19 August 2017

what happened when we went camping:

What happened when we went camping: 

(Not all camping. Just this particular camping.) 

We forgot the dog. It's not our dog, but J. was supposed to dog sit for some neighbors and the days got mixed up. We were already out of network and 90 minutes out of town in crazy Friday afternoon traffic when he saw the text asking if they could drop the dog off Saturday morning. He sent a response on the wifi at the ranger station, but we didn’t know until later whether they would be able to find someone else.

We forgot the rain fly for the tent. The weekend before, a tree dripped sap on it camping out at B.’s parents’ house, so we left it out to clean it, and there it stayed, uncleaned, during a busy week and while we packed everything for this weekend. I thought of it soon after we left the ranger station, and J. and E. and I speculated on whether this would mean sleeping in the car or curled up on the floor of E. and B.’s tent. 

Fortunately, when we got to the camp site, we found that B. had packed a 9’x9’ tarp that E. picked up once on sale at rei, and when tied just so over the tent, it blocked all the rain and gave a beautiful view of the lake. It was more exposed to wind, but the wind didn’t get that bad in the trees. 

We forgot to fill the car up with gas. This we also remembered around the ranger station, having passed many, many gas stations between Gone West and the depths of the woods. We were headed two hours up into the mountains, with the nearest gas station 30 miles away on dirt roads. It was risky.

We planned to drive back out through State City so we could stop at the nearest gas station (adding an hour to the drive), but when we hit the intersection on the way home, the car said we had 70 miles of gas left, and the sign said we had 47 miles to the first town on the direct route back to Gone West, so we chanced it and headed straight toward home. B. and E. followed us in case we ran out of gas.

It turns out that when a Subaru says 70 miles of gas left after driving 30 miles of dirt road, it still has many miles of lovely paved road left in it, especially when that lovely paved road is mostly downhill. The gauge still said it had 70 miles to go after the 47 mile drive. 

And then, to top off the weekend, B. stepped in a hole that turned out to be a rusting culvert and it gouged a 2-3 inch long gash in his leg, about half an inch deep. I tried to wash it out, and someone who works as a medical assistant in an orthopedist's office (and, more importantly, is a mom of teenagers) came from a neighboring campsite came to look at it, and the consensus was that we needed a real doctor, not butterfly bandages and tap water. 

The nearest urgent care was 2.5 hours away in State City, and it was closed. The nearest emergency room was 2 hours away.

Math problem: if you leave your campsite at 6 pm to drive to an emergency room 2 hours away, and it takes 3.5 hours to be seen and cleaned and stitched at the emergency room and you still need to fill up on gas and snacks because no one has eaten dinner, and it takes 2 hours to drive back, what time will you get back to your campsite?

The answer is 2:12 am. 

Meanwhile, sitting in the waiting room in a little country hospital, we read about what happened in Charlottesville. 

There are actual Nazis marching unashamed in our streets, making KKK and Nazi salutes, and the president of this country can’t bring himself to denounce them. He says there are “two sides.”

Let’s be clear: what happened in Charlottesville is not the fault of people who oppose Nazis and the KKK. There are not two equally justified sides. There is one side that espouses hatred, and that is one side that opposes hatred based on race, gender, or religion. 

Pick your side.




03 June 2017

stories

When I first started commuting to State City every day, people kept saying, "Oh, are you going to listen to audiobooks?" And of course I was not going to listen to audiobooks, because I am a visual person, people, a visual person, and I read books, not listen to them. 

I listened to music, and then when I found that gave me too much time to think about how other people on the road were driving, I switched to NPR, and then there was a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad election, and I couldn't listen to NPR anymore because the news made me furious (so many awful things being done to so many people), and I went back to music.

One day, on a drive back from Central Ski Town that devolved into a blizzard up on the mountain, J. put on an audiobook. I was driving, wearing my glasses, and the starbursts I saw through the glasses whenever a car passed driving the other way nearly blinded me through the driving snow. 

