Repost: How Farrah Fawcett Almost Ruined My Childhood

It’s almost summer, and that means dealing with humidity and frizz for those of us with curly hair.  In light of that, I thought I’d repost this entry from 2013 (with an updated final photo that’s more current).

I’m also considering a fairly short haircut for the summer, thanks to this inspiration:

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I think my face is a similar shape to the girl in the white tank, and I could probably pull it off.  We’ll see.

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In 1976, I was 12 years old.  I had a head full of wild brown curls and a body full of hormones that were wreaking havoc on said hair.  All the magazines I read gave advice on how to care for your hair, but they assumed that everyone had stick-straight tresses.  Following their advice, I would brush my hair over and over to make it sleek and shiny.  Instead, I ended up with this:

sixth grade

Not exactly sleek and shiny

Later that year, Farrah Fawcett’s famous red swimsuit poster came out.  It was everywhere.  There she was, in poster-sized glory, with her gleaming smile and those lush, voluptuous…feathered bangs.  While all the boys studied other aspects of the poster, all the girls were asking, “How can I get that hair?!”

Pretty soon, just about everyone in school had feathered hair.  You couldn’t walk ten feet without seeing somebody whip out a comb from their back pocket and run it through their hair, which would ripple and settle into a beautiful feathered pattern.

I was in 7th grade that year, just starting junior high at a brand new school.  I was desperate to fit in, and I begged my mom to take me for a feathered-hair haircut.  I think I vaguely remember the hair stylist telling me that she wasn’t sure my hair would cooperate, but I was young and naïve.  If you just got the right hair cut, your hair would look like the hair in the picture…right?

Um….wrong.  Here’s my class photo:

Junior High

Huh…how come I don’t look like Farrah Fawcett?!

I ended up with wings.  I could take flight with the things sticking out of the sides of my head.  It was the first truly disappointing and embarrassing hair moment of my life, and I had to go through a whole school year like that.

By the time I reached high school, my hair was growing out and I was learning to use a curling iron to straighten it.  (Yes, young whippersnappers, they didn’t have flat irons back then.)  Instead of curling my hair around the curling iron barrel, I would snap the barrel over my hair near my scalp and then slide it straight down to straighten it.  After going through my whole head of hair to straighten it this way, I would go back and curl the sides back in a big flip.  It was the closest I could get to the feathered hair effect.

Since my hair was so curly, if it was humid my hair would immediately begin to curl and lose the shape I had worked so hard to achieve.  Forty-five minutes of hair styling could be undone by a five minute walk outdoors in the humid summer weather.  I bought a portable curling iron as my weapon against humidity, and I kept it in my purse all the time.  You pulled the top of it and a plug would magically pop out of the base.  In between just about every class, I would stop off in the bathroom, pull out my curling iron, plug it in and fix my hair.  After my friends and I went out for a walk around the neighborhood, I’d stop back in their bathroom to fix my hair.  I probably spent more than half my day trying to keep my hair straight and feathered.

Here’s hunch-shouldered photographic evidence of my hard work, circa 1980:

Sophomore Year

Looking at this photo, I can tell humidity was getting to my hair. Time to fix it (AGAIN).

In my junior year of high school, something magical happened.  Curly hair started to be popular, and people were getting perms.  Perms!  I wanted to embrace this new hair movement, but I was still absolutely clueless about taking care of curly hair.  I had clued in to the fact that you never, ever use a brush on curly hair (I used picks) but I had no idea how to use hair products to help tame my curls.  In their natural state, my curls were still unruly and not uniform – definitely not a pretty sight.

By now, my mom was working as a hair stylist and she came up with a way to give me a perm that wasn’t a full perm (since I already had some curl).  I’m not sure what voodoo she worked but I think it involved a shorter processing time, and maybe she used less of the chemicals.  The end result was magical.  I had uniform curls, all over my head.  No longer did I have a curl spinning in one direction away from the others, or a section of my hair that was merely wavy and not curly.

Behold the hairstyle I rocked for many years, starting in 1981:

Junior Year

It’s actually hard to tell but it’s all CURLS here!

Finally I was free of the straight-hair envy I’d been fighting for so long.  I totally embraced my curly hair, and even when perms fell out of fashion and straight hair came back, I stuck with my curls.  I was older and wiser, and happy to be different from most other people hairstyle-wise.  I felt so much freedom compared to my days of spending over an hour doing my hair.  I had discovered hair products that helped keep my curls in check, and doing my hair now took all of 10 minutes.

After I had my first baby, my hormones once again went wild and my hair became much more curly…so much so that I no longer needed the ‘light’ perms.  My hair was doing naturally what I used to need a chemical to achieve.

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March 2016

I haven’t straightened my hair since I was 19.  It took a while, but I learned to embrace what God gave me and not fight it.  I’m proud to be a curly girl!

