Archive for June, 2010

Fun family times

Realizing that today (Sunday) would be the last time we’d all six be home together till – I’m guessing – Thanksgiving weekend, Scott decided that we’d spend this afternoon and evening doing fun family things.  The theory is that we’d each pick something and we’d all do that thing together for some 30 minutes.  There was some overlap, and some members didn’t have a particular desire.

We began by biking to Big Rock (Josiah graciously walking and running, as we were one bike short) and swimming.  We surveyed the kids’ new dam, which, in low water was holding the swimming hole almost a foot higher than the waters downstream (!!!), played frisbee, talked, and laughed.  Andrew dove off Big Rock, Katie jumped, Josiah scratched C# code on an underwater rock (much to the local fish population’s dismay), and Jessica kept us all entertained with miscellaneous commentation.

Back home we did some prep for a cookout supper and then played Wizard, which unfortunately ended up being a bust because of Andrew’s attitude.  During the seventh round, a storm appeared to be brewing  – that would be a meteorological one, in addition to the one around the dining room table – so Scott and Josiah dashed outside and carried the grill full of burning coals from the backyard to the front porch.  The storm deluged us less than two minutes later!  My Hero was then able to grill our chicken, brats, and kielbasa under cover, while Jessica’s creamy cheese potatoes baked in the oven.  Yum.

After supper, we had planned to go see the fireworks at C of O, but we called around and learned that the storm had canceled that show.  Not to be thwarted, Katie suggested that we spend some time with the kids asking the parents questions about their (the parents’) growing up years and the parents sharing stories of said.  That ended up being a lot of fun for all, and I think our investment in togetherness was time well spent.

Special sighting

I have been informed that my previous post was depressing, so I will try to be more upbeat today.  On this morning’s sixth pass across the bridge, I saw something I have never seen before.  It wasn’t a great blue heron, or a soft shell turtle, or even a water snake.  I saw a raccoon, walking downstream along the far bank!!!  He was bright-eyed and seemingly oblivious to me.  I was so excited, and I got to watch him for almost thirty seconds before he disappeared under the bridge.

Clearly not progressive

I learned something about myself this week.  Of course, I’ve known all my life that I’m averse to change and I crave organization and clear communication, but I now also know that I am definitively NOT progressive – not where the Constitution is concerned, and probably not anywhere else!  I realize now that I should have seen that in advance (pun intended), but I guess I was blind-sided till I entered the house of mirrors at the library.

It’s like this.  I’ve worn bifocals (the ones with nice big lines) for about six years.  I’m currently on my second prescription thereof.  I ordered these glasses in October ’08, and when I left Sam’s optical wearing them, I could see splendidly.  Driving home was grand and the road signs were crystal clear.  Reading was a snap and the text was sharper than it had ever been.  Of course, we were out a substantial chunk of change, but I could see, and I was thrilled.

Until I got home.  I sat down at my computer and realized that something was terribly wrong.  The screen was blurry in the distance lenses and blurry in the close-up lenses.  Not a good thing.  Called Sam’s, told them the problem, and they said I’d they’d nee to make me another pair of single visions glasses for the mid-range focal length (computer, piano, camera).  Which they made and for which we took a deep breath and paid.

That left me with two pairs of prescription glasses, and I had to constantly flip from one pair to the other when working at my desk: bifocals for looking down to read something on my desk; mid-range for looking at the computer monitor.  Thankfully, when I was playing the piano or running camera at church I could just wear the mid-range pair – although I couldn’t walk across the room in them without stumbling, so I had to wear my bifocals to walk to the piano or camera, then whip the mid-range babies out of my pocket in order to read the music or focus the camera.

I did this until April ’09, when I began to notice that neither the close-up nor the mid-range lenses were totally clear.  At that point, I kind of gave up on the desk-flip maneuver.  I went to wearing the bifocals to read, walk, drive, and live, and wearing no glasses at all to look at the computer monitor.  This caused more literal headaches but fewer logistical ones.

