Thursday, February 26, 2015

Serious conversations

“You have the most beautiful blue eyes I’ve ever seen.”

Those were some of the first words my husband ever spoke to me.

He didn’t care I was a few pounds overweight or about the gap in my front teeth or the dozens of other things I found wrong with myself back then.

The first thing - the most important thing - he noticed was the color of my eyes. (Nice guys do finish first.)

But the irony of his compliment crashed into me a few short weeks later when I began having trouble with my vision and said blue eyes no longer worked quite right.

It was little things at first...having to lean in closer to the mirror to apply make-up. Struggling to read the morning newspaper or my watch, check email or proof work for my PR job.

Then it got worse.

My vision fractured, as if I were looking at the world through a prism. Straight lines appeared wavy. I couldn’t read a book because half the letters were suddenly missing.

The reason?

Retinal scarring. According to the specialist, a viral infection had left behind scars on retinas in both eyes.

In simple terms, when light enters the eye, it reflects on the curved surface of the retina, which renders the image for your brain to see.

Life is great when that retina is shiny and perfect. That means light reflects off it like a television signal from your satellite dish.

But we all know what happens when that satellite dish gets a little beat up or fills with snow.
Your signal goes in the trash.

As did my eyesight.

Add in a secondary infection, and my detail vision was completely gone.

I was 29 years old.

But it wasn’t a world of doom and gloom. The secondary inflammation cleared up after a round of steroids, and much of my vision returned.

But it was never the same because scars are forever. Over the years, they’ve advanced father into my center vision. And no one can predict when that will stop.

But I can read again. It’s a process. Each eye struggles to pick up what the other is missing. And that constant shuffling leads to eyestrain and headaches.

Every. Single. Day. 

The dark isn’t much of a friend either. I once tripped over the dog when she was lying on the floor in the dark. I simply couldn’t see her.

I went flying, hit the arm of the couch and slammed to the floor. (My resulting language was less than lady-like when I had to explain to my husband what the loud noise was, that I’d tripped over the %&*# dog because I couldn’t #*&@ing see her.)

But I can drive and watch my son and husband shoot hoops and play a little one-on-one in the driveway.

I can enjoy movies and Bearcat football games. I can do just about everything I need to in life.

Then I hit my mid-30’s and began to show signs of glaucoma.

Are you friggin’ kidding me?!

So it was another round of specialists.

And another few years of appointments and tests and bad thoughts and what if’s?

Three years passed and nothing changed, so I was cleared to go about my business. Life got back to normal. At least what was considered normal for me.

And now?

The glaucoma conversation is happening all over again.

I’m 41 years old with no family history of the disease.

But new tests show high eye pressures and a cranky looking optic nerve. 

So, yeah, I’m struggling a little with this.

I’m the glass-is-half-full, everything-will-be-OK, don’t-cross-that-bridge-unless-a-serial-killer-is-chasing-you-with-a-knife kinda girl.

And my husband is sooooo not that kinda guy.

But he is today. For me. And he will be tomorrow. And the next day. Because when it comes to my “beautiful blue eyes” he is determined that I’ll have a happy ending. 

March is Save Your Vision Month. Please. Get your eyes checked. Get your children’s eyes checked.

Do it every year. I did. That’s how quickly things can change.

Even if you don’t have insurance, the cost is much less than you think. Please care as much about your family as you do about getting a new iPhone.

And hopefully you’ll get your happy ending too.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Arts and gaffes at the museum

“And this,” I pointed out the life-sized, breath-taking oil on canvas to my nine-year-old son and his friend, “is a Caravaggio.”

I turned to look at their faces, which appeared as if one was trying to divide 428,562 by 3 and the other was wondering what we’d be having for lunch.

Not quite the spectacular reaction I was looking for.

So I tried again.

This time with a little theater because sometimes you just gotta sell it.

I waved my arms ala Las Vegas-show style and repeated “Caravaggio” in a breathless way where I sped up the “Cara” and dropped into the darker tones of “Vaggio.” I ended with a proper “Ta-da!”



“OK,” I snipped. “What’s the deal?”

My son shrugged and said, “It’s just a painting.”

Uh, excuuuuuuuuse me?

“It just so happens to be a very famous painting,” I said.

