I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Alpenglow

Rosy skies and Mt. Baker
Yesterday I happened to peek out the front window just as the sun was setting and saw Mt. Baker lighted up under this beautiful sky. I quickly pulled out my iPhone, which is always with me, so I could capture the scene. In the few seconds that took, the scene had already begun to lose some of its spectacular color. This is what I saw just before it faded to dark.

At this time of year, we only have 8 hours and 42 minutes of daylight at this latitude, but it's better than it was at the winter solstice. We've already gained almost a half hour, from a low of 8 hours 15 minutes of daylight last month. The return of the light is always a cause for rejoicing. And to have such a sunset to admire from my front porch, well, I'm pleased.

Yesterday was a lovely day from start to finish, even though we didn't see the sun. Why? Because it didn't rain! After several inches fell on the previous two days, everything is soaking wet with puddles of water everywhere, unable to sink into the saturated ground. At least it's mild, with temperatures rising into the high 40s (9°C). I wish I were able to convert Fahrenheit to Celsius without looking at an app, but I cannot. We Americans are one of the few holdouts in the world still using Fahrenheit and not converting to the metric system. Here's an interesting article about why. An excerpt:
This isn't just an aesthetic issue. America's stubborn unwillingness to get rid of Fahrenheit temperatures is part of its generally dumb refusal to change over to the metric system, which has real-world consequences. One conversion error between US and metric measurements sent a $125 million NASA probe to its fiery death in Mars' atmosphere.
It's partly because of old people like me who can't convert the numbers quickly because of a lifetime of habit. When I watch the world news, the worldwide temperatures are given in Celsius and I make a futile attempt to convert those numbers in my head. I do know that 0°C is freezing (32°F) and that makes it a little bit easier to figure. If the news channels just stopped using Fahrenheit, I'm pretty sure it wouldn't be long before I got it straight. But for now, it's like learning a foreign language: I must convert words I know into ones I don't, and that takes time.

For now, I've got a few more pressing issues to deal with than lamenting my creaky old brain's foibles. I've decided to visit my sister in Florida next month and have already begun the packing process. I'm not checking a bag, which means I've got to winnow down my important items to a small carry-on and my little backpack/purse. It's been more than a year since I last visited, and during that time I seem to have forgotten everything I learned. She swims every weekday morning in the outdoor pool at her local Y, and I'll be joining her, although I haven't pulled out my swimsuit since my last trip. Plus I need earplugs and a swim cap so that I don't get water in my ears. That's just one part of my visit that reminds me to pack the right stuff.

And I worry about staying healthy between now and then, since everybody around me is getting sick these days. My friend John just spent four days in the hospital with the flu, although he got a flu shot and is usually healthy as a horse. When I went on the walk with the ladies yesterday, several were either missing because of illness or on the way to recovery, with hoarse voices and low energy. I am washing my hands every chance I get, and trying to remind myself not to bring my hands to my face all the time. Once I read about this tip to keep from getting sick, I was really amazed to notice how often I touch my face.

This week I will have the final checkup for the cataract surgery on my eyes, and I will finally (finally!) finish with the twice-daily drops. Four weeks of drops in each eye, with three times a day for the first week. I've gotten accustomed to the routine, though, and I am needing to put artificial tears in the left eye, which feels dry and scratchy otherwise. I'm guessing that once I finish with the right eye this week, I'll be doing the same with it. At least I will be finished with the prescription drops.

It's wonderful to see so much better these days, and although I still have some residual flashes in my left eye, they seem to be diminishing as the days pass. The problem for me is that I will never have healthy eyes again, with the macular degeneration still there and progressing. The good part is that when I am sitting here with my laptop, I don't need to wear glasses, or when I'm reading. When I drive I need them, or when I go to the movies and want to see everything crystal clear at a distance. Otherwise, I am content to go without glasses and let the world out there be slightly blurry as I gaze into the distance. I can still see better without glasses than I did with them before the surgeries.

I watched the Golden Globes awards show last week (although for the majority of the show I had the TV on and the sound off) and because of the show I started watching This Is Us. It's currently in its second season on NBC, but because I can watch season one on Hulu, I've been watching a couple episodes every time I get a chance. It reminds me of Parenthood, a series I enjoyed a few years ago. It's about a family dynamic that begins with the birth of triplets. Well, sort of. As with all these kinds of dramas, it's complicated. The show goes back and forth in time to three different periods, one of them being the present day. There are things that happened earlier and the show drops a few clues but doesn't reveal critical information all at once. I'm hooked after five episodes.