A Change Would Do You Good

I was wandering through Goodwill back in 2012, and a couple of chairs caught my eye.  The upholstery fabric was a terrible pastel 80s pattern, ripped and torn in spots, but the color of the wood and the line of the chair itself were really striking.  There were just two, marked at $3 each, and I pointed them out to Dave.  “Really?” he said, wrinkling his nose.

“Yes!  We can totally change the fabric.  I love them.  They’re only three bucks – come on.”

Dave is the one with the reupholstery experience; once I got him to look at the chairs themselves and not the horrific fabric, he was sold.

We decided to use them with our double computer desk; we were trying to streamline everything and get away from the big, bulky office chairs we were currently using.

I found some fabric that I loved (as Portlandia encourages, we Put a Bird on It) and the chairs served us well.  It’s been four years, though, and they get heavy daily use.  The fabric was getting worn away and faded; it was really not upholstery fabric to begin with, just some good-quality cotton.  Time for an update.  I conveniently had a large piece of actual upholstery fabric that I’d picked up a couple years ago for $1 at Goodwill.  (Can you tell I love that store?)  It’s been in the closet waiting for a chance to shine, and this was that chance.

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When I tell people that we reupholstered these chairs (and the kitchen chairs), I usually get a dramatic reaction along the lines of, “Wow!  I could never do that!”  But really, it’s so easy.  Like, stupidly easy.  I’m gonna show you how.

These chairs are super simple – just four screws on the bottom of the chair that hold the seat in place.  We flipped the chair over and removed the screws, then took off the seat itself.

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The fabric is simply stapled to the bottom of the seat.  We decided to just put the new fabric right on top of what was already there, but you could certainly take off the old fabric first if you wanted to.

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Lay out your new fabric and lay the seat on top.  (I wanted to make sure certain flowers were in the center area of the seat, so I have the fabric right-side up.)  Once you get your placement figured out, cut around the seat and leave at least three inches of extra fabric (more is better; you can always cut it off).  If you removed the original fabric, you could also use that as a guide – just cut a new piece of fabric that matches it in width and length.

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Fold over your cut edge, then bring it around to the bottom of the seat and staple in place.  Don’t pull too tight, but also don’t leave it so loose that the fabric wrinkles.

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Staple every inch or so, all the way around the bottom.

Screw the seat back onto the chair, and there you have it.

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The possibilities are endless!

There Was an Old Lady Who Got a Tattoo

A while back, I casually told Paige that if I were to ever get a tattoo, I’d get some type of spiral.  “Something that symbolizes the cochlea, for my cochlear implant,” I explained.  Then I forgot about it entirely.

She asked about it again last month at Easter dinner, wondering if I was still planning to do it.  “Oh no!” I laughed.  “I’m too old for that kind of thing.  I’ll leave it to you kids.”

And then I kept thinking about it.  I started searching online for possible images, thought about the size and placement.  Originally I wanted it right where my inner wrist begins.  “I don’t know about that,” Dave cautioned.  (He has two tattoos, one on his right arm and, well, basically his entire back.)  “You’re going to see it all the time.”

“But I want to see it!” I argued.  Still, he had a point.  And there’s all those veins right there on your inner wrist; that would be painful, wouldn’t it?  So I decided maybe further down, my forearm rather than my wrist.

I came up with a rough idea of what I wanted, after rejecting a few things.  I knew I wanted it to be mainly black and then to gradually change to a reddish orange inside, to symbolize how my cochlear implant brings color to my world.  I knew I wanted it to be about the size of a quarter or silver dollar.  (Originally I wanted it teeny tiny, but I rejected that fairly quickly.)  And I wanted it to be kind of rough looking, not smooth, perfect lines.

After I settled on what, I started checking out where.  I read a lot of reviews and it didn’t take long to settle on a place called The Parlor Tattooing in St. Joseph, Michigan.  I liked the work that they did, the place looked clean and spoke to me aesthetically, and the reviews were all positive.  Dave called and they said I was welcome to come by for a consultation; because it was small, they might even be able to fit me in the same day.  Otherwise, they were booked out until June.

Oddly enough, I didn’t think too much about whether it would hurt.  I did do a search on the most painful places to get a tattoo, and one site said the wrist would be painful … as in, do that for your second or third tattoo, not your first.  Other people were like, “Eh, no biggie.”

So yesterday, April 14, I realized it had been eight years since I went deaf.  This used to be kind of a sad anniversary for me, but it doesn’t bother me anymore.  I used to feel like I was the only person who’d gone through this horrible situation but now I know that I’m one of many, and we all just do what we gotta do.  I have my CIs and I hear better with them than I did with hearing aids, after all.  Instead of being maudlin, I decided to have a strange man permanently ink my body to commemorate the day.  Why not?!