But in the background was this story playing through the speakers. I got caught up in the story as I drove, and it let my kinesthetic brain focus on the road while my auditory brain listened to the words.*

The book was so good.

I promptly listened to all the books J. owned on aud!ble, and when I ran out of those, I had him buy some more, and when I ran out of those, I downloaded the library app and started borrowing audiobooks from them. I tried podcasts somewhere in between, but they didn't draw me into a story in the same way.

Turns out stories are exactly what I needed to take my mind off the hour of commuting in the morning and evening. Don't get me wrong, I still have a little bit of brain left over to notice how inefficient it is when everyone drives in the two left lanes and the right lane sits empty, but I don't have the brain space to get so frustrated by it. My stress level has decreased dramatically. I almost don't mind the commute.

I guess it helps that I finally got a car with bluet00th that will start right up with the audiobook when I get in the car. Without bluet00th, this would be impossible. I'd be in my old ways of propping the phone up on the speedometer and trying to turn it up loud enough to be heard over the road noise when I needed to listen to something on my phone. Or headphones, I guess. That's awkward while driving.

(Side note: now that I have a car with a push button start, I am flummoxed by other people's cars. What is this key of which you speak? I reach automatically to push the button and turn the car off, and there is no button. How does this even work? 20 years of muscle memory, gone in just a few months.)


* I took an adult learning class once, and they taught us that if you are, like me, primarily a visual learner, second a kinesthetic learner, and least an auditory learner, you probably need to do something kinesthetic while listening, in order to process the information. 

12 May 2017

lasik, part 2

At the surgeon's office the morning after my lasik, I still had my dark mask on. I could see through it, but it scared me a little that I would hurt my eyes if I left them open, so I would look at the world and then close my eyes again.

Then I went into the exam room and they told me to take my mask off, and then they turned on the lights. 

So much for protecting my eyes. 

When I went back out into the waiting room, J. told me that the woman who had surgery right before me the day before and the appointment right before me that morning had a problem with the flap. Her person left her there so that they could fix the flap.

Me? I was fine. Not even an itch in my eyes. 

It was a beautiful sunny day, and I walked out into the sunshine without sunglasses. I wasn't supposed to spend much time looking at screens, so I didn't go to work. Instead, I walked to the tea place. I wore sunglasses out of an abundance of caution, but my eyes didn't hurt.

I was supposed to sleep in the dark mask for a week so that I did not accidentally rub my eye or stab myself in the eye during the night (a legitimate concern, since I stabbed myself in the eye with my finger while turning over just this week), and that worked for a few days, but as time went on, I found myself ripping it off sometime during the night. In the morning, it would be under the pillow, or on the floor next to the bed. I was, apparently, getting less cautious about my eyes.

I was also supposed to wait at least a week before climbing (chalk dust is everywhere). I made it six days, but it was cool. I just took tears with me and used them when someone above me knocked chalk dust down into my eyes, instead of rubbing my eyes and dislodging the flap.

Two weeks after surgery, back at the surgeon's office, after reading the 20/10 line, I asked her if the flap was ok. (I was a little paranoid about the flap.)

"You wouldn't be seeing 20/10 if there was a problem with the flap," she said dryly. 

What we've discovered, J. and I, by comparing our experiences, is that lasik seems to exacerbate whatever sensitivities your eyes have. J. is still, 10 years later, more bothered by light than I am. I am a little more light sensitive than before, but my real issue is air blowing at my eyes. This has always bothered me, but now I can't stand the air blowing through the vents in my car or standing by my coworker's desk when the little space heater is on.

I now wear sunglasses in the car, even in the dark rain clouds, to block the blowing air (the vents are off and closed and pointed down but some gets through), and I wear layers in my office so that I don't have to turn on the space heater.

It's worth it. It's so worth it. 

I can SEE.

