Thursday, April 29, 2010

Favorites: a matter of taste

I keep a loose list of things to blog about; otherwise, I'll forget them. Apparently, that practice isn't too helpful, because a recent review of old posts proved I've already written about some of the things on my current list of blog ideas.

Okay, so I'll scratch 'em off. For now. I can't promise some old theme won't show up again.

I did discover, in going through the old posts, that some of them feel special to me, and I decided to list them as "favorites" in the left sidebar, underneath the archives. It wasn't too difficult to differentiate between the posts I "phoned in" and the ones I really wanted to write. But it was tough choosing favorites. So many old posts seemed as comfortable and familiar to slip into as the old pair of sandals I'm wearing now.

I made a long list and winnowed it down to twenty-five, not at all sure I'd come up with the same list if I were to do this exercise again. These posts are "favorite" only because they're special to me in some way. Some of them are about feelings or experiences, some make me nostalgic. Some were just plain fun to write, and some wouldn't be special at all except for the wonderful comments left by you, dear readers.

I tried to list these posts chronologically, with the oldest posts at the top so there wouldn't be any spoilers, but Blogger doesn't seem to offer that option. So, they're in alphabetical order, which, I guess, turns out to be pretty random after all.

I know that the fact these are my favorite posts doesn't mean they'll be yours. But maybe, if you're new to this blog, you might enjoy some of them. Or, if you're a long-time reader who visits here on a day when I haven't posted anything fresh, instead of hurrying to click the back-button, maybe you'll read something you've forgotten and give me a pass.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Will I ever be mature enough to control inappropriate laughter?

A couple of weeks ago I posted about the floater that had suddenly popped up in my right eye. It was annoying, but I wasn't worried about it.

On the night after I wrote the "floater post," I started experiencing flashes of light -- tiny, moving, macaroni-shaped lightsabers -- when I'd go from a bright room into a darker one. The flashes weren't particularly bothersome, so my initial plan was to ignore them. But it was the weekend by then, there was plenty of time to nose around on the Internet, and almost every article I read said something to the effect of, "It's usually nothing to worry about, but if you don't get immediate medical attention, there may be dire consequences."

On Monday I called a retinal specialist (I have early-stage macular degeneration and had been to this office once before) and ended up there again on Tuesday. That appointment went well. The doctor said he couldn't see any signs of a serious problem but wanted me to come back again in two weeks and then again in a month. "Sometimes these things take a while to appear."

I was fairly perturbed about having to go back for follow-up exams. Because they dilate my eyes at every appointment, someone has to go with me to drive me home.  This means one or the other of my daughters has to take off work, which, while it makes all the waiting-room time more interesting for me, makes me feel guilty for wasting a big chunk of their time.

Anyway, this past Wednesday was the two-week follow-up.  I expected we'd breeze in and out fairly quickly. Instead, the doctor found a little retinal tear. He explained the significance of it, then told us he'd need to do a laser procedure to "spot weld" the area to prevent a retinal detachment. Fortunately, he could to do it that day, right there in his office.

So, we waited again. We waited a long time, and then another long time after that.  At one point, Kim said, "I wonder what's taking so long."  I replied, "Hmmph. He's probably sitting in his office reading up on laser procedures." Kim instantly put her hands in the typing position and said aloud as she typed in the air, "How... to... do... laser... surgery... on..."

Maybe you had to be there to appreciate the humor, or maybe it was because I was a little nervous, but the air-Googling struck me really funny. I laughed out loud, then Kim did, and it turned into one of those moments that grew funnier the longer we thought about it.

Right then was when the doctor came in, and his first words were, "I'm sorry you've had to wait so long." A wave of humor hit me again. I was sitting in the exam chair, my head was tilted waaaaay back, the doctor was standing right beside me with the laser instrument in his hand, ready to go, and my lips were clamped together so tightly that my smile must have looked like a maniacal grimace. Just as the doctor leaned in over my head, I couldn't hold it any longer and let out one short burst of laughter.

"I'm sorry," I apologized. "We were talking about something funny just before you came in, and I need a second to regain my composure."

The doctor chuckled, too, presumably because laughter is infectious.  "That's okay," he said.  "I expect you'll stop laughing as soon as we begin."

He was right. But as soon as we were safely back in the car, it got funny all over again.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

My purpose in life... least from the perspective of Butch and Kadi, has been made clear to me: I am their maid.

Judging from their recent behavior, it's a good thing I retired when I did. They adapted so quickly to my being home all the time that I suspect they may have had previous discussions about their need to hire additional staff. Part-time help just wouldn't cut it anymore.