Now if you’re just a boring non-cool, non-hip person like me, going to a tattoo parlor is a little intimidating.  As we drove there, Dave asked if I was nervous.  “About getting the tattoo?  No.  I’m nervous about making small talk with the tattoo artist.”  Yep; other people worry about whether it will hurt.  I worry about whether I’ll be able to hear over the music and sound of the tattoo … machine? Gun?  And what will I say to this person I probably have nothing in common with?  Or will they even talk to me at all?

shop

We got there about 20 minutes after they opened.  I wasn’t sure I’d actually get a tattoo, but I figured I’d at least find out how much it cost and set up an appointment.  The shop itself is really cool; lots to look at, the kind of color and décor that I usually gravitate to.  There was a very tattooed, pierced, bearded guy standing outside when we walked up, and he nodded and smiled at us.  Then he followed us inside and asked if he could help us.  I explained what I wanted and he said, “You know, I can do it right now if you want.”  No turning back now.
The image I started withI showed him the image on my phone, and then came the scariest moment of the whole experience.  “Oh yea, just email that to me,” he said casually as he handed me a form to fill out.  “Oh fuck,” I thought.  How do I email this thing?  I’m not to the point where I’d try to text using my calculator or anything, but I don’t just casually email random images to people either.  I nodded slowly as my brain frantically ran through the possibilities.  I touched one button on my phone and … yea, that’s not the right one.  I glanced around casually, hiding my panic as I tried to figure out how to do this without looking like an idiot.  Finally I found the right button, clicked on Gmail and looked up at him.  “Oh here, I’ll enter my email address while you fill that out.”  He took the phone and I breathed a sigh of relief.

The transfer

In case you’re wondering (I always did), they make a transfer of the image you want.  They put it on your skin and then use that as a guide when they do the actual tattooing.  “Do you want the edges rough like this?” he asked.  I confirmed that I did, and he agreed that it looked better that way.  Then we talked about the color.  I was under the impression that switching colors was a big deal, so I was only planning on getting two colors.  But he suggested having the color gradually go from dark red to orange, which I loved.

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The whole thing lasted for maybe 40 minutes, and it never became painful.  (The whole visit, from when we walked in until we walked out, took about an hour.)

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And you guys, this kid was so nice and friendly. (If you ever go there for a tattoo, ask for Preston – you won’t be disappointed.)  We chatted the whole time, and even Dave chimed in from the couch he was sitting on.  There were three guys working there and they were all like that – friendly and open.  The whole shop had a very casual, non-judgmental vibe.

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I also noticed that every single client was a woman.  There was a younger girl in her 20s getting her shoulder  or upper arm done, me, and then someone a bit older (but younger than me) getting a tattoo on her ankle.  I thought that was pretty cool – girl power and all.

So it’s done, and I absolutely love it.  I do have to say that it takes some getting used to, because it’s a tattoo that I can see as opposed to something on my shoulder or something, where I’d have to use a mirror to see it.  Yesterday I’d move my arm and think, Oh my god, what is that on my arm?! before I remembered, Oh yea … tattoo.  In the winter I’ll rarely see it unless I push up my sleeve, but it will definitely be on view in the summer months.  Since it’s on the inside of my forearm it’s not quite as noticeable, but it’s very colorful and it’s not small.  The important thing is that it’s exactly what I wanted, and it has a lot of meaning for me.  I smile whenever I see it.  If somebody else doesn’t like it, they can take a hike, man.

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Dave talked to my mom last night and he told her to sit down before he broke the news.  (I figured she’d be upset about it.)  Instead, she said she’s been thinking about getting one on her shoulder.  I think I know just the place to take her the next time she visits. :)

A Picky Eater Grows Up

The year is 1974.  My family is making the annual pilgrimage from Illinois to Florida in our trusty Oldsmobile, Mom and Dad chain-smoking in the front while my brother and I fight for prime real estate in the back seat.  We finally arrive in Georgia, and I put my family through a familiar scenario:

We pull up to the drive-through window of McDonald’s.  My dad calls out the orders, three variations of hamburgers-with-everything plus French fries and drinks.  Then he adds, “And one plain hamburger.”

My brother groans and slumps back.  My mom taps her nails on the window trim.  The inevitable request comes.  “Uh, sir, can you pull over and wait?”

This was no ‘have it your way’ situation.  My plain hamburger meant that we waited an extra 10 or 15 minutes for it to be cooked and slapped between a bun sans all the junk that turned my stomach.

I’m sure many people can tell tales of their childhood food aversions.  If you’re a parent, you probably deal with this sort of thing from your own children.  What we often don’t talk about, though, is when this pickiness extends into adulthood.