The strangest thing, after 21 years of taking my contacts every night, is going to sleep without taking my vision out of my eyes. I am still using tears at night, and allergy eye drops, so I'm using that ritual to convince my eyes that it really is okay not to take anything out of my eyes before I sleep. It's weird, though. It's really weird. 

It's also the best money I've ever spent.

18 April 2017

lasik, part one

I wasn't sure until the morning of surgery that I really was going to get lasik, because at my pre-op appointment two days before, I tested as needing an entire diopter of correction less than I had needed in October. 

It seems that some people with myopia will accept just about as much correction as they can get, and I am one of them. 

You know when they keep switching the lenses in front of your eyes and asking if 1 or 2 is better, or 3 or 4? Some of us nearsighted people will keep saying that a stronger prescription is better, even after we can see 20/20 with a weaker one. This is because, the doctor explained to me, the stronger prescription makes the shapes darker, and we mistake the darker shape for a clearer shape. 

So I brought in my contacts and glasses prescriptions from the last ten or 12 years, digging them all out of my wee little filing cabinet, and the doctor re-tested my eyes herself the morning of surgery, rather than having her assistant do it. "It's valuable information for me to know if something is darker or lighter, even if it isn't clearer," she said, "so just tell me what you see." 

I kept making her go back and forth, leaving each one for longer than usual, to make sure the prescription we came up with was exactly right. Lasik is a permanent change, after all, and if you do too much correction for nearsightedness, you might need reading glasses sooner. 

We settled on the same diopters as my contact lenses have been for a decade, and the middle of the astigmatism correction I've had. My astigmatism correction has, shall we say, fluctuated. Probably because, "which is better, 1 or 2? 3 or 4? 5 or 6?" always goes so very fast, and it feels like there should be a right answer, even through there isn't. There is only what is right for your eyes. So I've had a bunch of different astigmatism corrections - my glasses and contacts were not the same, even though they came out of the same eye exam - and they've all worked.

J. and I walked up the hill to the main hospital cafeteria and got some fish and chips. We took some photos on the deck overlooking the city, commemorating my last few hours in glasses.

After I checked in and paid crazy quantities of money ("your card isn't working," the lady said, but I looked at the machine and said, "It's a connection problem, not my card," and it eventually went through fine), I took the valium they had given me and went to the bathroom one more time. There were people in the lobby waiting for all kinds of eye surgery. A mother and grandmother waited for news of a child.

They called me back right at 1:45, and explained all the post-op procedures, which I promptly forgot. 

For every other surgery I've had, I've been half-asleep, even if I was talking. I can't remember any of them except a snippet of the wisdom teeth removal. But for this one, I was awake. You have to be awake so you can direct your eyeball. I remember it all.

This is where you should look away if eye surgery makes you squeamish.

.
.
.

The surgery takes place in two parts.

First, in a room with a big laser, they numb your eyes and put betadine in them. "I bet that would sting if my eyes weren't numb," I said, as the brown washed over my vision.

They cover one eye and move your chair so the other is directly under the machine. A round piece lowers onto your eye and suctions the middle up. Everything goes dark, but you try to look at a light. The laser does something that you can't really decipher, and when the machine moves, everything looks like you are looking through a foggy glass. 

What's just happened is that a laser has made a bunch of little air bubbles in your cornea (pulses of one quadrillionth of a second!), creating a flap at the front of your eye.

The second eye, the left, hurt more than the right. I felt like someone was pushing through my eye into my sinuses. Instant sinus headache. But that was the only real pain of the whole thing.

When both eyes had been air-bubbled, they had me stand up and walk into the other room, looking through the fog.

I lay down on a padded bench, and the assistant moved the knee rest under my knees. 

They put more numbing drops into my right eye and wedged it open with a little eye speculum. I looked up at a diffuse green light that pulsed. I could see the doctor working on my eye with a little tool that looked like what the dental hygienist uses to scrape your teeth, sharp on one end and folded like a spatula on the other, only the surgeon was gently lifting the flap that the first laser created. 