That’s how I’ve been managing my vision challenges for about 14 months, during which time the clarity of my vision has gradually declined.  Frankly, although it’s been obvious for over a year and a half that I need trifocals, I really didn’t want to spend the money it would cost to get them, and then have to do it all over again every six months!

I finally broke down last week and went to Pearle Vision.  I had been in there once before and they had assured me that they had some nifty kind of glasses that would work great for me.  They had also pointed out that my bifocals from Sam’s didn’t really fit me properly (position of the bifocal line); I felt that they knew what they were talking about.

When I left my appointment last week, my eyes had been thoroughly examined and found to be (although not seeing clearly with my current prescriptions) quite healthy.  My retinas, maculas, and optic nerves all appeared to be in great shape.  The doctor spent a lot of time answering my many questions and then recommended the “Kodak Progressive lenses.”  The optician fitted me for those lenses in my existing mid-range frames (which frames I really like), and I left Pearle slightly poorer, but very hopeful.

Five days later, I picked up my new glasses.  Pearle has a deal on progressives where they give you a month to adjust, and if you can’t adjust in that time period, they will make you a pair of lined lens glasses at no charge.

The distance lenses were perfect.  I could see the texture on a brick wall a tenth of a mile away!  The reading lenses also seemed to be fine – at least when reading the text on the little card they showed me.  But the mid-range. . . where was it?  I know that with progressives you MUST point your nose where you want to look, but the lady across the counter working with me would not come into focus, no matter where I wagged my nose.  I KNEW there should be a focal point in there somewhere, but I certainly could not find it.

She adjusted the glasses, explained about distortion (and I clearly did not get the full interpretation on that, as will be obvious later), assured me I would adapt quickly, and sent me on my way. I was feeling pretty good.  I could drive, I could read the speedometer, and surely I would do fine with these new glasses.

Then I got to the library.  Now, we check out a lot of library books.  Many of them are for Andrew’s academics, and my every-two-week sojourn to the library is both fun and productive.  I wander the stacks, scanning titles, leafing through books,  and picking out ones that I either think Andrew ought to read or would enjoy reading.  It’s quite a process, and it requires me to walk, scan, and skim quickly.

But this time, I could NOT read the titles of the books on the shelves!  Not in the distance lenses, not in the close-up lenses, and most assuredly not in the mid-range (if there were any) lenses.  I’m not just saying that the titles were a little blurry; I literally couldn’t read them at all.  I tried moving my head closer to the shelves and looking through the close-up lenses.  No go.  I tried backing away and using the distance lenses.  Worse.  I tried to find that blasted tiny window of supposed clarity with the mid-range lenses.  Non-existent.

Finally, I whipped the glasses off my face, and, Aha!  I could actually read the titles.  Yes, I had to strain to do so, and yes, within about five minutes I had a headache, but at least I could see.  However, this was not going to do at all.  I have worn glasses for about 35 years, and I know that if you don’t wear a new pair of glasses religiously, you won’t adjust to them.  I put the glasses back on, determined to stick it out and make them work for me.

After much effort, I finally figured out that when looking through these glasses, if I turned my head slightly, or even just moved my eyes slightly from side to side (as you do when reading a line of text, or, in my case, looking across the various titles on a shelf of books), the size of the books swung wildly.  It was like being in a house of mirrors – you know, those weird distorting ones that make you look twelve feet tall and skinny, but, with just a slight movement suddenly make you look as short and fat as a Buddha?  Well, that’s what was happening to the books in front of me.  They were stretching and shrinking with almost nauseating rapidity, and it was at that moment that I realized that I simply could not wear those progressive lenses.

This was very discouraging news, and I was nearly in tears by the time we left the library.  I called Pearle and told them I would be in the next day to turn these babies back in for some lined tri-focals.

I was there ten minutes after they opened, and the optician was quite accommodating.  He listened to my description of why I could not and would not wear those glasses for another single moment, asked some questions, had me read some stuff, and then dropped the bombshell:  they could not order lined trifocals that went all the way across, which is what I had told him I wanted.  Instead, he would give me the largest tri-focal they offered, they would fit into my beloved comfortable frames, and the tri-focal line would be higher than what I was used to with my bifocals. It might be difficult for me to adjust to.  I told him that if I knew there at least WAS a mid-range that would be in focus without bouncing, swinging, and making me dizzy, I would figure out how to adjust to it.  He was also surprised when I opened a magazine, struggled to focus the text in the close-up lenses, and marked with a pen the area of the text that was actually clear.  It was one and one-quarter inches across by three-fourths of an inch high.  That is NOT a big enough window for me to read through!