I’m 51 years old, and I still don’t eat salad (or raw vegetables of any kind).  If you try to sneak Parmesan cheese into my food, I will smell it and push it aside.  I’ve come a long way, though.  Mushrooms, fennel, balsamic vinegar and Havarti cheese all now have a place in my life.  It was a long, nose-wrinkling process, however, and some foods still didn’t make the cut (sorry Gruyère – you just smell too nasty).

I was lucky enough to visit France in my late 20s.  After days spent wandering Versailles, visiting the Eiffel Tower, and watching artists at work in Montmartre, I was often famished.  I am ashamed to admit that the restaurant that most frequently got my business was none other than McDonald’s.  I was thrilled to tuck into an order of chicken nuggets with a side order of barbecue sauce.  Some days it was all I ate, after a breakfast of coffee and toast.

In front of Notre Dame Cathedral, most likely thinking of the chicken nuggets I'd eat that night - 1988

In front of Notre Dame Cathedral, 1988 – most likely thinking of the Mickey D’s I’d eat that night

I don’t know what it’s like now, but Paris in 1988 was a challenge for someone who didn’t speak French.  Add a hearing loss and inherent shyness to that, and ordering from a restaurant was fraught with peril.  After ordering a pizza that inexplicably arrived at the table with a topping of runny eggs, I avoided cafes and looked for the golden arches.

Things started changing for me around the time I had my cochlear implant surgery in 2008.  It’s fairly common for the nerves that control taste to be damaged during surgery, and I was not spared.  For about a year and a half, things like bread, cookies and cake had a strange, spongy texture and no flavor.  Water was oily; most flavors were flat.  The front center area of my tongue was most affected, so I tried to skip that area and quickly get the food to the back of my tongue.  I drank beverages through a straw.

I found that adding heat and spice livened up some of the dead flavors, so for the first time in my life I gravitated toward hot, spicy foods.  (I kept that preference once my taste buds were back to normal.)  While I was busy looking for ways to burn some life into my taste buds, we also started watching more cooking shows on TV.  I learned how to prepare and cook things I’d never even heard of before, like jicama.  I discovered Ruth Reichl’s books, and found myself curious about some of the more exotic dishes she described.

As I slowly started trying things that were new to me (and enjoying most of them), I decided to really push myself out of my comfort zone.  I signed up to become a recipe tester for Cook’s Illustrated, with the caveat that I had to try recipes with at least one new ingredient.  Testing a recipe means I have to follow everything to the letter – the ingredients, cooking method, pan size, and so on.  Instead of, say, substituting Greek yogurt for sour cream, I have to use exactly what the recipe calls for.

I admit that just last year I sat in a restaurant, ordered a dish that had pasta salad on the side (something I’ve never eaten because I hate mayonnaise), and told myself that if my kids could follow the ‘just take one bite and try it’ rule, then so could I.  It was made with aioli, which I’d never had but assumed tasted like mayonnaise.  For whatever reason, I loved it.  Maybe I like aioli better than mayonnaise, or maybe aioli tastes nothing like mayo, or maybe I actually don’t mind mayo anymore.  Who knows.  But I tried it!

So I’ve come a long way, food-wise.  In all honesty, I still wouldn’t order a burger with everything on it.  But ordering it plain wouldn’t even cross my mind these days.

Saying Bye to Beanie

We think Sabrina, or Beanie (as we call her), is getting ready to cross the rainbow bridge soon. She’s 15 now, and back in November she was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism. She’d gone from about 12 to 9 pounds and just seemed constantly anxious and agitated. Once we started her on thyroid medicine she seemed to improve. She didn’t gain any weight back, but she maintained her weight, her fur seemed less unkempt, and she just seemed more settled and happy. She also corrected some litter box issues she’d been having. All seemed right in Beanie’s world.

But 2016 hasn’t been kind to her. She lost some more weight, down to 8-1/2 pounds, then gained it back. She started moving slower; you can really tell she’s a senior kitty. And a few days ago she had some kind of incident, possibly a mini-seizure. Dave found her lying down with one of her back legs kind of up in the air, and she seemed dazed. We waited for her to come out of it, watching to see if she seemed to be in pain (she didn’t), and she slowly came back to her usual self. But I can tell when I pick her up that she’s lost weight again (I don’t want to know, so I haven’t weighed her). She’s still eating and drinking, taking her medicine, but we can just tell she’s getting ready.

Dave and I talked and decided not to take her to the vet unless she seems to be in pain. All of my previous cats ended up being put down in the vet’s office, and I’m sure that’s what they would do to her if we brought her in. I don’t want that, unless she’s suffering. For once, I want one of my beloved cats to die peacefully in her own home. I want her to be surrounded by the things she loves and the people who love her. I want to honor all the happy days she’s given us.

I watched this series called Time of Death a while back, and it made a profound impact on me, totally changed how I view the process of dying (which I was terrified of before). I know she’s a cat and not a person, but I want to apply some of that philosophy to how we handle Bean’s last days with us.

