Thursday, April 26, 2012

God in the Rear View Mirror

Most everyone loves a miracle: A parting of the Red Sea. A divine healing. A miraculous survival. It's pretty great when God crashes into your life and does something only He can do.

But what about the other times? What about the times when you recognize God's work only after it's done? What about those times when you recognize God in the rear view mirror? That happened to Dr. Ethan back in the early days.

In dental school, during their freshman year, finances were pretty lean for Ethan and Dolly Larson. Anywhere you attend, dental school is outrageously expensive. Students must support themselves and their families while at the same time paying grad school tuition, and buying every bit of equipment they are trained to use. Hand instruments, lab materials, practice "teeth." With a young family to support, Dr. Ethan did everything he could. He worked. He managed to acquire some financial aid. He and Dolly lived as frugally as possible. But eventually, they needed help.

They applied for food stamps.

For most of us, that would be a humbling experience. But for Ethan and Dolly, it became a moment of seeing God. In the process of applying, a social worker asked Dolly, "So. How much money did you make last year?"

Without blinking, Dolly replied. "Eight thousand dollars." She'd done the math. She knew the numbers.

Astounded, the social worker gasped. "Eight thousand dollars! How can anyone survive on eight thousand dollars?"

Good question.

"Looking back," Dr. Ethan said, "it was a rear view mirror moment. It had to be God. While we were in the midst of it, we just kept putting one foot in front of the other. We knew things were tight. We worked hard -- so hard that we hadn't paid attention to the big picture. We hadn't recognized God's work in some momentous individual miracle; rather, it was a collection of small things." Small provisions. Lots of them. Over and over, God managed to give us everything we needed without ever drawing attention to Himself, or His work."

"It was a miracle just the same. Without God, we never could have made it on so little."

What about you? Have you experienced "God in the rear view mirror?" Can you share it with us?

Dr. Ethan Larson, with Bette Nordberg

Thursday, April 19, 2012

A Job By Any Other Name. . .

This one is For Men Only: (unless you'd like to pass it along to your husband).

So. Guys, I’m going to give you this one piece of marital advice for free. It will save your relationship, I promise. Write it down. Read it out loud. Repeat it to yourself in the bathroom mirror. Practice on the way to work. Here it is:

You don’t babysit your own kids.

Obviously I gained this insight the hard way. It happened not long after our first child was born. I'd “volunteered” to watch our baby while my wife went to the mall. She’d been stuck at home for a long time, and I felt she deserved a moment or two of freedom. I think my last words, as she headed out the door, were, “I sure hope she doesn’t mess her diaper.”

Not a good start.

And unfortunately those words turned out prophetic. When Raelene returned, she found me with a towel wrapped around my head, covering my nose and mouth from the smell, as I tried to change the messiest diaper I’d ever seen.

I was in the midst of a vivid hasmat-type description of the color and texture of the diaper contents when Raelene rolled her eyes and tuned me out. I don’t remember exactly how it happened, but I kept it up. I wanted to be appreciated for the sacrifice I’d made on behalf of our family. That’s when I first heard those fatal but important words:

You don’t babysit your own kids.

She was right, of course. And to my credit, I’ve never repeated that same mistake. For guys, when the babies are little, it’s so easy to see your family responsibilities as clearly divided. Childbirth: hers. Driving the car: his. Breastfeeding: hers. “Outside” work: his. Somehow, I got confused. For a moment, I guess, I’d put parenting in the “hers” column.

These days, young men are much smarter than I was. They’re more helpful too, springing to assist in ways that astound me. I had none of those skills as a young father. (That’s a blog for a different day). In the meantime, avoid my mistake. Volunteer for an afternoon with the kids.

Just don’t call it babysitting!

Dr. Greg Sutherland,
(with Bette Nordberg)

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Getting to Yes

What do union contracts, hostage crises, and prison riots have in common with parenting? Maybe you guessed it. Negotiation!

Experts in negotiation strategy sell books about “Getting to Yes.” I have one on my bookshelf, though I’ve never read it. When it comes to parenting, Raelene and I had a simpler philosophy. We called it, “Starting with Yes.”

Maybe we were wimps, dreading tantrums and fights. But I think we came up with something that really worked. Early on, we decided that if it were at all possible, we would begin with yes.