“The ‘Mona Lisa’ is a famous painting,” his friend added.

Thanks, PBS.

I decided to try a different tactic. “Do you know who it’s a painting of?” I asked the two Mr. Smarty Pants.

The two Mr. Smarty Pants merely shrugged.

I silently pointed to the nameplate strategically placed to the right of the canvas.

There were gonna have to do some of this themselves, you know.

My son shuffled over with all the enthusiasm of a death-row inmate picking out his last meal. He leaned over and read, “St. John the Baptist.”

Then he jumped back in excitement and shouted to his friend, “Hey, we know that guy! He’s the dude who lost his head!”

Sure, I was ecstatic their private Catholic school education appeared to be paying off. But shouting still wasn’t allowed in the art museum. 

The snarky lady standing next to us apparently felt that way too.

Oh, stuff it, Lady. We’re making a memory here.

I nodded, “Yep, that’s him.”

It was a beautiful moment, seeing the boys take in a remarkable piece of art, attaching it to some knowledge they held, making the connections, being all grown up and mature and stuff.

It was a truly beautiful moment.

And then my son muttered, “Too bad that Carvogianonelli dude didn’t paint one where his head was cut off. That’d have been waaaaaay cooler.”


Moment over.


So we wandered over to the special exhibits section where we stumbled across a couple of paintings by El Greco
“Oh, yeah!” my son exclaimed. “I’ve heard of him.”

Color me shocked.

“Really?” I exclaimed. “How?”

My son nodded in excitement, “He was a wrestler, right?” He paused then added, “Or maybe I saw him on ‘SpongeBob.’”

Then he ran off to join his friend who’d already abandoned me for something shiny up the hallway.


Now they’re just messing with me.


Eventually we wound up next to a few smaller pieces by Rodin. And, thanks to “Night at the Museum” introducing my son to “The Thinker,” we were off to a better start with this one.

Until my son threw up his arms and sang, “Boom. Boom. Firepower.”

That earned us a queer look from the security guard but a nice smile from the docent.
I considered that a draw.


At least his friend was using his brain. After a quick tour through the modern art gallery, he stopped and said, “I just don’t understand it.”

I smiled and asked, “What’s that?”

He said, “Well, when I paint with blobs and stuff, it’s not considered art.” He waved an arm around the room and added, “But this stuff is. Just because someone said it is. It’s just not fair.”

I nodded and said, “Well, the interesting thing about abstract art is it’s different for everyone. Each person can see or feel something different about it.”

He wrinkled up his nose at my explanation and grumbled, “It’s still not fair.”

Yep, one person’s valued art is another person’s unloved blob.

Enough with this artsy stuff.

It’s time for lunch.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Exhibit A

I grew up on a farm.

And on that farm was a mom.

A mom who knew how to stretch a buck.

Especially during those lean times just before the cattle took their little trip to market, leaving us flush with cash again for several months.

Oh, good times!

So, yeah. My mom was the coupon-clipping, bargain-shopping, it’s-not-on-the-list-so-I’m-not-buying-it-I-don’t-care-how-much-you-want-it type of farmwife who helped build this great country of ours.

Between saving a few bucks and that whole “There are starving children in Ethiopia so be happy with what you’ve got” mantra that was popular in the ‘80s, we had leftovers gracing our table a night or two each week.

No surprise, it’s the same in my own home all these years later.

But now, thanks to recent events, none of us may never be able to eat.

Ever. Again.


Sausage. Rice. Green beans. A little garlic.

I turned the corner into the kitchen where my husband was busy making a little feast from the fridge’s leftovers. I was all full of “oohs” and “aahs” and “that smells awesome” as I made my way over to the stove.

Then my husband dished it up and handed me the plate.

I’m not gonna lie.

The smell was simply camouflage.

The dish itself? It looked sooooo not. very. good.

The “oohs” and “aahs” I’d made just moments earlier went and disappeared into that little corner of my memory, never to be thought of again.

But wait a sec. 

This is my husband, the man who cooks like a dream, the guy I married so I wouldn’t starve in my geriatric years.

(I kid, I kid. I married him for lots of other great reasons. ...Give me a second and I’ll think of one.)