For example, Kadi has always loved to have her belly scratched, and I've always loved to do that for her.  But she used to wait until I'd sit down on the sofa to roll over at my feet and expose her belly.  Now she's just as likely to race past me when I walk through the house, hurl her big body across my path, flop onto her back right in front of me and stretch all four legs into the air as if to demand, "Stop! Scratch me now."  I don't think this has as much to do with the itchiness of Kadi's abdomen as it has to do with my increased availability.

An issue that's bigger than the belly-scratch-tripping-hazard is the way they manipulate me for treats.  Especially Butch.  Years ago I thought it made sense to give each of them a treat when they came back in the house after taking care of their doggy business in the yard.  I wanted them to be happy to come in quickly when I called them.  This was especially important when I was working and their outside time was often a quick trip in the morning or sandwiched into a lunch hour.

Once I retired, though, Butch, began asking  to go outside many, many, many times a day.  He's always had a bladder like a bathtub.  Unlike Kadi, he still does.  So I've tried to ignore him when I know he's been out only a short time ago.  But he's persistent.  He'll stand at the door and scratch it every ten seconds or so for as long as it takes to wear me down.  My daughter suggested that if I let Butch stay outside longer, he might not ask to go out so frequently.  But for Butch it's not about being outside; he's an inside dog through and through.  The whole bunch of us can be outside, and Butch will ask to go in by himself. It's all about coming back in. It's about the treat.

It's hard to relax with all of the extra interruptions.  I mean, come on, Butch doesn't just pop outside and pop back in again.  He's blind.  It takes him a while to find the perfect spot to squeeze out two or three drops to prove he needed to pee and another little while to find the back door again.   I often have to stand in the door and clap my hands to help him navigate. I'm trying to figure out how to communicate to Butch that it would be easier on both of us if he'd just learn to ask for a treat and stop the whole fake in-and-out thing.

I know Butch is faking it because I can predict when he's going to do it.  Example:  Both dogs stand at my knees while I eat my meal, and usually, if it's something that isn't bad for them, I will give the last two bites to them.  Kadi considers her bite a treat.  Butch considers his an appetizer.  He'll wait about one minute before he goes to scratch on the back door.  Every. Single. Time.

But maybe Butch is getting tired of the charade, too.

The other morning I woke up about five-thirty and let the dogs outside. As soon as they came back in, I gave them each a dog biscuit, then went back to bed.  Usually, they'd go back to bed, too, and maybe they did, for a while.  All I know is that just before seven I heard a little whine and there they both were, tap-dancing eagerly beside my bed.  I knew they couldn't possibly need to go outside again so soon, but I stumbled out of bed and headed to the back door anyway. I opened the door and stood waiting, finally realizing I was alone.

I turned around and there were Butch and Kadi, twenty feet behind me, standing side-by-side with their noses stretched upward to the package of rawhide chews I'd left on the dining table. Because they did this together, I can only assume they had discussed their plan beforehand and agreed between themselves that it was perfectly fine to wake me up to to give them rawhide.

If I'm being honest, the unnecessary interruptions bother me, but it's the manipulation that bothers me more. It's the fact that Butch thinks he's so much smarter than I am.  And Kadi probably is smarter than I am, but it hurts my feelings that she uses that against me.

Seriously, although I've groused about some of their annoying habits here, I am loving spending more time with these two old dogs.  Butch turned twelve in March, Kadi will be thirteen in June, and I'm no spring chicken myself.  I consider it a privilege to grow old with these two sweet souls.

Even if they do take advantage of me.  

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Beware of deceitful Flemishallies

During the time I was AWOL from this blog, I found plenty of activities to keep me busy. Some of them were things I chose to do, but at least one tedious task was a result of switching from a PC to a Mac.

Some of you know that genealogy is a passion for me, one that began when I found some notes my grandmother left behind when she died in late-1988. The genealogy software I used for for all those years was Family Tree Maker. It did a wonderful job of organizing family records and creating interesting reports, and I couldn’t have been happier with it. What I didn’t know until I’d decided to buy the iMac is that Family Tree Maker isn’t available for Macs.

So, based on online reviews, I purchased Reunion genealogy software for Mac the same day I bought the new computer. Reunion, too, does a fine job, and it was really easy to transfer my family file from Family Tree Maker to Reunion. All the names, dates and places made the move flawlessly. The notes, however, were a different story. Those pages and paragraphs of narrative attached to many of the names didn’t make the transition as smoothly. All the words of the notes were transferred, but many of the spaces between the words didn’t make it.

After more than 20 years of research, there are 6,787 names in my genealogy database now, and I had to go through them all one by one, read every word of every note, and insert spaces as needed. It was extremely time-consuming but, most of the time, not too difficult.

Then came a sentence that stumped me: “He was betrayed by his Flemishallies.” What? What the heck are Flemishallies and how did they betray him? A quick second glance made it obvious I needed to insert a space: "Flemish allies."