Well, now you're up to speed in all that's happening in my life. I do hope that wherever you are in the world, that you are healthy and safe. In this turbulent world, it's good to count our blessings and be glad for what we have in our lives that keeps us going forward with appreciation. I found this quote from Denis Waitley, which sums it up pretty well:
Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude. 
Dear readers, I wish you all good things once again this week and until we meet again,  be well and remember to embrace the moment.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Ruminations on a new year

A contemplative place
Yesterday on the walk with the ladies, I wanted to go over the bridge and get a picture of the roaring waterfall, but we were heading elsewhere, so I kept getting behind when I'd stop to take a picture. This is as close as I got to the falls. These ladies walk fast, and I was continually lagging behind. I'd have to run a little to catch up; I didn't want to hold anybody up because I was not concentrating hard enough on keeping up the pace.

One of the reasons I enjoy this walk is the challenge to maintain a pace that is much faster than I would go by myself. When I first began walking with them, seven years ago now, I'd almost always struggle to keep up. There tend to be two groups: one very fast and the other keeping a pace not quite as fast. I try hard to stay at the forefront of the slower group; Cindy (our leader) always stops at junctions and waits until the second group is in sight before heading off again. It's partly because of this walk that I am able to keep up with my sister when I visit her in Florida. She would be at the front of the first group.

Cindy was a competitive race walker for many years before she started leading a group of fun walkers every Saturday morning at 8:00am. It's open to everyone, but many times someone will come once or twice and decide it's too fast a pace (around four miles an hour). I am probably the oldest person who comes on these walks on a regular basis, although there are many retired ladies among us. Men are welcome, but for some reason they don't return after a time or two. It is part of my routine that helps to keep me fit. I'm usually sweating hard no matter the temperature; it's a good workout.

This year marks the tenth anniversary of our move from Boulder, Colorado, to Bellingham, Washington. It was April 2008 when we first pulled up our rented U-Haul to our new apartment. SG had already scouted out possible places to live, and he had found a place that we both agreed would be a good starting point. Although I was still in Boulder, finishing up the last weeks in my job before retiring, he left his car here and flew back to Boulder so that I could drive my car and he could drive the U-Haul.

It was a sunny day and everything was in full bloom when we arrived. The environment here in Bellingham is completely different from Boulder's semi-arid conditions. I remember noticing how lush everything seemed, with plenty of green everywhere. Now it's become the norm: when I went back to visit Boulder, it seemed strange to see the sparse vegetation that once was normal to me. Funny how that happens.

Now it's been ten years and this is my home. We moved once, four years ago, from one apartment in the complex to another, but we are still here appreciating the many joys of the Pacific Northwest in almost the same place we first arrived. Most of the time, I don't even mind the rain, and I've amassed quite a collection of clothing that helps to exercise and play outside in all the conditions we find ourselves exposed to. Bellingham was a brilliant move for us, and the many friendships I've made over the years enrich my days.

Today I'll go to the movies with my friend Judy, now that the holidays are over and her family has returned to their own homes, she's available to me once again. I met her at the Y and we had coffee after class one day, and that was the beginning of a dear friendship of two like-minded women of a certain age. Our partners don't particularly like the same things we do, so we enjoy movies, excursions, and dinners together on a regular basis. Ten years now!

I got a text yesterday from my sister Norma Jean that her son Peter successfully returned from a trip to the East Coast. He drove there, and I was worried about how he would get back, with the awful weather hitting the entire eastern half of the country. He did attempt to leave earlier this week but ended up staying with some friends halfway back to Florida. I just looked at the weather and we are both experiencing temperatures in the mid-forties at the moment. For a time, she had colder weather in Florida than we had here. I read that iguanas were falling out of the trees, frozen and stunned by the extreme cold. (Apparently they weren't dead in most cases and just needed to warm up.) Now that would be a sight!

I watched a few rescues on the news, animals that fell through ice and were pulled out by good samaritans. One poor dog was pulled out just in the nick of time, and I was so relieved to see him wrapped in blankets and recovering afterwards. When I was pondering what to write about this morning, I thought about all those people who are helping others through this terrible cold and snow covering so much of our country and thought it would be a good topic. But once I sat down to write, I just couldn't quite get anything going, much less something that I would need to research. Nope, that was not where I was headed today. Instead, I didn't actually venture very far from the confines of my own little cocoon: tea finished, partner sleeping, and the tapping of the keys on my laptop here in the dim light of this Sunday morning before dawn, our first visit of the new year.