He told me that if the lined tri-focals didn’t work out, I would have to go to two pairs of glasses – either the trifocals (or a bifocal pair with distance and close-up) for general life, and a different bifocal pair with mid-range and close-up for computer, piano, and camera.  Note that while the tri-focals have been paid for, any additional pair(s) of any kind, whether single lens or bifocal, would be at my expense – frames, lenses, coatings, the whole shooting match.  Sigh.

So now, I am waiting for my lined tri-focals.  I am typing right now without wearing any glasses, my eyes ache, and I’m hoping to avoid a headache.  This has been my norm for quite a while, so another week shouldn’t make a difference, right?

I must admit that one of the reasons I let myself be talked into progressives in the first place was that while the lines don’t bother me at all, the idea of the lines not being obvious to everyone else really appealed to me.  I’m not especially vain about my appearance, but particularly in pictures, it is annoying for those lines to stand out so prominently.  I look goofy without my glasses, so I don’t want to take them off for pics.

I also confess that I tend to think of tri-focals as a tool for people in their 70s, not for someone who’s only 49!  I tend to lump tri-focals with hearing aids, and yes, unless there’s a reversal of process, I will probably be shopping for those in the future.  Huh?  What did you say?  Will you PLEASE stop mumbling?!?!?  Frankly, this whole aging thing is just not nearly as recreational as I had hoped.  Your hair thins, you can’t see or hear, your memory decreases, your arches fall, and your gums recede.

At least it’s all good blog fodder, and next week I’ll have another pair of new glasses!

Four for one

I think we have achieved a new level of status in the realm of automotive repair.  In the space of one single week, we had Katie’s car to Branson Muffler (our newest auto repair joint) for transmission flush and seal work, Scott’s car there for a wheel bearing replacement, the van there for work on the front brakes, and Jessica’s car there for some outpatient dangling muffler/broken tailpipe surgery.

I told Alex, the lady at their front desk, that it seems like our family may be funding their entire business single-handedly.  Scott asked for the multi-car discount.  I’m thankful that we don’t have to keep playing musical cars this week.

Should be illegal

Online insurance application forms that require you to re-type the exact same information on screen after screen after screen after screen after screen – and which require that information to be entered into so many different boxes that it is completely impractical to copy and paste.

Credit card statements in which the amount due does not equal the total of the listed charges.

Bookkeeping software in which – when recording a check written to, say, a credit card company for a monthly bill that includes multiple charges to various entities (which must each be manually itemized correctly by category) – the software CHANGES the dollar amount you have entered to a DIFFERENT dollar amount that bears no relation to anything, and then adamantly refuses to allow you to change that figure back to the amount you originally entered (and for which you actually wrote the check).

Stripey shirt song

(sung to the tune of “Oh Where Oh Where Has My Little Dog Gone?”)

Oh where, oh where has his stripey shirt gone?
Oh where, oh where can it be?
It hung on the bar with the un-ironed clothes
But now it’s not there.  Woe is me.

Tomorrow are two presentations to do,
And Andrew in costume will be.
With mime make-up on and his feet blackly shod,
But shirtless, his chest all will see.

Perhaps we can paint some bold stripes on his skin,
But since he is brown we will need
To put on both white ones and black ones aligned.
There’s no time to do it with speed.

I told him, “Ask Jo what to do about this.”
And Jo said that Courtney would know,
But Courtney is in Colorado right now,
His striped shirt on her list is low.

So then I called Tess and asked what we should do.
Our AIM brain – alas, she is gone.
We laughed as we thought of the four months to come.
When Jo’ll have to think and lead on.

I thought about crying but chose not to weep.
I’m sure that our Llama can cope
With all things that need advance planning and such
He’s older now; that gives me hope.