Everything in the database is back in order, which pleases me immensely. Still, I must admit that thinking about Flemishallies pleases me almost as much, in a whimsical way. I imagine them as some kind of magical, mildly malevolent creatures of the sort Harry Potter might have encountered in the woods around Hogwarts.

I think that in the future, on those days when one thing after another seems to go wrong, I might choose to blame it on the Flemishallies. It would take some pressure off me, and, after all, it wouldn’t be the first time they’ve caused trouble for my family.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

A Brief History of an Early Romance

I thought he was a handsome prince
Who'd take me to his castle.
Turned out he was a vagabond
And something of an ass'le.

Monday, April 05, 2010

One more eye-doctor story...

...before I forget to tell you:

It had been more than five years since I'd had my vision checked, so when my daughter said she needed to get her eyes examined, I went with her.

The beginning of the exam was fairly typical of what I’d experienced in the past. I pushed my face into the giant-goggle machine and rested my chin on the cold metal bar. First, the doctor darkened the room. She looked at the inside of my eyes while I looked first in one direction, then another. She caused little puffs of air to blow onto my eyeballs. Then she asked me to read several rows of letters on the light box on the far wall. That went fairly well.

While the room light was still off, the doctor went to the far end of the room and fiddled with something I couldn’t see. (My face was still pressed into the machine.) When she turned back to me, the following conversation took place:

Doc:     “Can you see this?”

Me:      “Yes.”

What I saw was a large, dark area that almost totally obscured the light box.  On the dark area I could see a red rectangle and a neon-green rectangle, both kind of shadowy, and both with something written on them in a large, unfamiliar script.

Doc:     “Okay, read what you see.”

Me:      “Well, I can see it, but I don't know if I can read it.”

Doc:     “Just try to read whatever you can.”

Me:      “Okay. ‘You. Are. Something something something. To God.’”

Doc:     “Uhhhh, okay, wait a minute.”

She leaned in to the machine and made some adjustments.

Doc:     “Okay, let's see if this is better.”

Me:      “It’s still not very clear, but I’ll try: ‘You are. Never. Something something to God.’”

At that point the doctor shook her head as if she were totally confused, then turned around to get another look at what I was reading. That’s when she burst out laughing and announced that she’d inadvertently left a cabinet door open. The large, dark shape I saw was the inside of the cabinet door, which opened directly in front of the light box. The red and green rectangles were brightly colored sheets of paper taped to the inside of the door, each one bearing a handwritten affirmation.

Apparently, when I was saying, “You are something something something to God,” the doctor was hearing, “U-R-something-something-something-2-God.” To her, it sounded like letters and numbers. She said later she had thought I must be “blind as a bat,” and she couldn’t imagine why I kept saying “God” after I messed up.

The rest of the exam proceeded normally, except that neither of us could restrain an occasional fit of giggles.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Float like a butterfly, er, mosquito

When I went to get my vision checked in November last year, the optometrist referred me to an ophthalmologist to check out "some things going on" in my eyes.  Both doctors mentioned the presence of "floaters." Since the floaters weren't in my line of vision, and since the doctors told me they were very common, I wasn't the least bit concerned.

All that changed late Thursday night.  A new floater popped up, one that appears to be hovering about three inches in front and just to the right of my right eye.  It's a group of little black "threads" that have joined together to look like a side view of a fairly large mosquito.  I've known a couple of other people who have had floaters, and they've told me, "Eventually, I got used to it."  I'm counting on that.

In the meantime, it's driving me insane.  I never realized how many tiny eye movements are involved in the routine business of life, but there are thousands of them. And with each little upward or downward or left-to-right flicker, this bug-thing darts in front of me.  Have you ever used a computer mouse that wasn't adjusted correctly so that the slightest movement of the mouse made the cursor jump clear across the screen?  That's how this floater moves.

It's distracting when I read, although its position keeps it from blocking the words I need to see.    If I'm reading the left-hand page of a book, the floater flutters around on the right-hand page.  If I'm reading the right-hand page, the floater crawls around on my hand.  It flies all over the place when I'm looking at the computer screen.

Yesterday, after drinking a cold Diet Coke, I glanced into the glass and saw a "bug" sitting on the pile of ice cubes.   I moved my eyes and, in my peripheral vision, saw it fly away.

The floater is much less noticeable when I watch TV as it seems to get lost in the motion.  I noticed the same thing yesterday when I was driving; it didn't bother me at all.  Maybe I need to do more things that involve movement.

Or maybe I'll just wait and see if I get used to it.

Doctors who advertise on television fascinate me.  They are probably quite competent in the performance of their professional services, but often their amateurish commercials make them seem to lack confidence.

On the other hand, there's one local eye surgeon who speaks with assurance of his abilities and of his experience:  "more than 20,000 Lasik surgeries."  He makes me believe he's  probably quite good at what he does.  Still, there's just something about him...