Monday, February 23, 2015

A visit to the dentist in Mexico

I've got a couple of issues with my teeth. I had a root canal about six years ago and the tooth is still a little cranky. Every time I visited my dentist in Washington I complained, and every time he told me the x-ray showed no problem. Until my last appointment, last November. He told me there's now a 3D x-ray that sometimes reveal a nerve that's been left behind. He referred me to an oral surgeon who would take that x-ray for $180. I told him I'd wait until spring.

I wear a night guard so I don't grind my teeth down to nothingness. These appliances get gross and old, and because of my cranky tooth the dentist has to adjust it from time to time. Right now it looks like some obscene thing from beneath the earth. So I need to replace it.

I'm not much of a risk taker, but I've heard good things recently about a dental office in Nogales, Mexico. My friend Ken had some work done last month and he was very satisfied. So I called for an appointment. The woman answered in Spanish. I said, "Habla ingles, por favor" and she switched right over. I told her what I needed and she set me up for Wednesday at 3:00.

It's about an hour and ten minutes to Nogales, Arizona. We paid $4 to park at the Burger King, then walked the two blocks to the border and went through the gates to Nogales, Mexico. Half a dozen men expressed an interest in selling us something or giving us a taxi ride. We said no thank you. As Ken had instructed us, we looked to the left for the fountain six shops down and then across the street to the dental office. There it was! I checked in at the front desk. Soft rock oldies were playing. I filled out the medical paperwork in the waiting room.

A smiling young woman took me upstairs for x-rays. I had been told diagnostics would be free; that included the x-rays and the checkup. I returned to the waiting room. Another young woman took me to a small room in the back where a young dentist checked my teeth. She said a cleaning would be $35 and asked me if I wanted to do that. I said yes. The dentist cleaned and flossed my teeth. She knew what I'd come in for. She said the 3D x-ray would cost $85 and the price of the night guard would depend on the kind I selected. I said yes, I wanted the x-ray because I needed to find out if there was still a problem with my root canal tooth.

The dentist's assistant took me back upstairs for the 3D x-ray. I returned to the waiting room. Another assistant came and took me to another room in the back where I met another smiling dentist. She listened to my story about my cranky tooth and checked my bite. While she was working a third dentist poked his head in the door and said, "I read your x-ray. Your root canal is clean, no problem." I thanked him. The bite-checking dentist explained that I could get a night guard similar to the one I'd had before, or, for $360, I could get one which would require at least two additional appointments. At each one, my bite would be checked. Where there was pressure from particular teeth, the guard would be adjusted just for those teeth. I would come back two weeks later for another check and another possible adjustment.

I wasn't sure. I asked her if she had a flyer I could read about this new night guard. She didn't, but she brought up a UTube video on the large screen to show me. The procedure made sense. The dentist made a mold of my mouth and I will get my night guard this Friday.

I paid for my appointment: $35 for the cleaning, $85 for the 3D x-ray, and $180 for half of the cost of the night guard. I pay for the rest of the night guard on Friday.

While I was seeing the dentists and the x-ray techs, Art was undergoing his own x-ray, exam, cleaning, and evaluation for an implant he'd been told by our dentist at home was needed. The price tag at home is $5,000. In Nogales, Mexico it will be $1,800. The office will study the nature of Art's implant need to determine whether it's advisable; the implant would involve the jaw and sinus cavity and might not be a straightforward procedure. They are going to let him know.

Our appointments were for 3:00 p.m. We left the dentist at 5:30, crossed the street to a farmacia where I checked on the price of a Z-pack of antibiotics, available there without a prescription. $25. I will pick up a couple for my sister next Friday.

We returned to the border. The U.S. agent examined my passport and commented on the stamp from Kenya, then wished me a good day. We walked to the Burger King to retrieve our car and were back in Tucson an hour later.

Differences from my dentist in the states? A building interior furnished and decorated like others I've seen in Mexico. A different dentist for each separate procedure. Handheld X-ray devices used by the dentist to get a closer look at a particular tooth. A paper cup with water to rinse my mouth and spit into a small white sink, like when I was a kid.

And a bill that made me smile.

Monday, February 16, 2015

The Bag Lady mutters about money

When I started this blog in January of 2010, I was getting ready to retire and I was terrified I'd run out of money before the end of my life. A friend suggested I write about my fear in hopes of getting it out of my system.

Five years later, I'm no longer afraid. But I am still not crazy about spending money that I haven't planned on. The Bag Lady mutters from time to time. Like last week.

We'd made plans to have our Tucson park model painted, including multiple paneled walls. The unit is 25 years old and somewhat dated. When Tammy, the painter, came over to talk colors, we discussed the popcorn ceiling. She hadn't planned to paint the ceiling, but she knew of someone who could remove the popcorn and paint it. She called Gus and he came over. He said he could paint the ceiling white for $400 or remove the popcorn and redo the ceiling and paint for $1200. I sighed. That popcorn will not be a selling point when it's time to move on, however many years down the road. So I said yes. The popcorn came down today and as I sit in my recliner and look up, it seems like our ceilings are higher by a couple of feet. Tomorrow the ceiling gets repainted. Wednesday the painters come to do the rest of the place. Gus the ceiling guy needs a check tomorrow and Tammy the painter will take my credit card at the end of the week for $955.

