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!”

And...again...nothing.

Seriously?

“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.”

*Poof*

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.

Super.

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 insult...to 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, dinner...to his mouth.

Then he chewed. Then he swallowed.

His reaction was...no 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.”