We still have no striped shirt for Andrew to wear,
But Tess will call Ryan to see
If someone left striped shirts at the S-A-C,
And if so, then happy we’ll be.

Oh when, oh when will my boys think ahead?
Oh when will me they not need?
I fear that that day will come too soon for me
And then my poor heart, it will bleed.

But now, for tonight, I can rest and sleep well.
The boys will go do their AIM thing.
And I told Josiah to not come back home
Unless all those gloves he does bring.

I hope he also will bring two stripey shirts.
I hope he will pack them a lunch.
I hope he takes plenty of sunscreen along
And water and something to munch.

I know that these months will all cause him to grow
And sense the full weight of his role
As big brother, SALT man, and dad’s employee
Maturity – that is my goal!

“Doesn’t belong to’s” kid brother

I heard him while walking over the bridge this morning.  He was yowling as only a lonely tiny kitty can.  I looked and looked and finally located his solid black scrawny self in the brush beside the creek.  He came out on the gravel and looked around, yowling continually.  No mama cat in sight, and I guess he was mourning the demise (thanks to Molly, one of the neighbors’ dumb dogs) of his sibling, the little black and white cutie that also doesn’t belong to us.

I was touched by his plaintive cries, but not enough to take in a stray animal that will grow into a cat.

All the zippers zip

Scott is one of those unique people whose love language is NOT gift giving and who cannot be shopped for, but who feels slighted if he has no gift to open on special days.  Rather than each of us giving him some small something that he wouldn’t really care about, we decided to pool our resources and give him one gift that, even if he didn’t care deeply about, he would at least use on a regular basis.

We five went in together and bought him a laptop bag. The man has needed a new bag for YEARS. His old one is totally falling apart, and various compartments can no longer be zipped shut because the zippers are busted.  This means that if the bag has to be put in his back seat and then tips over, stuff falls out and slides under the seats, where it sometimes remains lost for weeks at a time.

The girls window shopped for bags and then Research Consultant found a nice one online.  It has plenty of pockets and compartments (some even labeled with pictures of what should be stored within) and a feature that supposedly lets you go through airport security without removing the computer from the bag.

We told him we paid extra to make sure all the zippers zip, and he seems quite pleased with his Father’s Day gift.

Foretaste of five-day

This morning I drove Jessica to the Branson airport for her much-anticipated graduation gift trip to see her friend, Lori Ann, in Pennsylvania.   Having made five runs to the new airport in the past five weeks, I am getting pretty familiar with that jaunt, to the point that I know each and every point at which to down shift the van so as not to burn out its brakes.

On the road this morning, Jessica was writing a letter to her friend, Courtney, who is away serving on an AIM mission trip right now.  As we made the final climb to the airport, Jessica said, “Mom would you be able to address this and put it across the street so it will go out today?”  Of course.  See, when you send letters to people on AIM mission trips, you have to carefully calculate which mailing address to use and when to mail it, so that it will arrive at the given place before the team leaves that place.  They leave places every three or four days, and if mail addressed to them isn’t there before they leave, they never see it.  Jessica does operate with slightly more margin than a couple of other folks in our family, but I am sure that that letter really needed to go out in TODAY’s mail in order for Courtney to ever receive it.

Not only that, but our home group meets on Friday nights.  We generally have enough ladies present that we need to break into two prayer groups; occasionally three.  Obviously I know the requests for the ladies in my own group, but we are all fairly close and we all like to be praying for all of the other ladies.  Therefore, I ask the leaders of the other group(s) to email their own groups’ requests to me ASAP, and then I email the whole list out to all the ladies.  This works well, except that one (and now two) of the ladies in our group don’t have email.  We suspect that this falls into that interesting category called, “should be illegal,” but we work with the situation as cheerfully as possible.

Once I create the major email with all the requests, I print one copy to snail mail to my dear non-emailing friend (Mildred) and one copy to hand carry to my dear non-emailing neighbor (Jodi).  In a perfect world, I like to get Mildred’s copy out in Saturday’s mail, so that she will receive it on Monday.