One thing doesn't change from year to year: my sincere desire that we all have a wonderful and fulfilling trip around the sun, once again. I know things change; it's the nature of life, but for you, my dear reader, and for all those I hold dear, I wish us all a year filled with love, light, and wonder. Be well until we meet again next week.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Goodbye to 2017

When I was younger I did this
It's New Years Eve! Another year to say goodbye to and another one to look forward to. I see that it's already 2018 in Australia, according to my news feed, but we have a whole day to spend before the year is over. It's all a little bit arbitrary, isn't it? We decide these things and act as if they are written in stone, but they are just agreements we make with one another. Nevertheless, this year is soon to be behind me, and I'll make the mistake of writing down the wrong year for several days or weeks, before I get used to it.

It used to be when I wrote checks that I most often forgot the correct year, but I hardly write any at all any more, maybe a half dozen during an entire year, so I don't have to worry about that. It will only be paperwork when I write the year that I'll make the mistake. You know, getting used to -/-/18 as the date.

Wasn't it just the beginning of the millennium the other day? How is it possible that the years have flown by so quickly? We are almost two decades in, and our world has changed in many big and small ways. The smartphone revolution had not even begun in 2000 (it wasn't until 2007 that the first iPhone was released), nobody ever heard of Airbnb, for example, or Uber, or much else that we take for granted today. And look at how Amazon has changed our shopping habits, for example.

I just finished a quick search on the internet about the history of blogging, and I was surprised to learn how long it's actually been around. In the last twenty years, it's become a major social phenomenon. I've been blogging myself now for almost a decade, with it beginning as a way for me to keep myself entertained and stay in practice with writing after retirement. And yes, it's done the job quite well. I never for a moment imagined the community that would develop around blogging. Before I sat down to write my Sunday morning meditation, I checked out those who had posted while I slept. People who I will never lay eyes on have become as important to me as family members, and in some cases even more so.

One nice thing about the end of one year and the beginning of another is a chance to take stock of how much has (or hasn't) changed during our last revolution around the sun. The seasons come and go, three months at a time, and we move from chilly and frozen to hot and humid without actually noticing a daily change. The sunlight grows weak in the winter and bakes the ground in the summer. Same sun, different season. Up here just a bit south of the 49th parallel, our days are very short in the winter and long in the summer. From Wikipedia:
From a point on the ground at this latitude, the sun is above the horizon for 16 hours, 12 minutes during the summer solstice and 8 hours, 14 minutes during the winter solstice. This latitude also roughly corresponds to the minimum latitude in which astronomical twilight can last all night near the summer solstice.
I have consulted Wikipedia and Google's search engine a dozen times already while writing this post, and that is all a very recent development. When I pulled up the last article, I saw that Wikimedia is asking for donations to keep it going. Since I am a very frequent user, I donated in less than a minute. Since it's the last day of the year, it's fitting that it would be my final annual donation to a cause I care about. Yes, the world is changing right in front of our eyes!

Since it's also a perfect time for a short retrospective, I thought I'd share my favorite books and movies from the past year. To refresh my memory, I brought up the app my local library provides for me to look over the last year's history. In perusing it, I realized that this was the year I discovered David Baldacci, who writes gripping mystery novels. My sister had a book by him when I visited last year, and I've made my way through pretty much all of them. Frankly, I can't remember a thing about any of these books, so they are forgettable but very entertaining reads.

I also saw books that I enjoyed very much that had been recommended by bloggers whom I read regularly. One that caught my eye is Out to Pasture, a series of books written by a woman who wrote this as a first novel at the age of 85. I read every other one I could find and enjoyed them all very much. I also read Anne of Green Gables and the subsequent novel written at the turn of the nineteenth century, recently in the news, because of a new movie being made about the character. There are more in the series, but I'm in no hurry.

None of those books were purchased, since they are good for one read only. The ability to hear of a recommended book and simply pull up a new tab on my laptop and place a hold on a book, whether new or old, is really wonderful. I use it often when I'm reading blogs and someone tells me I should check out a book. In fact, I've got one I just checked out yesterday that someone told me about (I have no idea who) and came in this past week.