I had to look up at the green light, which sometimes disappeared for an instant and then came back red, and then green again. Red lights moved around the edges. I could smell burning eye. It only took 15 or 30 seconds before it was done, and the surgeon was patting down the flap, smoothing it into place and tamping down the edges. 

The longest part of the whole thing was waiting for the flap to re-adhere, it seemed. Finally they took out the eye speculum and let me blink, then re-checked with a bright white light to make sure it was smooth.

The surgeon and the assistants kept telling me how calm I was, which surprised me, because they seemed surprised, but who would flinch while someone has a sharp tool and/or a laser near their eye for surgery purposes? That would end badly.

Between eyes, I asked if they had any blankets. It was so cold in the room that I was struggling not to visibly shiver. I had even expected that and worn a warm fleece jacket, but it wasn't enough. Fortunately, they had pre-warmed blankets, and the second eye was much more pleasant just because I wasn't so cold.

After the second eye, they put a flexible sunglasses material mask on my face, rubber band around my head, handed me a stack of papers, and walked me out to J. 

It was 2:15. 

I tried to keep my eyes mostly closed, but I snuck peeks. At the first stoplight, I braved opening my eyes a little, and I could already see better than before the surgery.

When we got to the house, I deliberately walked into a telephone pole on video for posterity, and then I took a vic0din and went to sleep.

They had warned me that some people feel a sensation like red pepper in their eye after surgery. I was one of those people. By the time I got home, my eyes were burning. The vic0din fixed it, though, and it was gone by bedtime when the second vic0din wore off. 

Sometime after I went to sleep, I woke up and sat up, wondering what time it was. The alarm clock was across the bed, and I looked over at it and read the time perfectly clearly. It was 4:36. I never could read it from there before.

I tried not to get too excited, but I woke up in the middle of the night, since the pain pills had worn off and I'd been sleeping off and on since 3 pm, and laid in the dark with my dark mask still on, looking at the tree branches outside the window, silhouetted against the street light, and smiling to myself. I couldn't see those tree branches before.

The next morning, my vision was 20/15. 


28 March 2017

I do not yoga (I do Mexico)

I do not yoga, as we know, but somehow I found myself signed up for a yoga retreat in Mexico.

Re. Mexico: I also never really had Mexico on my radar for travel purposes. It's so close to the States, and so many people go on vacation there, and I tend to want to go further afield for my adventures, so I wrote it off. I mean, I figured I would end up there someday, because it's next door, but it wasn't on the list of places to go because, well, it's close.

I loved Mexico. We stayed at a little resort at one end of a beach that had a park in the middle and a town on the other end, where foreign tourists sat drinking margaritas at the beachside bars and Mexican families played in the surf. 

"I forgot how much I love riding in the back seat of a crappy taxi through a new country while the driver plays pop music way too loud," I texted T. 

The days were warm and clear, except when it poured down tropical rain. 

J. and I played in the Pacific Ocean waves like kids. The only person who played in the waves as much as we did was 12 years old. We skipped yoga class to jump over and through waves. The other J., the 12 year old, taught us to angle into the waves so that we launched out the other side like dolphins leaping above the water, and we compared how successful our launches were after nearly every wave. 

We went scuba diving along the edge of a rocky island, with battered gear and three older people, two of whom flailed even more than I do, beginner that I am. On the first dive, I bit off the edge of my mouthpiece and had to hold the regulator in my mouth with my hand. My depth gauge didn't work. On the second dive, my mask kept fogging up. But M., my diving instructor, taught us to deal with those eventualities, and I was fine. 

We saw a cornetfish lingering motionless in the water, and schools of thousands of fish swam between us and the light. We swam down through a tunnel in the rock. 

On the way out to diving, we saw a whale breach, and on the boat ride back, dolphins swam under the  boat. 

There was yoga. We did yoga from 7-9 am and from 4:30 to 6 pm. 

"Set your intention for the week," said the instructor peacefully the first day.