This is an excerpt from a previous entry, and it sums up Miss Sabrina about as well as anything:

Our oldest cat, Sabrina (aka Beanie) was in residence for about ten months before the former-feral girls joined the household and rocked her world. Beanie is the sweetest, friendliest cat you could ever hope to meet. If you come to our house, you’ll meet Beanie. She’ll stomp toward you on her squat little legs, look you right in the eye and meow softly. She’ll stare at you, wearing you down, until finally you give in and pet her on the head. Beanie loves being petted, even on her stomach. She’s so docile and loving; sometimes she purrs so loud that we have to turn up the volume on the TV. (If we’re watching TV, she’s almost always sitting with or on one of us.)

Beanie’s a little weird about sniffing your hand, though. She seems to have a sensitive sniffer, and often seems offended if you let her sniff your hand. This is a common thing to do, offer your hand to an animal so they can sniff it first, and it might look like Beanie is slightly repulsed by your presence. Don’t be fooled, though; she loves everybody. She just doesn’t necessarily like the way they smell.

Beanie often seems put out by the fact that she’s so far below us, walking on the floor when we’re apparently up in the heavens. She’ll follow us around and meow pitifully, or sit on the floor in the bathroom while I do my makeup or brush my teeth, staring at me sadly. Finally, I give in and pick her up; I carry her round the house with me or I put her on the counter so she can watch me. She settles in happily and starts purring; no more meows, no more sad looks. Beanie really needs to just be carried around the house in a sling, the way I used to carry the kids when they were babies. To make Beanie happy, all you have to do is pay attention to her.

And don’t make her sniff your hand.

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She is a wonderful, gentle, loving cat – we couldn’t be luckier to have been her family for the past 11 years. I wanted to write this now while she’s still with us, when I know I can publish this post, then walk into the bedroom and give her a kiss on the head and tell her how much I love her.

Well, I’ll Be

I’ve had my cochlear implants for … wow, almost eight years now (in August of 2016). In the beginning, there are all kinds of, as we call them, “CI moments” – things we’ve never heard before, or sounds finally becoming clear, or whatever. After nearly eight years, though, you figure you’ve heard all the new things or had all the new hearing experiences you’re going to have.

So this morning I had a song stuck in my head, I’ll Be by Edwin McCain. It’s pretty popular now but when I first heard it in 1997 he was a fairly unknown artist and I didn’t know what to expect when I listened to the CD. I can still remember how it sounded, and how much I loved the song; I listened to it over and over, and knew all the nuances of his voice and the music.

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Since I got my CIs, I don’t really listen to music much. When I was first activated, music sounded, well, godawful would be a kind way to put it. It just sounded like crashing noise. It got better every time I went for a mapping (where they hook you up to a computer and tweak the computer programs in the CIs) and eventually there came a time that I listened to a song (by Depeche Mode) and heard it the way I remembered it. I actually heard it better than I remembered it, because I was hearing parts of the song (various instruments) in each ear. I had never heard music in stereo before, because my right ear was always pretty bad – moderate to severe hearing loss until 1993, and then profound (i.e., I heard nothing) from 1993 on. I actually started crying the first time music sounded good through my CIs.

Anyway, Dave and I have different tastes in music and I never got into the habit of wearing headphones; it was just easier not to listen to music most of the time. Every now and then, though, I go through a phase and listen to a song or a whole CD.   I am not into new music as much; partly it’s because I’m apparently an old fogey who likes ‘golden oldies’ (anything from the 70s to about 1998) and partly it’s because my memory kicks in on a song I already know and helps me shape what the song should sound like.

I dug around and found my Edwin McCain CD and decided to teach myself how to copy it to my computer. (Yes, this is the something I had to teach myself. In 2016. Leave me alone.) I clicked on I’ll Be, popped on the headphones, and … hmmm. This is not how I remember it sounding. I was pretty disappointed. Yes, he has a raspy voice but it really sounded like he was growling, not the pretty, earnest song I remember. I kept the headphones on while the files were transferring, assuming it would go to the next song when it ended. I got preoccupied and didn’t realize that the song had started over. But I did notice that now it sounded better, a buttery, smooth rich sound closer to how I remember the song. ‘Huh,’ I thought, ‘I guess he sang the end of the song differently than the beginning.’ Then I put my cursor on the progress bar and saw that it was, like, one minute into the song. He wasn’t singing it better; I was hearing it a second time and my brain was already processing the sounds better. I listened to it a third time and there it was: the song I remembered.

Seriously folks, the brain is an amazing thing. Never take it for granted.

Say What You Wanna Say

I’ve been trying to be better about speaking up for myself, but last year I failed miserably where my glasses were concerned.