Movies are a little more difficult, since I don't have anything to remind me about my favorites this year, except for my faulty memory. In the past month I've seen a few I enjoyed, such as the wonderful Darkest Hour with Gary Oldman playing Winston Churchill. He deserves to win an Oscar for this one. And I also saw The Shape of Water, a totally different kind of movie, a love story about a woman who falls in love with a fish creature. I loved it, but then again I have very eclectic tastes. Both links take you to Rotten Tomatoes, which tell you that other people have also enjoyed those two movies as well.

I could go on and on, but I'm not going to, since I have my day to begin after I finish up here. As I said in the beginning of this post, it's been a long time since I've celebrated New Years Eve with a party. I cannot manage to stay up that long any longer, even if I wanted to, and why would I? My nice warm bed beckons to me, and alcoholic parties no longer hold my interest. However, I had plenty of revelry in past years, enough to last me through the ones I have left.

Whatever you do with your last eve in the old year, I hope you stay safe and warm (or if you're in Australia, stay cool). Around here the temperatures will be chilly but reasonable, while they are saying in New York and other parts of the East Coast will have some extremely cold temperatures for the festivities. Brrr!

I will be getting up soon and starting my own last day of the year with my friends at the coffee shop, after having said Auld Lang Syne to my dear virtual friends here. Please stay safe and have the very best of the new year to come. Be sure to hug your dear ones to your heart, and remember those who have already gone before us. I wish you well until we meet again next week.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Christmas magic

Joe Meche's Christmas gift to us
This has been a Christmas season for me like no other. Suffice it to say that the second cataract surgery was successful, and now I am looking at the screen with two eyes and no glasses. It's perfect. I now have distance glasses for driving and watching movies in the theater, but when I'm not wearing them, the world looks much like it did before! With them on, I can read even the tiniest print on street signs, something that had been missing from my vision for years and years. I am beyond thrilled and very glad that the ordeals are behind me, hopefully. I will see the surgeon on Wednesday for the final left eye check and the one-week All Clear for the right eye, giving me the chance to resume my yoga practice. I'll be placing drops in the right eye all the way until the middle of January.

We don't do much for the holidays, just carry on as we usually do, with a few extra parties and indulgences, but we don't exchange gifts any more. Not formally, anyway, but in the course of events we end up buying a little something for each other while out and about. SG treats me to many delightful healthy dishes, and I saw him perusing a book he wanted while we were out, so I bought it for him. We do these kinds of things year round, but just being out in the crowded stores together at this time of year was unusual. We were on our way back from one of the many visits to the surgeon.

It was truly cold yesterday on the walk with the ladies around Lake Padden. Clear and cold, I was taken by surprise at how cold it felt before we got warmed up as we walked. Although it was 24°F (-4°C), the light breeze made it feel much colder, and my face felt frozen, as I walked without wearing any glasses to warm my eyeballs! But within a twenty-minute window, suddenly all the clothes I was wearing made me feel almost overheated. It amazes me how much the body's internal temperature rises when one gets moving. Before long, I was shedding clothes, along with many of the other women. We chatted as we walked, happy to be out on a fine day with each other. More than a dozen of us were dressed with jingle bells tied to our shoes and festive wear for the season. Afterwards, we gathered at a local cafeteria to share coffee and enjoyment before heading off to our respective homes or last-minute shopping. It was so lovely.

Today I will head to the coffee shop to join my friends there for my usual Sunday morning latte. At this time of the year, not many people rise early, so it'll probably just be us and the staff, listening to Christmas music and playing with our iPads. I realized with a shock yesterday that I've known John for more than four years now, and I look forward to seeing him. My life is enriched by his friendship. Tomorrow he, Lily and I will head out in his big truck for our early-morning adventure of trying to find a cup of coffee somewhere other than Avellino's, which will be closed, along with almost every other place in town.

Now that I've had so many different Christmas Eves in my life, I can look back and remember them with joy and gladness. When I was young, it was a magical time of a fragrant Christmas tree decorated in the house, with tinsel back then, and presents under the tree that we exchanged with each other. I was the oldest, but my sister Norma Jean and I were only the beginning of the family Mama and Daddy would produce. PJ was born when I was seven, and our Christmases then included a baby, then a toddler, and finally a playmate. My only brother was born when I was sixteen, and my two youngest sisters were born after I married and left home, so I never knew them as well as the others. Being only one year apart, those two have remained very close throughout their lives.