"My intention is not to kill anyone while doing yoga this week," I thought to myself. 

I managed that just fine the first day or two, so by day three I thought I was ready for more. I upgraded my intention.

"Don't hate everyone while doing yoga," I thought. That one didn't work - halfway through the class, I wanted to cry or quit - so I went back to resolving not to kill anyone. Turns out I'm pretty okay at not killing anyone while doing yoga. I am less okay at not hating the world while doing yoga. 

I survived six days of yoga, although, to be honest, I was down to one class per day for the last three days. 3.5 hours of yoga a day is a little excessive for a beginner. I did a shoulder-stand thing, though. (My neck has been bothering me, so no attempts at a headstand.) J. did headstands galore. 

Between yoga and eating and playing on the beach and taking a few naps (they made me get up at 6:15 am. On vacation. There were naps), a week flew by.

I quite like Mexico. I'd like to go back. 

I don't know about the yoga, though. Maybe. I've gone to a couple of classes since I've been back. (Shhhhhhh. Don't tell anyone.)

24 March 2017

glasses

"I love your glasses!" people keep saying to me, and I say, "Yeah, I like how they look, but I can't see through them at all." 

I started wearing them the day after we got back from Mexico. I made up my mind that the day we got back from Mexico would be the last day I wore contacts, and so when I took out my contacts after flying all day, I put the case in the cupboard in the bathroom and put my glasses case on the nightstand.

I have worn contacts for 21 years. 

I have worn them in the muck of a South Sudan rainy season, when I had to put them in before I could crawl out of my mosquito net, because I had to be able to see if there was a poisonous spider or snake in my gum boots. 

I have worn them in the dust of the desert in State of Happiness, where I had fine granules of blown-dry clay on my hands that I couldn't get rid of, so I had to blink the grit off my eye before I could see clearly.

I have worn them through the fine blown dirt of roads in Rwanda and Liberia and Kenya and Tanzania and Honduras and Cambodia, always finding a bottle of water to clean off my dirty hands first thing in the morning. 

I have kept them warm in my pocket in a freezing tent, put them cold into my eyes at 3 am after 5 hours of sleep before climbing a mountain, washed my hands with sanitizer before rinsing in water. 

I have put them burning into my eye when the hydrogen peroxide solution wasn't fully dissolved. 

For 21 years, I wore contacts an average of 365 days a year. I never had an eye infection, so I occasionally tried a pair of glasses - I got a pair in 2006, and one in 2016 - and wore them for half a day, or even a day, and then went back to contacts. 

T. used to laugh, because for many years I always had a bottle of the same kind of multi-purpose solution, the one from the store in the Mitten. 

Meanwhile, for 20 years, eye doctors have told me that I would get used to my glasses if I would just wear them more. If I just kept trying, if I wore them for a day or two or three, my eyes would adjust. The prescription was right; I just wasn't patient enough. 

This is a blatant lie. I've been wearing glasses for almost four weeks (tomorrow will be Day 28), and I am not used to them. 

I'm better at wearing them. I've figured out how to keep them clean. I've figured out how to look right through the middle if I need to see something clearly. 

I haven't figured out how to keep them from hurting the back of my ears, no matter how they are adjusted.

My phone isn't a rectangle when I look down at it. 

I feel dizzy when I walk down stairs - I can't quite tell where the steps are. 

I have to leave extra space in traffic, because I can't tell how far away the car in front of me is. 

When I take off my glasses and put them back on, I still feel disoriented and unsteady, even four weeks in. By the end of the day, my eyes ache from trying to find a way to see clearly and my head hurts from trying to make sense of what comes into my eyes. 

This whole month feels like a dream, fuzzy around the edges, because I couldn't really see what was happening. 

I have a list in the back of my journal, a countdown. I'm crossing off days. There are five of them left. Five days of glasses. SaturdaySundayMondayTuesdayWednesday. And only two of them involve staring at a computer. 