So taking past history into account, I sat down, slowly leaned over the plate and took a really good look at it.

Oh, dear God.

It didn’t get much better looking during the trip from the stove to the table. To say it resembled the critter that burst out of that guy’s stomach in “Alien” would be an the critter.

I looked over to where our nine-year-old son sat. On HIS plate was a piece of leftover cheese pizza.

Lucky little twerp.

I leaned over and went, “Pssst. Hey. You.”

His eyes snapped up and he was all like “What?”

I nodded toward his plate, “Whatcha got there?”

But he knew where this was heading. For some reason, the little bugger didn’t trust me.

It’s a shame, really.

He grabbed the little slice of heaven off his plate and shoved half of it into his mouth before I could make my offer.

I shrugged. Guess he’ll have to buy his own Ferrari then.

My husband sat down, grabbed his fork and brought a heaping pile of...uh, his mouth.

Then he chewed. Then he swallowed.

His reaction reaction.

Well, that was...encouraging.

I picked up my fork, poked around my plate for what seemed like 43 minutes then decided to take the plunge. I scooped up a bite and plopped it into my mouth.

“Upon reflection,” my husband confessed as he took in the expression on my face, “I shouldn’t have added the parmesan cheese.” He paused. “Or the cranberries.”

Holy Mother of God.

It tasted like feet.

Son-of-a-bitch, it was some nasty, nasty stuff.

I braced myself for the big swallow, praying to whatever deity is responsible for keeping vomit at bay to do just that.

My fork dropped to the table with a loud clank as I reached for the large glass of milk by my plate.

But between you and me, there wasn’t enough milk in the world.

Because this is it. This right here. This is what’s gonna kill me.

“What do you think of the casserole?” my husband asked with a smirk.

Casserole?! That’s what we’re calling it?! I thought Exhibit A had a better ring to it ‘cuz I’m pretty sure it’s gonna come up at the trial.

He nodded because even he knew it was a fight he’d lost and said, “I’m calling for pizza.”

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Language Barrier

Knowledge is power.

Unless you’re nine years old.

Then it becomes entertainment.


Our son marched into the living room and announced in a booming voice, “I’ve been going comprende since the 1970s.”

Uh, say what?

I chuckled and asked for clarification, “Did you just say ‘comprende’?”

“Yeah,” he said. “You know, comprende.” He stressed that final word while gesturing toward his pants. “That means I’m not wearing any underwear.”


He then filled us in that he’d been watching a family television comedy where the hipster grandpa told his un-hipster grandson that he hadn’t worn underwear since disco was all the rage.

“So you see,” our son pointed to his bottom half, “I’m going comprende too.”


It took just about every weapon in our parental arsenal not to lose it in laughter right then and there, possibly scarring our beautiful son for life.

My husband quickly turned his back and discovered something completely riveting outside the window.

Could have been a squirrel.

Could have been the cat chasing a squirrel.

Could have been the dog chasing the cat chasing a squirrel.

At this point, a naked Charlize Theron chasing a squirrel through the back yard wouldn’t have caught his eye.

I leaned over and snuck a peek - his eyes were closed, lips smashed together, tears running down his cheeks, shoulders shaking.


He’s a strong one.

I straightened back up, took a moment to compose myself and asked my son, “Don’t you mean commando?”

He cocked his head to the side and eloquently responded, “Eh?”

I smiled and said, “Comprende means ‘understand’ in Spanish. Commando is slang for no underwear.”

He cocked his head, shrugged his shoulders and said, “That’s good to know. I’d hate to get those mixed up in school.”



“Hey, Mom, I’d like the Rosetta Stone for Christmas,” he announced later in the week.

Yeah. So did Napoleon. And we saw how well that turned out for the Little Big Guy. He got to claim it for about five seconds before the British swooped in, knocked him to the ground and took his new toy away to England.

Since this is a kid whose list normally includes items like video games, soccer balls and NERF blasters, I was a little taken aback at this more highbrow request.

“The Rosetta Stone?” I asked. “Are you sure?” (Seriously, where does the kid come up with this stuff?)

He nodded an exuberant “YES.” (Seriously, he’s a weirdo.)

“Well, good luck with that,” I said. “The Egyptians have been trying for 200 years to pry that big rock out of Britain’s hands. I doubt we'd have any better luck.”