My parents moved a great deal, since Daddy was in the Air Force, but somehow when I think back on those early years, the constant in our lives was the family, not where we lived but each other. Daddy was gone a lot, but Mama created a home for us, wherever we were, and it created a warm and secure childhood for us. Mama was only 69 when she died, and Daddy had been gone for more than a decade by then, so we never got a chance to experience their old age with them, but now that I am much older than either parent ever got a chance to be, I can imagine how it might have been. No old folks home for them: they would have aged in place, in their retirement home, with us grown children coming home every holiday season to visit our beloved parents.

Now that my sight has settled down, I am reading several books at once, and one that I'm enjoying especially is the sequel to Anne of Green Gables. The author wrote a long series of stories at the turn of the twentieth century about Anne and her family, and I have loved being transported to another era, realizing how every single period has had its own magic. Today we are in a difficult time, with the human population of the planet almost at its maximum, and other life forms dying off because of it. I know it sounds harsh, but in many ways I'm glad I'm old and will probably not be around to see the worst of the days to come.

But peace and joy will reign again, they always do, and the magic of this season will continue to delight people for as long as there are people. I could get really maudlin and dystopian right now and imagine the awfulness ahead, but I will resist and instead think of all the good happening in the world on this Christmas Eve. Tomorrow Christians the world over will rejoice in the birth of Jesus, who came into the world at a very tumultuous time indeed. The cycle of life continues, and every dark time is followed by the return of the light, the return of joy that will ring out with gladness in the days and years to come.

My own little world is perfect right now, with my keys tapping out a message to the larger world that all is well, all is as it should be. My tea, long gone, my partner still sleeping, the darkness outside soon to be banished by the bright rays of the winter sun, I am filled with gratitude and wonder. My wish for you on this Christmas Eve is that if your heart is sore it will be comforted, if your sight is clouded it will be clear, and that the gift of family and friendship surround you in whatever manner you most desire.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Winter solstice

Snagged from the internet
This week, those of us in the Northern Hemisphere will experience the longest night of the year, and the shortest day. In the Southern Hemisphere, of course, it's the opposite, due to the elliptical orbit of our planet around the sun. More information about this phenomenon is here. I find it fascinating and have personally experienced it for three-quarters of a century. Depending on where I have lived, the event is either negligible (when living close to the equator) or pronounced (as it is here so far north I'm almost at the Canadian border).

Sunset at 4:13pm and sunrise after 8:00am means our days are just over eight hours long. The sun barely comes up before it starts to set again, it seems. Of course, if I lived even farther north, there are places where the sun actually doesn't do much more than scrape the horizon before going down again. I cannot imagine living much farther north than I already do, but many people seem to thrive in such circumstances.

For me, the upcoming week will have both my second cataract surgery, and the winter solstice at 8:27am on Thursday. It's a day I would normally be hiking with my friends, but this week I'll be home recovering from what I hope is as successful a surgery as was the first, three weeks ago. I know I've said it before, but I still find it a miracle that my sight has improved so dramatically in my left eye. I really had given it up and thought it I was moving toward becoming slowly blind. But instead, although there is missing vision, the new IOC (intra-ocular lens) has made it possible for me to see again. I know I've been going on about this for awhile, but anyone who has been through it knows how miraculous it seems and knows why I can't stop myself. Now just one more miracle, please.

This year, SG and I will be doing little to celebrate the Christmas season. As we get older, it seems more and more like just another day, but really, it's a celebration of the return of the light, the birth of Jesus, and the celebration of Hanukkah. Probably a few more traditions I know little about, but it's a special time for most humans. I remember when I was a kid, Christmas Eve was just about the most magical night of the year, when Santa came to our home and put presents under the Christmas tree during the night as we slept. I can still remember those feelings, although it's been a long time since I've even had a tree. When Chris was little, I tried to make it as special for him as it had been for me.

Now he's gone, but Christmas still comes once a year, and the light returns as the days begin to lengthen, imperceptibly at first. By the end of January, I'll notice more light in the sky and soon I won't need a headlamp to light my way to the bus in the early morning hours. But that's looking too far ahead. I need to get through this week and recover from the eye surgery and find out what my new reality will be.

On Tuesday morning, when I wake and go through my morning routine, it will be different: I won't be able to have my tea with milk in it, because I will be expected to come to the surgery center with an empty stomach, and I'm told to consume only clear liquids that morning. I did find out that coffee (hardly clear) is considered legal. Thank goodness for that, since I'm more than a little addicted to caffeine. I'm not fond of the taste of tea without milk, because of the tannin, but I'll manage. I'll be too nervous to care much about it, anyway.