Because we moved, I had to find a new eye doctor (which was nerve-wracking enough). Eye exams make me feel really vulnerable because I have my contact lenses out and my vision is really terrible (nearsighted, -8.50 in both eyes). The room is dark and I’m looking through the big machine with the lenses, and I have to be able to understand what the optometrist is asking me. Even looking at her to lip read doesn’t help, because I can’t see her face unless it’s literally about an inch from my eyes.

I did luck out with my new doctor, who is easy to understand and doesn’t have an accent. I asked for prescriptions for contacts, regular glasses, bifocals, and also computer glasses. I explained that sometimes I want to take my contacts out at the end of the evening, but still be able to sit at my desk and see my computer screen. My bifocal glasses are a bit too strong in the distance prescription to see my monitor, and to use the bifocal area I have to tilt my head back and look through the bottom of the lens. She understood what I was asking for and had no problem giving me a prescription just for computer glasses.

I’ve been caught off guard with high prices for glasses in the past; they hook you with a coupon, and then by the time all the add-ons and upgrades are added, the $99 glasses suddenly cost $400. Since the computer glasses would just be a once-in-a-great-while thing, I figured I would just order them online from Zenni to save money.

After I paid the bill for my first visit, we got in the car and I looked through the papers the receptionist had handed me. I assumed my prescriptions were part of the paperwork but they weren’t there. We were in the middle of a snowstorm and I really just wanted to get home before the snow got too bad, so I didn’t go back inside to ask for copies of my prescriptions.

At various points all through 2015, I tried to psych myself up to go in (or email) and ask for copies of my prescriptions. And I was too chicken. Even though I know by law they have to provide them if I ask. I just kept making excuses not to do it.

So when my annual eye exam came around at the end of last year, I was determined. I was not leaving there without copies of all of my prescriptions. I did give in and get new bifocal glasses because my prescription had changed and my bifocals from Zenni were just a little too tight. I wanted my new bifocals to be properly fitted and make sure my PD (pupillary distance) was correct. I went in prepared to spend hundreds of dollars on these glasses that I basically just wear for five minutes in the morning and five minutes at night (from the bedroom to the bathroom, where I put in and take out my contact lenses).

I was pleasantly surprised, though, when I asked the optician to give me the cheapest pair of bifocals possible. She didn’t even hesitate or argue, and they were less than $150. Yes, the lenses are thick and heavy because I didn’t get the more expensive, thin lenses and my prescription is really high. But it doesn’t matter – they look fine, fit great, and they do the job.

Having just dropped some serious coin (for me, anyway) on these glasses and the exam, I was emboldened and didn’t hesitate to ask for copies of my prescriptions when they weren’t automatically given to me. “Oh, sure!” chirped the optician. She handed me four sheets of paper. What the heck was I so afraid of?!

I came home, measured my PD and went online to shop at Zenni. Since these are glasses I’ll just be wearing around the house, I decided to go a little wild (for me) and get big, oversized frames. (I know they’ve become popular again but I still have bad flashbacks to my huge glasses from the 70s.) I did get thinner lenses because they were a free add-on, although not as thin as they recommended for my horrible vision. The anti-reflection coating and the lenses themselves were free; all I paid for was the frames and they were $9.95. (Well, and $4.95 for shipping.)

Less than two weeks later I had my new glasses, and they are just awesome – exactly what I needed for late-night computing.

I just wish I hadn’t waited a whole year to get the nerve to order them. Here’s to bravery in 2016!

Late to the Party

In the summer of ’77 I was 12, almost 13, years old. It was the summer between 7th and 8th grade, and my parents decided to mix it up a bit vacation-wise. Usually we drove from our Chicago suburb to Daytona Beach, Florida (or somewhere around there), with a stop in Tennessee to visit my mom’s side of the family. That summer, however, they decided to take me and my brother to St. Louis, Missouri.

My brother (10, almost 11) and I were crazy about pinball machines; arcade video games were still a few years away. We could spend hours in a game room, especially once my brother figured out how to glue a string to a quarter and somehow use that to give him access to hours of pinball machine heaven. (I think that’s what he did; my memory is a little fuzzy. I do know that he was the miscreant, not me!)

My parents, smartly realizing they could get some free babysitting, chose a Holiday Inn that had a huge game room as its main feature. Of course there was also a pool, and they figured we’d go see the Arch; it would be a fun few days with less driving time there and back.

We were having a blast, but after a while my parents decided to get us out of the game room and into the city. It was pouring rain, so walking around outside wasn’t really an option. Then they figured hey, why don’t we go see this movie, Star Wars? It looks pretty popular and all.

Now, back in 1977 I had a hearing loss but I wasn’t deaf. I had probably a moderate loss in my left ear and a severe loss in my right, and I wore a hearing aid in my right ear. That was the extent of my accommodations – captions didn’t exist and my hearing loss was not really a big issue.