He looked at me quizzically. (Seriously, not the first time that’s happened.) “Uh, it can’t be that hard, Mom, I just saw it advertised on television.”


That’s a lot easier than mounting a full military campaign. Poor Napoleon. If he’d just waited until QVC was invented, life would have been a lot easier for him.

“Wait a minute,” I muttered. “I think we’re talking about two different Rosetta Stones.”

Turns out he was referring to the series of language learning tutorials and not the actual Rosetta Stone.

That makes a lot more sense.

The shipping and handling on the real Rosetta Stone would have been a nightmare anyway.

I laughed and said, “I guess we can put that on your list.” I smiled, recalling his earlier foray into the misuse of Spanish, and added, “I assume you’re wanting the Spanish video.”

He quickly shook his head and said, “Nope. German.”


Great. By the time he’s done he’ll have learned how to go commando in just about every language on the planet.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Bob and Zach are back

The Elves on the Shelf have returned for the 2104 Christmas season, and it appears they are not fans of how "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" pokes a little fun at this holiday tradition.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Bunko job

Our growing 9-year-old son’s bedroom was smaller than the less oft-used guest room. So when he asked if he could switch rooms, I decided to grant His Highness’s royal wish.

I sincerely thought I could dismantle his large bunk bed and move it into the bigger room.


But before you question my mental status, I’d like to state for the record that I was doing just that.

Armed with only an Allen wrench and a flathead screwdriver, I was like the super-fan-ta-bu-lous Bob Vila, only in reverse.

The first bolt?

No problem.

I popped that baby out of there like I did my son’s first loose tooth.

I was flying through the process, envisioning my husband’s return home from work where I would triumphantly show him what I had done.


I even practiced my “Ta-da!

I wanted to have just the right amount of flair, you know, without dipping into the category of obnoxiousness. He’d brag to husbands everywhere how much his wife rocks an Allen wrench.

But, like the tragic heroes of Greek mythology who counted their chickens - er, drachmas or whatever they counted back then - before they hatched, the universe decided to screw with me in the form of one tiny, quarter-inch, seized bolt.

Oh, I don’t think so.

I stomped down the stairs and into the garage, threw open the lid to my husband’s tool box and grabbed another - larger - screwdriver.

I can’t tell you what I planned to do with it, mind you, but it seemed like a good tool to start with.

I stomped back up the stairs, aligned the Allen wrench on one side of the bolt and wedged the screwdriver onto the bolt’s fastener and proceeded to turn the bolt counterclockwise.

Lefty-loosey, righty-tighty, you know.

I gripped the tool handles tightly, squeezed into the scant six inches of open space between the bed and the wall, braced my shoulder against the beam and turned with everything I had inside of me.

And blew out a kidney.

And tore a rotator cuff.

Holy mother of God. This is war.

I threw down the screwdriver and stomped back down the stairs.

(I’d like to say it was at this point I got smart and just grabbed the tool box to take back upstairs with me. But I can’t say that without lying about it. So I won’t.)

I grabbed something that looked like a cross between a pair of pliers and the forceps they used on me when my son was born.

If they got a 9-pound baby outta my uterus after 24 hours of labor, then that seized bolt was MINE!


73 minutes later....

I won’t lie to you. By this time I had lugged the toolbox up the stairs and tried every *#&% tool we had.

I even tried drilling it out. No luck.

And that’s when I spotted it.

The hammer.

Just sitting there in the bottom of the toolbox.

All alone.

Calling to me.

I bent over and picked it up, hefted it in my hand, testing its weight, and thought, “Just one swing. Just one. Then all my troubles will be over.” I smiled.

Just as I swung the hammer back in a large arc over my head - I heard this behind me, “Hi, Mom.”

Oh, for the love of all that is good and holy in this world.

With the hammer frozen over my head, I turned to see my son standing in the doorway of his bedroom. He smiled at me and said, “I just wanted you to know I’ve been downstairs praying for you. I know you can figure this all out.”

I turned back to the bed and muttered, “Well played, you little son of a bunk bed. Well played.”


When my husband returned home from work a bit later it wasn’t to congratulate me on my awesomeness, as I had envisioned.