And then there's the floor in the bathroom. The contractor says there's a leak in the pipe behind the shower and water damage in the subfloor. (We heard dripping somewhere around Christmas time but couldn't find it). The best way to fix the damage is to take out the shower/tub unit, do the repairs on the pipe and the floor, and replace the old shower/tub with a new shower unit. So we spent last Wednesday afternoon at the showroom picking out the material for our bathroom. This is a park model, remember - a trailer. We have homeowner insurance, and the adjuster came out today to check the water damage. The insurance will pay some of the $3,700 bill.

Now, we have the money to pay for all these things. But I'd rather pay for what I want - like the paint - than what we need - like a new bathroom shower. The Bag Lady's mind runs through the reduction in our savings and potential future disasters like the collapse of the stock market and the Washington State pension system and one or both of us requiring ten years of care in a nursing home. Kind of takes the fun out of looking at my no-popcorn ceiling.

My husband and I are going to the dentist in Nogales, Mexico this week. It will be our first trip down there and I am just a little bit nervous. I'll get an x-ray of a tooth that still bothers me after a root canal five years ago. The x-ray at home would be $180 but it's free in Nogales as a diagnostic tool. And the night guard for my teeth clenching will be much less than the $350 it would cost at home. Art is checking on implant procedures and prices. The savings on my dental work will pay for part of the no-popcorn ceiling. The savings on the implant might pay for the bathroom project.

The Bag Lady is good about rationalizing.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

These are the good old days

My Washington friend Jennie is my next-door neighbor. She's in her 30s with three children, a supportive husband and a homeschooling life. Sometimes when we talk I tell her, "Remember, these are the good old days." Hectic though it seems, there's nothing better than the present.

That's the case with me, too, even though life can have its hiccups and disappointments. Here's what happened this week:

  • We have a spongy area in the floor of our park model's bathroom. My husband Art checked the toilet this weekend and there's no leak coming from there. He crawled under the park model, cut a hole in the panel and reached up to feel the floor and it was damp. So we've called a repair person who will be out tomorrow. I'm thinking this will not be a small job.
  • We're having the inside of the park model painted this week. The painter left color books with me and I went through them casually but had no idea how to choose what I wanted. I have no eye for color. Actually, that's not true. I know color I like when it's on the wall - I can do that with wall decor too - but have no DNA for figuring it out when it's in a book or a shop. As the time for the paint decision neared, I got anxious. Finally I found the Benjamin Moore paint website, where you can select a room design and then point and click to apply "paint" to it to see how the colors look. Within half an hour I had my selection. So glad for online palettes!
  • I am playing handbells here for the third season; Betty, the director, is excellent. Her husband Al is also a lifelong musician, directs the show choir here and is also directing the play Art is in, the Second Annual Voyager Light Opera production of Guys and Dolls. I found out last week that Betty and Al are selling their park model and leaving for home in March, and won't be back next year. An ending, not fun to think about.
  • My good friend Judy and her husband Ken, neighbors here in Arizona, have sold their place and will be spending winter time in Florida and Mexico instead. Judy and I laugh together and she makes everything fun. I will miss her. Tonight the four of us went to dinner and then for gelatto. It was a bittersweet time. 
On the positive side:
  • The conversation last week between a liberal and a conservative went well, though not as expected. I'm grateful that my recruit, George, was a good sport and felt the experience was a positive one. 
  • We had lunch with friends Barbara (she and I met while blogging) and Earl. They're winter residents like us at another resort in town. We seem to have plenty to talk about!
  • I've made arrangements to have dinner with Bridget (she's my ex-sister-in-law's daughter who was born after my divorce) and her fiancĂ© Gilbert. We met for a meal last year and I was charmed by Bridget's energy and Gilbert's affection and calm demeanor. They're getting married in Oregon in July and we've been invited. Art would call us "outlaws" but it's nice to have continuing relationships with people from my past.
  • We're driving to San Diego on Friday to spend a few days with daughter Melissa and son-in-law Scott. That will be fun!
"These are the good old days." Today is what we have. 

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Last minute surprises

This winter in Tucson, I'm on the leadership team of a Monday group called Re-Imagining God. It's been meeting for nine winters with each year having a theme. This year's is "Awakening to Oneness". The blurb in the resort newsletter says, "We will explore different streams of faith leading to the ocean where all streams connect and become One. Reawakening to the Spirit within will help us find new ways to connect with others and align our outer life with our inner truth."

So at our various meetings we learn about value systems or Islam or transgender people or meditation or shamanism or political differences - the idea is that we become willing to build bridges between ourselves and others unlike us. This week we're having a trainer in nonviolent communication teach us tools and then practice them in a panel conversation between three political conservatives and three liberals.

Except that I could only find one conservative willing to participate! He is a Tea Party fellow from Wenatchee, Washington and I know him from my Current Events group on Wednesday. I asked for panel volunteers last week, and he and two others said yes. Then the date was changed from a week out to tomorrow. I contacted them and only one said yes, he would attend. I asked half a dozen others and they had some reason to say no. I'm wondering whether the group's title "Re-Imagining God" was threatening to them. In my experience, people who are conservative politically tend also to be religious conservatives, so maybe they felt uneasy at attending.

I kind of stewed over this all weekend because I had said I would obtain three panelists, and I was unsuccessful. I'm big on keeping my commitments and this one I couldn't do. So it was a good exercise in humility for me. I do think the one-on-one conversation will be fruitful, though. Just not what I had planned.

The big deal of the week was the Super Bowl, because we live near Seattle and our team was one of those playing. Up until the last 30 seconds of the game it looked like we would win. And then we didn't. Another of those last-minute surprises.

On a side note, it rained for two days this week. Record-breaking amounts for Arizona. Then it got sunny again. I can do two days much easier than five month. I'm grateful to be here!