You'd think that since I've been through this once, I would be less anxious, but as we all know, just because something goes perfectly the first time, it doesn't mean it will be the same story the second time around. For one thing, my eye is different: the doctor told me I have a fairly significant astigmatism in my right eye and that, since I'm opting for myopic vision rather than distance, it "should" be okay, but even if it isn't, the astigmatism can be corrected with glasses. Fine. Whatever. What are my choices, anyway? I know so little about these issues, and research on the internet doesn't make me any wiser about what to do. I scared myself silly by researching cataract surgery before the first eye was done, and I'm just trying to keep myself at an even keel this time around.

Prayer and meditation seems to help more than anything else I've done. And frankly, I'm not the basket case I was before the first eye, because I am now familiar with the routine and I know I should be just fine. I felt well taken care of and in the hands of professionals. What more could anybody ask? (Well, maybe a good outcome, too.)

I am also very fortunate to have a wonderful partner who takes such good care of me when I'm sick or incapacitated. He has held my hand many times when I've been sick or recovering from something or other. I can't imagine how different my life would be without him, so right here, right now, I can express my gratitude for him and for our partnership. He shops for our groceries with my needs always in mind, and for that I am also grateful.

It's beginning to sound a little like a broken record, but I am also incredibly grateful for the community of friends I've gathered here in cyberspace. Fellow bloggers and interested family and friends are constantly present because of the world of the internet. It's become so ubiquitous that I forget, sometimes, how much I rely on it. I've got connectivity at home, in all the other places I hang out, and with the tap on the keys or a swipe of a finger, the world opens up to me. Now if that isn't miraculous, I don't know what is.

Euripides once said, "Friends show their love in times of trouble, not in happiness." That's because in normal times, we take for granted that we are loved and cared for, and we shower others with care and concern when they are in need. I hope that we will remind each other that the darkness is temporary, and light will return once again. Also, don't forget to smile at that stranger on the street, because it might be the one light that makes the difference for him or her that day. Until we meet again next week, I wish you all good things and a wonderful and productive seven days.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Learning to see again

Belllingham Bay and fog with blue skies above
Lily took this picture yesterday on our walk with the ladies. The fog was such a beautiful color, even prettier than this, but she captured it well, I thought. The air was very cold and frost dusted our path as we made our way down Boulevard Park to Fairhaven. I am still enchanted with the beauty around me, with my new eye, seeing everything so clearly.

I have more than a week before I get the other eye done (the 19th), but for now I am still in an ecstasy of delight every day when I wake and open my eyes. Without glasses, I can see so much more than I ever thought I would again. I met with the surgeon to check out my progress, and he said I could resume my regular activities, even standing on my head if I wanted. But he also said, if it were him, he might wait another week for that. However, inverted postures are no problem for the moment. I went to the final yoga class of the semester yesterday, knowing I could modify anything if I choose, but it was what is called a "restorative" class, where we do some moderate stretching and then breathing practice (pranayama). It was lovely to be back.

The doctor also discussed options for the other eye: I would like to see a little more clearly close up, which he agreed to do that by inserting a lens that is a little more myopic. He also told me that although I have a fairly significant astigmatism in that eye, a speciality lens will probably not be necessary, since I'm going for close vision rather than distance. In any event, whatever I have afterwards can be corrected with my new glasses prescription. Getting the last surgery out of the way and going through the short one-week recovery will be over and done with by the end of the year, if all goes well. I will be putting drops in my eyes well into January, however. I'm hoping for the best outcome, of course.

I am vigilant about washing my hands and trying to keep from getting a cold at this vulnerable time of the year, because then I wouldn't be able to have the surgery as scheduled. So I'm staying away from sneezes and coughs as much as possible. I notice when I ride the bus, there are a lot of people who seem to be under the weather. Fortunately I am wearing gloves and not touching surfaces with my bare hands. I can be a bit of a hypochondriac.