Instead, he found me crying in a huddled mass underneath the bunk bed, clutching the hammer to my chest and babbling about my kidney.

First, he fixed me a really strong drink. He’s a good man.

Then he grabbed the drill and ripped out that bolt like it was butter.

I’d like to think I’d loosened it for him.

At least...that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Sweating the sweets

After 41 years on the planet I finally got smart.

I didn’t buy Halloween candy early this year.

Past experience has taught me well.

Buy candy early. Eat all the candy. Throw up.

Buy more candy. Gain 10 pounds.

So I decided to Just Say No this year and wait until the very last possible second to get candy for the little tricky monsters.

However, what I didn’t count on was my family’s less-than-stellar reaction to my plan.

“WHAT?! WE DON’T HAVE ANY CANDY YET?!” my husband screeched the morning of the big day. “THIS IS AN OUTRAGE!”

Whoa. Settle down there, cowboy. 

It’s not like I forgot to buy beer.

“Don’t worry,” I patted his arm. “I’ll get some later today.”

He puffed out his chest with all the self-importance of a guy who’d just planted a flag on the moon for all of mankind and announced, “No, I will get the candy this year.”

I’m not sure if he was expecting a fight, for me to defend my candy-buying responsibilities.

Like that was gonna happen.

“Don’t forget to grab something that’s not chocolate and something nut free,” I advised as he made his way to the garage.

He stopped, turned back around and grunted, “Huh?”

His eloquence is overwhelming.

I sighed, “Because some kids don’t like chocolate and others could be allergic to nuts.”

He looked like he’d just licked a lemon.

“What? Who doesn’t like chocolate?” he muttered and headed for the door.


You ever try to describe what Smarties look like over the phone?

Go ahead. Try it.

The phone rings.

Me: “Hello?”

Husband: “What should I get that’s non-chocolate?”

Me: “Smarties. Kids love Smarties.”

Husband: “What are Smarties?”

Me: “They’re like Sweet Tarts but smaller. Best thing ever invented for dentists.”

Husband: “Why don’t I just get Sweet Tarts?”

Me: “I don’t care. Get Sweet Tarts.”

Husband: (after a brief silence) “I don’t see any Smarties. What do they look like again?”

Me: (after I rolled my eyes) “What happened to the Sweet Tarts?”

Husband: “Just thought I’d look for Smarties first.”

Me: (for the Love of God) “They are round.”

Husband: “What color are they?”

Me:  (I wanna die) “All kinds of colors.”

Husband: (after a brief silence) “That doesn’t help. How big are they?”

Me: (I know about 12 different ways to kill him) “Jeez, about the size of a dime, I guess. Maybe a little smaller. And they’ll be stacked together in a roll.”

Husband: (after yet another brief silence) “I don’t see them on the shelf. I’m just gonna get Sweet Tarts.”

Me: (thank you, Jesus) “Sounds great. See you at home.”

Husband: (after a brief silence I hear him yell like he just discovered that beer has been given its very own spot on the Food Pyramid) “Oh, wait. I found them! I found the Smarties!”


That’s about 10 minutes of my life I will never. ever. get. back.


He arrived home with no less than 37 bags of candy. “What have you done?” I wailed. “There’s too much candy here!”

He shook his head and sagely said, “No, we’ll be fine.”

I waved to the plethora of sugar and pointed out, “You bought too many different kinds. You put all this in a bowl, give a kid this many options, and his head is gonna explode.”

He scoffed and said, “You’re crazy.”

I shook my head, “No, seriously, I’ve seen it. Three is the magic number. You have more than three kinds of candy and the kid will just stand there, looking into the bowl like he’s a fortune teller reading tea leaves and unable to make a decision. Then the parents nudge his side and mutter ‘hurry it up,’ which doesn’t help at all. Because then the kid starts hyperventilating. He picks up one kind, then puts it back. Picks up another kind, then puts THAT one back. By this time the parents are threatening to take away his XBox if he doesn’t move it down the street. Then he starts to cry.”

I looked at my husband and said, “Is that what you want? Do you wanna make little kids cry?!”

His eyes were THIS BIG. Then he cried, “I don’t wanna buy candy any more!”

Next year?

We’re moving to the moon.