Most days our mail runs around 10:00 -11:00 AM, and it’s earlier on Saturdays.  I normally put all the outgoing mail out in the box when I go out to walk around 6:30 AM.  However, if we put something out later in the morning, we sometimes find that Merideth has already come.  In that case, we put it in our neighbor’s box across the street, because she gets to them about 90 minutes after us.  So, what Jessica meant was, “please put this letter in an envelope, address and stamp it, and then, because it’s so late in the morning,” (already 10:20 at that point), “put it in the neighbor’s box so it will be sure to go out today.”

The kicker was that, with today expected to be very hot (mid-90s and humid – oh, give me a break, Danette), I chose to go out and do a bit of gardening first thing.  While doing that, the sprayer that I use to douse my tomatoes with bug-killer and fungicide suddenly broke, sending cascades of nasty-smelling stuff down my arms instead of all over the tomato foliage.  This was a problem, because I know good and well that on June 19, Wal-Mart is in the process of moving out its gardening inventory (and its swimsuits!) and moving in its next season’s supply of plastic pumpkins,  winter coats, and artificial Christmas trees.  Thanks to those vicious tomato hornworms, I use my sprayer every week or two throughout tomato season (which has admittedly gotten much shorter in recent years – but I do still have three apparently healthy plants along with the six diseased ones and three dead ones), and I knew that if I intended to buy a replacement sprayer this year, it would be today or never.

That’s why I went to Wal-Mart on the way home from the airport, and that’s why I was so late getting started on the prayer request email that it was noon when I had the print copy ready to go out, and Merideth had already come and gone both ways.  Sigh.  BTW, Wal-Mart has had a whole shelf of those sprayers for six weeks, but today there was only ONE left.  I bought it.

The post office is a mere five miles away, so I decided to head over there; fully aware that they are only open 7:30 AM to 10:00 AM on Saturdays, but hoping that if I dropped these two letters in the out-of-town slot (only Rockaway Beach and Walnut Shade are considered “local”), surely they would be picked up sometime Saturday, instead of Monday.

When I got to the post office and surveyed the slots and the pick-up times, I learned to my extreme disappointment that the final pick-up for Saturday is at 9:45 AM, so despite all my good intentions, given my having put pruning, weeding, and watering above typing, there was simply NO WAY for those letters to go out in Saturday’s mail.  Which means Mildred won’t get the prayer requests till Tuesday at the earliest, and Courtney may or may not get her letter from Jessica at all.

All that made me think about what it will be like when the good old U.S Postal Service eliminates Saturday delivery.  It has been rumored that this could occur on October 1, so those of you snail mailing me birthday greetings for my big semicentennial need to take note.  I, too, will clearly need to plan ahead a bit better than I do now.  Of course, improved planning is always in season, and I can at least be thankful that Our Uncle didn’t raise first class letter rates THIS May, as he did in the past few Mays.

Getting progressive

In approximately one week, I should be able to see clearly – to read, to play the piano, to use my computer, and to drive.  I have actually been able to do the latter all along, but the bifocals I got in October 2008 (which only let me read and drive, NOT play the piano or use the computer) became essentially non-functional in April 2009.  Actually, the DAY I got them, I came home and realized I couldn’t see my monitor clearly.  I called back to Sam’s optical, explained this very serious problem, and was told that I would need to buy another pair of glasses designed specifically for that mid-range focus.  I did, and for about six months, I flipped between two pairs of glasses while working at my desk.

As mentioned, the situation progressed to the point that neither the near nor mid lenses gave me a clear view of life, so I took to doing all my deskwork without wearing ANY glasses.  This made my eyes tired and achy.

In recent weeks, I have decided I could stand it all no longer, so My Hero told me to go and get the situation fixed.  I did that today at Pearle Vision, and in about a week, I should receive my new Kodak progressive lenses.  Assuming I can successfully adapt within two to three weeks to the absence of lines, I will be able to keep ONE pairs of glasses on my face ALL DAY and see clearly to perform all my necessary and desired tasks!  If I can’t adapt, they will – at no additional charge – make me a pair of standard lined trifocals.

I am choosing not to feel old.

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