I used to think my mother was a hypochondriac, since she was always discussing her litany of ills with me, but now that I'm older, I know she was experiencing what happens when you get old: things hurt for no apparent reason and you wonder, is it cancer? I have an ache in my side sometimes, but it is only in the morning that I notice it and forget all about it by the end of the day. I'll mention it to my doctor when I have my annual wellness visit in January. But now that I've joined the ranks of the really old, I know it will be something sooner or later that will keep me from being what I consider to be colossally healthy. On Thursday, I walked around eight miles up and down more than 2,000 feet of elevation, some of it very steep. And my knees were fine! What a relief to have been able to join my friends on a beautiful sunny day. The only residual pain has been some sore quadricep muscles, which was to be expected.

Today Judy and I are going to see Wonder, a story about a young boy with some facial disfigurement that ends up going to school and facing the world. Julia Roberts is supposedly really good in it, and it's the little boy who starred in Room who plays Auggie, the young boy (apparently with lots of makeup). I'm looking forward to it.

The dearth of good movies is always gone by the end of the year, when it seems the best are saved for the holiday season, or maybe it's for the Oscars. They want their movie to be on your mind before the nominations come out. We've already seen Lady Bird, The Florida Project, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, and now this one. There's still that movie about LBJ that I want to see, but I'm not at all sure that once I've had the second eye done I'll be traveling around much during the recovery week. So far, I think Three Billboards is my pick for Best Picture. The performances are simply incredible, and I left the theater feeling glad I'd seen it. Although The Florida Project is good, it was so depressing I left the theater feeling terrible. Lady Bird was sort of in the middle: a good movie, well acted, but for me, lacking in some indefinable way. Frances McDormand from Fargo plays the lead character in Three Billboards and is simply marvelous. If you have any favorites, I'd like to know what you think.

Remember back in September when I was bemoaning the five pounds I'd gained over the last year or so? Well, they are gone, thanks to the Lose It app I downloaded onto my phone, and being able to keep track of what I eat. I used it five years ago to lose fifteen pounds, and now I feel I've got something to help me lose excess weight whenever I feel the need. I can feel the difference, although five pounds doesn't sound like much. When you're only a little over five feet tall, it makes a difference. Maybe that's one reason my knees did so well on the hike last Thursday: five pounds less to carry. Here's what the Arthritis Foundation says about it:
Every pound of excess weight exerts about 4 pounds of extra pressure on the knees. So a person who is 10 pounds overweight has 40 pounds of extra pressure on his knees; if a person is 100 pounds overweight, that is 400 pounds of extra pressure on his knees.
Yes, that would mean 20 pounds less pressure on my knees from a five-pound weight loss. I'm grateful to have lost the extra weight, in any event. Now the trick will be to keep it off. I've got a couple Christmas parties to attend, which are always times I allow myself to go off the rails. And my recent birthday party indulgence showed up the next day on the scales, I remind myself. I just kept on plugging in the food I consumed into the app and soon I was back on the losing side again.

All in all, things are looking up. I am truly grateful for the gift of sight, and that someone with limited income, like me, is eligible for cataract surgery through Medicare. I surely hope this benefit will not be one of the cuts that I hear will be ahead for us, because this is truly a miracle for those of us with dimming vision. I also am grateful for having a good doctor to take care of any needs that come up, and the ability to see specialists if necessary. It's not cheap, but there are some good benefits that come from being older. At least at the present time.

Well, with that, I've written another Sunday post. Next week will be the final one before I go under the knife again, and so you'll know by Christmas what Santa might have brought for me. I'm hoping for another good eye. I remember when all I wanted was my "two front teeth," a long, long time ago. The incessant Christmas songs play over the loudspeakers in every store I visit, and the pretty lights shine everywhere, lifting my spirits and reminding me that, if I wish it, I can concentrate on the season of giving, of love, and light. I can leave behind all the woes of the world for a short while. Love is in my heart and lights the way ahead.

My dear partner still sleeps, making a few sounds as he stirs, and my tea is gone again. I am scheduled for a massage early today, after coffee with my friends and before the movie with Judy. It just doesn't get much better than this, if I remember to focus on the season and count my blessings. Until we meet again next week, I hope you are well and happy. I found this quote to leave you with, from Albert Schweitzer:
At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us. 

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Heart full to bursting

Some of us walking ladies having coffee and bagels
After yesterday's morning walk, about half of us went to the Bagelry afterwards, and a nice lady at the next table took this picture of us. (She is the thumb in the upper right.) We were so lucky to have a very nice walk, one that Cindy chose so that I might be able to join them, no hills and fairly short, three days post-surgery. And it didn't rain on us, it waited until we got inside and then began to pour.

