my neighbor introduced herself.  She asked if I was the dentist as the banner behind me said dental.  I said yes and gave her my name.  In trying to get to know me better, she asked if my clinic was solely dedicated to special needs children.  I said no, I have a private family practice.  She then asked if I had a special needs kid.  I said no.  Puzzled, she asked, “Why are you here?”  I kindly replied that I was the only dentist I know that would work with the special need population.  Immediately she said, “Well, that’s not true.  My dentist treats my special needs daughter.”  I told her I don’t know her dentist and re-emphasized that I had said I’m the only one I know.   Then she asked me why I wanted to be there.  Honestly, at that moment, I didn’t want to be there as I walked in the rain for at least 5 minutes before finding the building.  Then to be accused of lying was discouraging.  But I gave her the answer I gave my office.  I only have to give a few hours of my night to teach parents and students how to brush and floss properly, even with braces, was worth it.  I prepared a pamphlet and added color pictures and illustrations for better understanding.  The free toothbrushes were also a hit with the patrons.  Like the cookie table, “only one” per person please.  But you can take as many pamphlets as you like.

There were Vietnamese, Spanish and even Sign Language translators.  I, of course, ran over to the ladies signing and said hello to show off my mad signing skills.  That had to be the best part of my night.  It was so fun and confusing at the same time.  I can’t read hands moving at 50 mph.  I’m good at 25 mph…like an old granny driving on the freeway.  When I came back to my table, someone asked for 2 toothbrushes.  I broke my own rule and gave her 3 since she told me she has 3 kids.  I also explained that kids with manual dexterity or attention deficit issues should be using an electronic toothbrush, not a manual one.  I don’t think she understood me as she put one toothbrush back down.  Her daughter explained it to her and she grabbed that same toothbrush again.

From my observation seat, all I can think was how dedicated these organizers were as they went from table to table to thank everyone and made sure people are visiting each table accordingly.  A Vietnamese translator gave me an extra cookie.  He said,” You look like you could use a cookie, doctor.”  I laughed as I’m sure I looked like a mess and exhausted.  Towards the end of the event, I was packing up my things.  When I was about to leave, I turned to my neighbors and said my goodbyes.  Someone asked me if I was getting paid for my time.  I said it was purely for charity.  No one paid me or for my things.  I bid her adieu.  Back into the rain I went with whatever is left in my possession.  This time, the rain has stopped.  Even though it didn’t start out nicely, it definitely ended well.  I gave some people important questions to ask their dental providers and information to look up.  The little knowledge that I did share was appreciated.  That made my trip and being wet worthwhile.  I hope we all come together as a community to help one another out whenever possible.  Any contribution is better than none.


Childhood Friends

Friends in real life, friends in pictures.  I grew up with girls that were not borne into my family, but were considered to be my sisters.   We ate and slept in each other’s houses, sometimes uninvited but mostly welcomed.  We shared stories and heartbreaks that cannot be repeated outside of our group.  We held each other up even through exhaustion.  We mostly celebrated many happy occasions together.  In-fighting was rare and we had the ability to make up quickly.  We’re fortunate that we all did not agree to break up at the same time.  There’s always one that acted as the glue during our divisiveness.

As kids, it seems like we were always together.  My childhood was mostly shaped by them. They provided the fun to my reserved life.  They were making waves while I was trying not to rock the boat.  As we grew older, it was inevitable that I would find my voice.  My girlfriends were strong and beautiful.  I think osmosis really does work.  Even as poor kids, we believed we were just as good as the next kid.  I truly struggled to make myself believe that initially.  But when I saw how proud my group of friends were of me for the simplest achievements, I believed I was good, if not better than the others.   We were the early “girl power” group.   Funny how a chance meeting lead to 38 years of friendship.  Here’s to serendipity, along with many more years of sisterhood and bonding.

I’m still the smallest, “boring-est” and nerdiest of the group.  You would think after all these years, at least one thing can change.  Nope, it is what it is.  They’re still the fun kids and I’m the mundane one.






My Photon

This past week I had to lay my Photon to sleep.  It was one of the saddest moments in recent memory.  My heart was heavy and numb.  My tears flow for the loss of a great companion and love.  And they just keep coming.  He was old and I could see he was not comfortable in his own body.  I was sure he wanted to go sooner but I asked him to stay longer for my sake.  Before I left for vacation, I knew he was planning to leave me.  I told him he couldn’t leave yet but he just looked at me and walked away.  No hugs.  No begging.  Just butt and tail putting distance between us.

For those of you who knew him, you know what a great kid he was.  He has always been my “oldest child”, the best 4-legged kid imaginable.  He was tender and kind, never aggressive, even when he was attacked.  He was always the “big brother” to my other children.  He didn’t really welcome any of the 2-legged kids as they played aggressively with him.  But he watched over them vigilantly.  He would tell on them when they tried to climb out of their crib and got stuck halfway.  He would get me whenever one of them is hanging midair between a buffet table and a stool.  Ever the doting brother, he slept with them wherever possible, as it was the only moment of peace he got during the day.