So we went to this movie and, I’ll be honest, I was mostly excited because Mark Hamill was in it. Mark Hamill was currently splashed all over the teenybopper magazines, and he had dreamy hair; he kind of reminded me of Shaun Cassidy, my other 1977 obsession.

star wars
I watched the screen, waiting eagerly to see Mark, and instead it was robots and, well, I had no idea what the hell was going on. So many of the characters had no lips for me to read, and there were words that weren’t part of the English language which made it hard for me to fill in what I couldn’t hear. (Hearing was often like a puzzle for me – I’d hear maybe three words perfectly in a sentence, and use common sense to fill in the gaps.)

I don’t know how long the movie played while the rain outside turned into a raging thunderstorm; not long, I don’t think. Maybe 15 minutes? In any case, the theater suddenly went dark as the power went out. We sat there for a few minutes, waiting to see if it would come back on. I was frustrated because darn it, I hadn’t seen Mark yet!

Then my mom turned to us and said, “Let’s go. This movie is stupid.”

And that was the extent of my exposure to Star Wars until last week, at age 51.

With all the positive feedback about the new movie, I decided that I wanted to finally watch the whole series. (Dave had seen the first three movies, took Eric to the fourth one and fell asleep in the theater, and then never saw the fifth and sixth movies.) I left it to Dave to decide what order we would watch them in, and he came up with a version of what he called the Machete order: Episode 4, 5, 1, 2, 3, 6 (with 4 being the 1977 movie that I never finished watching).

Speaking as a complete Star Wars newbie, I highly recommend that order. I liked seeing the original two movies, and then flashing back to fill in the back story, and then finishing with Return of the Jedi. It wasn’t confusing and it was just a fun way to be introduced to the series. And I really, really enjoyed all of the movies, even the one that ends up at the bottom of everyone’s list when they rank the movies (aka, Episode 1). Actually, the actual Machete order skips Episode 1 altogether but I wanted to see all of the movies, no matter how badly people talked about them.

As we got about a quarter of the way through the first movie, I turned to Dave and said, “I could never have understood this without captions.” I think it was meant to be for me to wait until captions existed in order to see that movie! (Of course, I could have watched it in the mid-1990s when captions started showing up on video tapes and, later, DVDs but …)

It was fun to hear iconic lines spoken for the first time (“These aren’t the droids you’re looking for”). The most famous line, though, was never spoken. I kept waiting to hear “Luke, I am your father,” but Darth Vader never actually says that!

We watched one movie each night for six days straight, and it was a blast. Now we’re debating whether to see the new movie in a theater that has captioning devices (the closest one is in Mishawaka, Indiana) or just wait for it to come out on DVD.

And by the way, I have to confess … after we finished A New Hope (Episode 4), I told Dave, “Well, Mark Hamill was really cute but man, he was a bad actor.” (He did get better in the second and third movies, I noticed, but it was pretty obvious in the first movie.)

His hair looked great, though!

A Perfect Storm *

There’s four words that I never said during either of my pregnancies:

“My water just broke.”

However, that’s precisely what happened to my daughter on Monday night. Let me backtrack though, all the way to late November.

Thanksgiving came late again this year, didn’t it? I started decorating for Christmas the weekend before Thanksgiving, although I did wait to put up the tree until Nov. 28. I also started Baby Watch that same week.

Paige’s due date was originally Dec. 15 and then they changed it to Dec. 12. She and Eric both came about 9 days early, and I just had this feeling that Storm would arrive early as well. She was having a really smooth pregnancy, not a lot of morning sickness and no high blood pressure (which was my nemesis). She started having Braxton-Hicks contractions pretty early on, something I remember very well from my own pregnancies.

On Nov. 19, she had an ultrasound and they said Storm was 5 lbs, 9 oz. We figured he still needed some growing time, so I started thinking he’d come closer to his due date (if not after). In the meantime, Paige planned to keep working right up until he was born, if she could. That was another similarity to my pregnancy with her; I ended up working until two days before she was born. (I finished my week at work on Friday, went into labor late Saturday night/early Sunday morning and she was born at 5:37 am on Sunday.)

She had a weekly doctor’s appointment on December 2nd and they told her she was 2 to 3 cm dilated and 80% effaced. Her hips were starting to really hurt so they stripped her membranes to help things along, and scheduled her for an induction early on December 8th if the baby wasn’t here by that time. She kept going to work and then getting sent home because being on her feet was making her have non-stop contractions. All through the week I was getting messages from her saying that the contractions weren’t stopping and were anywhere from 5 minutes to 2 minutes apart. She even went to the hospital one morning, but they sent her home because she wasn’t dilating.

I started carrying my cell phone everywhere (usually I just leave it lying on my desk) and Dave had already hooked up one of our bedroom lights so that it would blink on and off when the phone rang (hopefully waking us up if she called during the night). I woke up frequently every night to check my phone and see if I’d missed any messages from Paige about being in labor.