So close.

Next Thursday, I'm getting lasik. 

13 February 2017

certified

I had lofty goals of blogging at least once a week this year. That was my plan. Not a resolution, exactly, just a plan. 

(My other plan for the year, signing up for and using digit, is thus far a success. I have finally begun to train digit on the fact that I want it to save more than $0.17 at a time by forcing it to save $10 or $100 at a time. If you want to try digit, by the way, let me know. I have a referral code. It is addicting.)

So anyway, blogging. I was going to do it. I was going to do it regularly.

Then I realized that if I want to scuba dive in Mexico at the end of February, I should get certified now. I figured this out the day before the first of five Tuesday night classes that culminated in open water dives last weekend. This means that I had class from 6:30 - 10:30 every Tuesday night, and also homework. 

I loved, loved, loved the scuba classes. I got all excited every week when I knew that I was going to get to go underwater that night. 

On the first pool night (which was actually the second class, because our first pool night got canceled due to the apocalypse snow), we had to swim 400 yards. I started off slow, because 8 laps is a lot of laps. By my return on the first lap, I had switched to the time-honored swim stroke of the women in my family: the side stroke. By the third lap, I was way out ahead of the other two students. Tortoise and hare, people. It pays to be the tortoise.

On the second pool night, we had to take off our masks and sit underwater without them for a minute, then put them back on. People panic over this, mostly because you just about have to keep your eyes closed lest the chlorine destroy them. It didn't bother me at all. I knelt sightless underwater for a minute, just enjoying the feeling of being underwater. I knew that the regulator wasn't going to fail me - I could breathe - and I knew that the surface was up there if I needed it. (I would worry if I were in 50 feet of water without my buddy, but this was not that situation.)

At the end of the class, we drove up to Other PNW State for the open water sessions. J. came along, because he's a diver, and the dive shop said there are usually other people up there diving.

To dive in 36 degree water, you need a serious wetsuit. Actually, you need more than just a wetsuit. You need a 7mm farmer john (a sleeveless wetsuit) covered by a 7 mm shorts/long-sleeve combo. You also need 5mm gloves, hood, and boots. And you will still be cold just about every second you aren't moving. (For comparison, in Honduras I dove in a 3mm shortie - shorts and short sleeves.) 

It's really pretty down there. The sea anemones stand a foot or two off the ground, orange and white, faces turned into the current. There are tiny jellyfish the size of a baby's cupped hand floating through the water, opening and closing slowly. Schools of fish swim between you and the sky.

By Saturday night, after three dives and a lot of standing around in and out of the water, I was chilled through. There was no reprieve out of the water, with the wind blowing on the wet neoprene, except the few minutes when we could stand directly in front of the propane heater. Sitting in the hot tub and taking a hot shower in the evening did not raise my body temperature back to normal. I went to bed still cold. 

I guess it probably didn't help that I was in the worst days of a cold. I felt like I'd been hit by a truck - and that was before I doped myself up with Sudafed and Afrin and ibuprofen to get my congestion to the point where my ears would not explode with the underwater pressure, and then jumped into freezing water.

Sunday morning before the final dive, standing out in the 33 degree air in a still-wet wetsuit, my hands were so cold they burned. J. had to run inside and get a bottle of hot water to pour into my gloves before I could move them enough to get my gear on. My instructor's regulator was frozen, spewing air in free flow when he tested it. 

When we dove, I had an extra 3 lb weight on one side of my BCD (the diving vest) to make up for the different air tank I was using, so I kept tipping to one side. I couldn't get warm. The water was so murky that I just followed the orange fins of the instructor. All I could think was, "Is this over yet?" I'm usually pretty good with air, but I tore through it trying to stay warm and not give up. 

And then we were out of the water, and we were certified, and I took another hot shower and put on layers of clothes and slept in the car most of the way home. 

So I'm good to dive in Mexico next week. I'm guessing that will be a little more pleasant than the frigid waters of the sound.