Before the 2-legged kids came along, it was just he and I.  He was my priority.  I taught him sign language as well as audio commands in preparation for old age as his hearing or eyesight would waiver.  We performed a lot of cool tricks.  Okay, maybe only one was cool but the rest were good.  I would shoot him and he laid down to play dead.  It entertained me every time.  Or, to trick him to come out for his bath, I would say, “Oh, nobody is hugging mommy.”  Slowly, he would emerge from under the bed to put his head on my shoulder.  Then into sink he went.  How that trick never falters is beyond me.

When we were attacked in the park, he was so brave.  I told him it was going to be alright and he believed me.  After a week at the vet with a couple of surgeries, I took him home to care for him 24/7.  My office and patients got to know him during that period.  He became our “little guy”.  Everyday for weeks we would change his bandage in between patients.  We took turns cuddling with him and getting him to exercise.  Patients would have him on their lap for comfort and calming effect.  He was the star of our office.  He even got Christmas cards and became a model for a doggy calendar.

At home, I remember thinking I cannot date anyone my dog does not like.  Funny enough, my dog liked everybody.  But it was my husband that I saw Photon warms to the most.  He came over every night to help take care of Photon when his body was healing.  My eyes were swollen from crying so much at the sight of torture on my poor baby’s back.  My husband’s support was heart-warming.  He never missed a day, even when he was traveling for work.  He came right back home, past midnight to be there for us.  From that, I knew he was the one and we were just friends.

Photon has always been my protector, even at only 12 pounds max.  He kept me feeling safe when we were home alone.  He loved me unconditionally, never asking for anything but food and water.  He put up with me dressing him in baby or doggy clothes.  He traveled throughout the US with me, putting up with air sickness.  From the bottom of my heart, I cannot thank him enough for being with me when he wanted to leave.  He has been a great companion to a crazy woman for 16 years without judgment or delusion.  He loved me for me, his mommy.  I could not have asked for a better puppy.  May God hold him close in Heaven and bless his little soul with a healthier body to run around in.  I know he knows I love him from beginning to end.  And I know he loves me, too.  We had a fantastic life together.  I love you, Photon, my little pocket of energy.


Unplanned Future

A few weeks ago, my 6 y.o. asked me what he should name his “little girl”.  Perplexed, I asked, “What little girl?”  Then he said, “Mommy, the little girl I’m going to have.”  He went onto explain that there was a little girl in his school that said they will marry, have 4 kids (2 boys, 2 girls), he will move out of his mommy’s house, they will have their own home but he can come back to visit on the weekends, however, not every weekend.  Surprised and disheartened, I asked him who this little girl was.  He refused to tell me for fear I will confront her mother and get her in trouble.

As cute as that may sound, I don’t believe in having my son plan his life out at the age of 6. I want him to be a kid for at least another decade.  Planning so far in advance will only narrow his view of life.  I want him to explore and experience the unexpected and leave a wide-open window for adventures.  Being focus on marriage, kids and visits to his elderly mother on certain weekends kind of dim the light on living life to the fullest.

Some of the best things in life are unexpected… like him.  We planned for two kids, not three.  I cannot imagine my life without him.  I declare my love for him every single day.  I also tell him to keep an open mind for the future but he’s too young to understand that.  I’m astonished he understands the whole marriage and kid thing. Every time I question his plans, he fires back with, “Don’t you want me to experience marriage like you did?  I want to explore different houses too.”  It kind of breaks my heart but if I am a responsible mother, then he will be able to fulfil his dreams with his own abilities.

Almost anything new is complicated.  It’s the journey that makes memories, not necessarily the destination.  If you are intent on a goal, may you achieve it.  Just remember to allow other possibilities to bring you there.  There are many great blessings in my life that came from the “left field”.  Some felt like they literally popped out of thin air.  Who knew I would enjoy being a dentist so much?  As a kid, the dental office represented pain and torture.  (And you thought I couldn’t understand your angst…Hmph!)  Who knew it could also be therapeutic?  That’s just insanity!

My son likes to tell me he will love me even when we’re “ghosts”.  Those words warm my heart even though I’m afraid of talking about ghosts.  I know one day he will make another woman happy and fill her life with unimaginable bliss.  For now, I just want him to be mine and stay in love with me.  He was Darth Vader as I was his Padme for Halloween.  If he only knows how complicated relationships can be.  He likes to emphasize that he still loves me even when he’s angry with me for yelling at him.  Who could ask for more than that?  Love endures after a bump is the ultimate love.  It is also one of the best love that I have.  I wish Father Time would hold onto his youth a little longer for me.  I’m not ready for him to grow up.   He’s my best surprise ever.