When I was pregnant with her, they stripped my membranes on a Tuesday (I was 3 cm, 75% effaced) and she was born on a Sunday. Since her pregnancy with Storm was so similar to my pregnancy with her, I figured she’d have him on a Monday – five days after the procedure, just like me. Still though, she was having so many contractions and false alarms that I really thought it would be sooner, possibly the weekend of Dec. 5-6.

The weekend came and went with no baby, so we started planning for the induction on Tuesday morning. We had a bag packed with all kinds of things to keep us busy for possibly hours, since this was her first baby – Phase 10 (a card game), chargers for my CI batteries and our tablets and phones, money for the vending machines (because we no longer use our debit card after it got hacked – we’re waiting for the chip and pin version to come out). I put together a goodie bag for Paige with lip balm, hair clips and ties, magazines, her favorite candy (and Michael’s too), Goldfish crackers, bath gel for her first post-baby shower, and face wipes. I set the alarm for 4 am so we could be there at 5 am (even though we’re only an hour apart, they’re in an earlier time zone than us).

Monday morning she sent me a message saying her contractions were hurting more, and weren’t going away when she sat down. I had a feeling this was it – it was exactly how my labor with her started. She went to the hospital around 10 am and we didn’t hear anything for a long time; then around 1 or 2 pm she said they sent her home because she wasn’t progressing and was still 3 cm.

We were messaging back and forth, and she was fretting because her cervix was being so stubborn; she was afraid she’d have to have a C-section on Tuesday. I messaged back, “It’s not inconceivable that you could still go into labor tonight.” She said, “True.” That was at 3:15 pm.

Dave and I ate dinner and then settled in for some TV. We were watching The Good Wife when the phone rang. It was Paige.

Dave answered and there was silence on the other end. He hung up and I checked my phone. At 7:40 our time (6:40 her time) she had messaged me: My water just broke

Well, we went crazy. Dave called her back and got her husband, Michael. They were already at the hospital (it’s just a block or two from their house) and he said they were telling her she still might not have the baby until tomorrow morning. The doctor would be in at 5 am to check her; she was still 3 cm.

Dave said he’d call back in 15 or 20 minutes to check on them, hung up and we kind of wandered around aimlessly, not knowing what to do. Do we go to the hospital if they said she wouldn’t have the baby until the next day? Finally 20 minutes had passed, and Dave called back. He got Paige this time.

I was reading the captioning, and he had the volume turned way up so I could kind of hear through the handset as he talked to her. She was very breathless (turns out she was having a contraction at that moment) and said the contractions really hurt. Dave asked if she wanted us to come to the hospital and I could hear her yelling, “YES YES YES YES!” I flew around and had my coat on and everything together in just a few minutes. Hearing my little girl in obvious pain just kind of flipped a switch in me. We had to get on the road STAT.

We made good time and found the hospital pretty easily. We had to be escorted by security onto the labor and delivery floor because it was after hours (around 9 pm their time). When we walked in, I took in the scene: Paige in bed, getting ready to push, with Michael on one side and his mom, Renee, on the other. His sister, Aleigha, was standing back and there were a couple of nurses and a doctor in the room. Right away they said only three people (besides Paige) could be in the room, so Dave and Aleigha left and went to the family waiting room.

Renee said we had perfect timing, and she was not kidding. I couldn’t believe that in a little over an hour from her conversation with Dave, Paige was already at the pushing stage. For her first baby! I thought, seriously, we would be there for 24 hours or more.

She’d been given some pain medication that made her kind of loopy and out of it, so she fell asleep. (She didn’t want an epidural, but I doubt she could’ve gotten one even if she did because things happened so quickly.) She basically slept most of the time that we were driving. When she woke up, apparently, she had the urge to push. And that’s about the time we arrived.

She pushed for maybe 15 minutes. They started breaking down the bed, and things happened really quickly after that. I was kind of standing back from the bed, to keep out of the way, and I decided to move further down … just in time to see my grandson enter this world. It was completely amazing.

When it came time to cut the cord, the doctor asked if anyone wanted to do the honors. Michael shook his head no and I found myself stepping forward, something I never thought I would do. What a special moment!

Our new grandson, Storm, right after his birth

Our new grandson, Storm, right after his birth

Storm Dovahkiin Reeves was born at 9:18 pm on December 7, 2015. He weighed 7 pounds, 13 ounces and was 20 inches long.

We think he is the most beautiful grandson ever. We’re pretty darn proud of his mama and daddy, and so glad that he came into this world surrounded by people who love him.

Is he not adorable?!

Is he not adorable?!

Best early Christmas present ever!!

* Credit to my friend Facebook friend Theresa for the title to this blog entry:)

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