It went like this: Instead of fighting over whether or not the child would go to school, we asked the question, “Would you rather wear your purple dress or your blue cords to school?”  When discussing chores, we asked, “Would you rather set the table or empty the dishwasher?” For homework, we asked, “Would you rather finish that essay before dinner or after?”

Whenever possible we avoided any question that might end with the child saying, “No.”

A “no” answer leaves no room for negotiation. Instead, “no” forces confrontation, power struggles and bad feelings. When the kids were teenagers, we followed the same philosophy. For instance, when one of our daughters asked me to go “hang out” with a boy, I said yes. She was young, too young to drive, and she needed me to help her do this hanging-out thing.

“Sure,” I said. “You can go hang out. I’ll take you.”

When we arrived at the boy’s home, I parked at the curb. “Okay, you have ten minutes. Go in and hang out. After ten minutes, either you come out, or I’ll be at the door.”

It was my way of starting with yes. You can guess how my daughter felt about it. As it turned out, things didn’t go as smoothly as I’d hoped. She didn’t emerge in ten minutes, and true to my word, I went up to the porch. Surprised, the boy’s mother greeted me, “But she just got here!”

When the kids came to the door, I discovered a boy who turned out to be a fully developed man, with a hairy face and a body that could bench press 250 (okay, at least that’s how I remember it). With some surprise, he shook my hand and said, in a deeply manish voice, “Hello Dr. Sutherland.” I was glad I’d only given her ten minutes!

In the end, my daughter got a yes —as conditional as it might have been —and I got a glimpse into her life, emotions and relationships. As union negotiations go, it was a win-win.

Maybe I should have been a hostage negotiator?

How about you? Do you start with yes? How has it worked for you?

Greg Sutherland, DDS, MS

(With Bette Nordberg)

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Meet Phyllis

She’s the new girl in our office— a little wide in the hips, and so far, she’s a bit slower than we expected. But we’ve learned to love her, just the way she is. After all, she’s changed everything about the way we do Invisalign®!

Phyllis is our affectionate name for our new iTero Digital Impression system. In its simplest terms, iTero is a digital camera. The hand-held wand emits one hundred thousand points of laser light, each one instantly snatching thousands of digital pictures of our patient’s teeth and gums. Once the scan is complete, the system software electronically stitches the photos together, creating a perfect 3-D electronic model of a patient’s mouth. The process completely eliminates those old goopy trays and miserable moments of “hold your breath anxiety” some people experience while taking dental impressions.

Though the technology can be used in many dental applications, we use these scans primarily for our Invisalign® patients. The Invisalign orthodontic process creates a series of clear retainers (called aligners) to gradually and invisibly move teeth into their ideal position. In the old days, we sent our impressions off to begin the Invisalign process. That took time; patients often waited nearly four weeks for the first set of aligners. Occasionally, despite great care, imperceptible errors crept into the impression, model, and transportation procedures, leaving patients with unusable aligners; we had to start the whole process all over again.

But Phyllis changed all that. Today, we compress these digital files and send them instantly to Invisalign. The new system has dramatically shortened our turn around time for new aligners. Digital impressions are so accurate that the aligners fit more perfectly than ever before. That accuracy guarantees we never have to re-scan our patients.

Though the scanning process takes more time than those old goopy trays, we find our patients are more than happy to cooperate. And Phyllis? Well, these days, we think of her as just another one of the staff!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

TOP DENTIST 2012 SEATTLE MET :: Puyallup, Orthodontist

Smiles By Sutherland, "The best 424 practitioners in the Seattle metro area, as selected by their peers." Seattle Met.

Did you know that our office, Smiles By Sutherland was named one of the Top Dentists of 2012 at Seattle Met. Our office was chosen amongst other Doctors and Specialists in the area by our peers.

Thank you so much for including us, we are honored and will continue to do what best fits the needs of our patients and needs in our dental community.

We are located in Downtown Puyallup, WA. Right next to the Pavilon Center and the Puyallup Public Library. If you or anyone you know is interested in getting treatment for their Orthodontic needs, call our office for a complimentary exam at 253.848.4537 or visit us on the web! Smiles By Sutherland. We specialize in braces with the Damon System and are an Elite Provider for Invisalign for both children and adult.