Four days! How can it be that I hardly remember how poorly I saw out of my left eye? It is the eye that has already lost some vision from the AMD (age-related macular degeneration) and I worried that it would be worse afterwards. No, it's not! In fact, when I put on my glass (the lens was popped out on the left side, hence the singular term) I can see so incredibly well that it's like a miracle. The right compensates for the missing vision and it becomes invisible. Not to mention that everything is bright and new, with colors I haven't seen in years!

I did have some dysphotopsia, which was pretty startling on the first day after the patch was removed. It was like there was something flashing out of my left peripheral vision, and when I would try to read, I could see what seemed like a bouncing flash as my eye would move across the page. It's almost completely gone already, and I suspect that what remains will be filtered out by my brain. That link tells you that almost 20% of patients experience some dysphotopsia after cataract surgery, which was virtually unknown ten years ago when intra-ocular lenses (IOLs) were made of a different material. The acrylic lens used today is the culprit; it is popular because it can be folded and the site for insertion of the lens is much smaller. It is the only problem I've had so far, except for the constant requirement to put eyedrops in the eye to help with the healing process. On Wednesday I hope to get the All Clear from the surgeon to return to my normal activities. The first few days are critical, and those have already passed, which is why I decided to go on the walk yesterday. I knew I would take it easy and was already told that walking is acceptable, so it was simply wonderful to join my friends.

And of course, they knew all about my birthday and surgery, and while we were out walking (I was behind, not wanting to keep up the brisk pace we usually take), they all stopped to wait for me and Lily. Once we reached them, they lined up on both sides of the sidewalk and made an arch with their arms for me to pass under, while they sang happy birthday. Lily ran around to the front so she could join them. I was so touched that I burst into tears, I couldn't help it. I feel incredibly blessed to have such wonderful friends. And, as you can see in the picture above, most of us went out for coffee and bagels afterwards.

On my actual birthday, my friend Hedi, who lives in the apartment complex, had a small gathering for me to celebrate the big day, my Diamond Jubilee birthday. Lily gave me a beautiful purple vest and a strawberry cake, and Hedi provided snacks (healthy of course) and a long-stemmed red rose in a beautiful vase. There were only five of us, but it was simply a perfect celebration, and I left to walk home feeling like a million dollars, with the gift of fabulous friends and a new eye.

The second surgery will take place on December 19, and it will be a week later on the 27th when I will hopefully get the All Clear for the second eye as well, and I can begin the new year with vision like I haven't had in decades. You don't realize how much colors are muted and how difficult it becomes to see in low light when you have cataracts. I can't help but stop every now and then to admire the view around me, because it's all bright and clear, and that's just with one eye! I opted to have close vision instead of far, so I will need to wear glasses for distance, but what's incredible is how clearly I can see across the room and even across the street. Even though I only have one corrective lens in my glasses, driving is easier and more clear. I am incredibly grateful for the gift of sight. And this is when I thought it would just get worse and worse because of the AMD. Not so, and as I said in the title, my heart is full to bursting!

The other good thing happening right now is that I am successfully losing those pesky five pounds that had made their way around my middle. Other than on my actual birthday, when I had two scoops of ice cream and lots of cake, I've been gradually losing weight rather than gaining, even during the holidays. I did go way over my diet on Friday, and it showed up on the scales yesterday, but there was no way I was going to follow a strict regimen on my Diamond Jubilee! I do have to say, though, I feel better when I eat more healthily, but there's a time and place to loosen up, don't you think?

My friend John picked me up from my apartment on Friday and drove me to Mallard's Ice Cream Shoppe, and even though it was raining and gloomy, I felt bright and joyful as I snarfed down two enormous scoops of the best ice cream in the world. He had some cranberry ice cream, while I had coffee and coconut almond crunch. Mallard's makes many seasonal flavors like cranberry during the winter; John said he would be back in the spring for rhubarb ice cream, his favorite. Then yesterday, my friend Judy treated me to dinner and a movie. The birthday that keeps on giving. (smile)

And now it's time for me to put the laptop away and start my day. Partner is still sleeping, as usual. It looks like we might have a bit of a break from the rain this coming week, and I'll be glad to join my hiking group again on Thursday and head back to the gym for my usual workout. I'll be waiting awhile longer to start yoga again, because inverted postures are a bad idea after recent cataract surgery. But return I will. I hope that all of you, my dear virtual friends, have a wonderful week until we meet again.
Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it. William Arthur Ward