Journeys in Pediatric Dentistry

Like most people, I do not love change. This is particularly true if the change in question involves putting up buildings where there were none. I realize the need for economic development: More buildings generally mean more jobs, and that more jobs are good for the overall welfare of our community. Still, I’d rather have grass and trees than bricks and mortar. If a building must occupy land, I’d rather have a charming, crumbling farmhouse than a new construction.

I’m weird that way.

But when we returned to Vermont after five months away and I noticed a brand-new construction on a formerly vacant lot on Route 7 with a sign out front proclaiming it the future home of Middlebury Pediatric Dentistry, I thought, “It’s about time!”

Click here to continue reading my long-awaited pediatric dentistry column in this week’s Addison Independent!

Addendum to “No Child of Ours”

Thanks to everyone for your kind comments and shares of my latest “Faith in Vermont” column in The Addison Independent. 

Although I did feel that this column was one of the most important things I’ve written thus far, that was more because it was the first time I’d attempted to tackle a BIG ISSUE (racism) head-on in “public.” My frustration with the column was that I doubted whether I’d said enough. It’s hard when the most we can do is to identify something that stinks; when we can’t solve the problem quickly.

But what I can do is to share with you the complete video of the “Unlikely Advocates” talk by Dr. Brenda Salter McNeil that I referenced in my article. The link is below, and includes both Dr. Salter McNeil’s keynote address (one of the most powerful talks I’ve experienced firsthand) and the panel discussion that followed. Both are well worth your time. (The “Unlikely Advocates” event was put on by Project Peace East Bay, the nonprofit that I used to work for when our family lived in Berkeley. I am so proud and impressed and humbled by the good work that they continue to do in Bay Area communities.)

No Child of Ours


Last week — the week when Alton Sterling was fatally shot by police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Philando Castile was fatally shot by police in Falcon Heights, Minnesota — I had my monthly book club meeting.

The two events may seem entirely unrelated: Alton Sterling and Philando Castile were both young black men in their 30s; my book club is comprised of seven white women in their 30s and 40s. But this month, our book club was discussing my reading pick, the book Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

Click here to continue reading this week’s “Faith in Vermont” column in The Addison Independent.

(I was actually all set last week with a “Faith in Vermont” column about pediatric dentistry in Vermont, and then I came home on Thursday night — after a brutal day of getting ready to go on vacation in two days and getting ready to move houses in three weeks — and I had to write this. I wrote it very tired, very raw, and way too late into the night. I think it may be one of the more important things I’ve ever written. But don’t worry — you’ll see the pediatric dentistry column in the near future, too. Because, in my circles, pediatric dentistry is a pressing issue….)

Mosquitoes: The War on Summer

Why did I have to be born so tasty?!?” my daughter wailed, raking her fingernails across her shins. “I hate summer!”

In our neck of the woods, summer – which should be a season of backyard barbeques, kiddie pools in the yard, hours spent in the garden, and late nights chasing fireflies – is mosquito season. Before venturing outside, we slather on bug spray, don hats and inappropriately warm clothing, light citronella candles, and position fans by the picnic table. Those who don’t take these precautions, who treat summer like it’s a carefree time to wear shorts and tank tops and flip-flops, are condemned to scratch the itchy red welts covering their bodies.

And there are those, like the aforementioned daughter, who deal with summer by refusing to leave the house.

Click here to continue reading this week’s “Faith in Vermont” column in The Addison Independent. 

The Summer of Patience


The summer of 2016 may hereafter be referred to by our family as: “The Summer of Patience.”

Ah, patience! Defined as, “the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset,” patience seems to be on the wane in 21st century America. Sure, we give respectful lip service to patience and toss around platitudes like, “Patience is a virtue,” but the truth is that our entire culture is increasingly constructed to discourage the practice of patience.

We have apps for everything. Want groceries? Restaurant reservations? Taxi service? Up-to-the-nanosecond traffic updates? Gasoline delivered to your car? A potential life partner? All these and more can be acquired with the touch of a finger. (It’s not even accurate to say, “With the click of a button” anymore. Buttons have been replaced by button icons on a flat screen, possibly because the effort of pressing an actual button wastes precious time.)

Remember when two-day delivery was a luxury? (I believe that was sometime last year.) Now we expect two-day delivery, and my account allows me to request same-day delivery for everything from diapers to dog food.

“Seize the day!” “Strike while the iron’s hot!” “Grab the bull by the horns!” These are old expressions, but they seem particularly relevant in our fast paced and competitive culture – a culture in which self-help gurus exhort us to “Be your best self, TODAY!” and nobody bats an eye.

The result of all this efficiency is that we begin taking it for granted that life will be as quick and easy as a drive-through Starbucks. Our collective capacity for patience has shrunk, and it shows.

Click here (or just touch your flat screen’s button icon) to continue reading this week’s “Faith in Vermont” column in The Addison Independent. 

Marching on Memorial Day


“Can we march in the Memorial Day parade again this year?”

Out of nowhere, one of my daughters popped this question during breakfast on a morning in mid-April. Memorial Day was over a month away. We were all the way across the country from Vermont, on sabbatical in Berkeley, California. And I hadn’t even finished my first cup of coffee of the day.

Such is the place that Middlebury’s Memorial Day parade occupies in the hearts of my children.

At long last, Faith is back in Vermont! Click here to continuing reading about Memorial Day parades, freedom…and libraries, in this week’s “Faith in Vermont” column in the Addison Independent.

California Sabbatical: Some Lessons of Sabbatical


I was not exactly looking forward to our family’s sabbatical in Berkeley, California. Our five-month sojourn was a year-and-a-half in the planning, so my mind had plenty of time to run through every nightmarish scenario imaginable. I worried that we couldn’t possibly find a comfortable and affordable home for a family of six. I worried that I would be stuck in this uncomfortable and expensive home all day long with four bickering children and no breaks. I worried that I would miss our life back in Vermont and become depressed.

Yet, even as I worried about these things, here’s how I expected the narrative to unfold: We would arrive in Berkeley, and everything would be fine! All of my worries would prove unfounded, and – as has happened repeatedly in the past – I would say, “I don’t know why I worried so much!”

Imagine my surprise, then, when in fact everything I’d worried about came true – and then some! A few weeks into our sabbatical, not only was I depressed, missing Vermont, and stuck all day in a cramped and expensive rental home with four bickering children, I’d also been blindsided by unexpected setbacks. I hadn’t expected to fracture my foot on our second day in California. I hadn’t expected my husband and children to miss Vermont as much as I did. I hadn’t expected to find the Bay Area – where we’d lived for five years – infinitely more challenging than I remembered because we were no longer used to city life and lines and traffic. I hadn’t expected our California friends to be so very, very busy that it would take months to see some of them.

“It wasn’t supposed to go this way,” I told my husband tearfully. “I worried, so everything was supposed to work out.”

It took nearly the full five months for me to realize that sabbatical was an enormous gift to our family.

Click here to continue reading about the lessons I learned from our sabbatical in this week’s “Faith in Vermont, California Sabbatical” column in The Addison Independent. (This will be the FINAL California edition of this column — actually filed from Oregon, where our family is on vacation before heading back to Vermont!)