Do I Really Have My Father’s Eyes?

BROWNIEAll my life, I’ve been told I had my father’s eyes. Family lore has it that a complete stranger came up to my mother at a county park when I was a baby, pointed to my rosy cheeks and impossibly pale blue eyes and announced that she had no idea who my mother was, but that I clearly was a member of my father’s family. Even other family members have confused my photos with pictures of my Dad’s sisters. (That’s OK with me – I think they’re all lovely.) The point is – the force runs strong in my father’s family.

Daddy and Me as toddlers

Daddy and Me as toddlers

Genetics are a funny and random mixed bag. My sister and I have inherited some of the same traits, but also many different things from each of our parents. My sister’s face is a clear reflection of our mother’s mother, and she got many more of Mum’s freckles than I did. She got Daddy’s natural athletic ability, and I got our mother’s preference to be alone with a book over almost anything else. We both inherited a great love of movies and music from Mum, and we both wear those bright, pale blue eyes from Dad.

1378678_10200726870915958_922495766_nI don’t remember my father ever complaining about his eyes until he was in his late 70’s and diabetes began to take its toll. My mother, on the other hand, had incredibly beautiful eyes, but was very nearsighted (myopic) and often had to hide them behind glasses. An injury to one of her eyes made contact lenses off limits. Taking her specs off meant she had to open her eyes wider to see, which had the effect of making her look inquisitive and even more attractive. The truth is, her eyes were gorgeous, but they were a trial to her.

Mum was a writer and, for a time, editor of a local magazine. Each month she wrote some article for the magazine, like a profile of a local business or personality, or a humor piece about life as a resident of our county. One of those pieces was called “Myopia Is My Way of Life.” In it she described her love-hate relationship with her glasses, and to this day it makes me laugh.

But as she aged, her eyes gave her additional problems – ones that could cause blindness if left untreated. In her sixties she developed cataracts (lens clouding) and the clear vision she relied on became fractured and unclear. An eye doctor told me that 46526_656823199152_1741297494_nmost of us get some progressive cataract distortion as we age, but the very nearsighted are often affected earlier. Mum had surgery to correct her cataracts and improve her myopia, and then did a little metaphorical tap dance because, as she said, her vision was better than it had been in her thirties. She bought some new books to celebrate.

Then, she developed glaucoma (damage to the optic nerve, usually caused by pressure). It was caught early, and for the balance of her life she put two kinds of drops in her eyes daily, to prevent further damage. Being a Scot, she was keenly aware of the financial cost of those drops, but she was even more aware of the consequences of failing to use them. Her vision was clear and her eyes were bright and beautiful until the day she died.

So, today I had a follow-up visit with the ophthalmologist. Follow-up, because my annual checkup with my optician (who provides my glasses for myopia) showed some suspicious things. First, I have cataracts starting. These will be monitored, and at some point in the not-too-distant future, I’ll have to have surgery. They don’t advocate the surgery when they first start, because, well it’s surgery after all, and so they’re cautious. But when I notice progression, it will be my turn to have the surgery, do a tap dance, and order some new books.

The other suspicion was that I may have the beginnings of glaucoma. Some more tests were done today, and I have yet another follow-up visit in a few months to see if I need to start the regimen of daily eye drops.  You can get crowns on your teeth, and they can build you new knees and hips, but we really only get one pair of eyes each – they need a little TLC.

As I was describing my doctor visit to my beloved tonight, I had a funny thought. It suddenly occurred to me that all my life, everyone has been wrong. In some very important ways, I have my mother’s eyes, and not my father’s after all.

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Also see:

Posted in Health Issues, Retirement itself | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Symbols of Cities and Lands

Some landmarks are iconic – a single image of them conjures the names of the places they represent. They become symbols of their locations…

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Like the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower in Paris…

China 538 - CopyThe Great Wall of China…

Blue - Tower Bridge and Blue Skies over London

Tower Bridge in London…


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The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco…

DSC_0335 (2)…or the Space Needle in Seattle.

What’s your favorite symbolic landmark?

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This post was written in response to the WordPress Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge:  Symbol.  To see other bloggers’ iconic entries and get more info on these challenges, just click on the links! 

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Land Meets Water

In May, my beloved and I went out to the West Coast for a family wedding, and took advantage of the time to do some travel and sightseeing in the Bay area and north.  These are some images from small hikes we took between San Francisco and Eureka.

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We could have stayed each place for hours, watching the surf bounce off the rocks and make patterns in the sand.

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This post was written in response to the weekly Travel Theme challenge by Ailsa of WheresMyBackpack: Land Meets Water.  To see other bloggers’ beachy entries and get more info on these challenges, just click on the link! 

 

 

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The Ephemeral Nature of Days… and of Gratitude

Morning has broken like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken like the first bird
Praise for the singing, praise for the morning
Praise for them springing fresh from the Word
 
Sweet the rain’s new fall, sunlit from Heaven
Like the first dewfall on the first grass
Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden
Sprung in completeness where His feet pass
 
Mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning
Born of the one light, Eden saw play
Praise with elation, praise every morning
God’s recreation of the new day
 
– lyrics written by Eleanor Farjeon in 1931, to be sung to the Scottish Highland tune “Bunessan”

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Here we are, once again, in Spring – the season of rebirth and new life.  The Vernal Equinox happened recently, and that means that day and night are about equal parts of each 24-hour span. It also means we’re well into Lent – a period of reflection and preparation for Easter for Christians around the world.

In the spirit of the season, I ventured outdoors today to find that it had snowed again in our little corner of New England this morning. Hmmmm. I walked around our yard and did find signs of life. A chipmunk scampered across the back yard toward shelter under our deck. Birds were picking through the debris on the forest floor for material to build nests. Buds and pods have started on trees, vines, and bushes. Tomorrow, the nests will be closer to completion and the buds will be just a little bigger, despite today’s dusting.

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So I found myself humming the familiar words: God’s re-creation of the new day.

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Merriam Webster defines ephemeral as lasting one day only, or lasting a very short time. My Lenten meditation today is on gratitude, and that’s what gratitude often is – ephemeral. We’re thankful for a moment or a day, and then the little niggling things get to us and we forget to maintain that feeling – It’s snowing; I’m cold. I’m tired of this weather.

And that’s exactly why, in the midst of an economic and worldwide depression, a vicar commissioned beloved British children’s author Eleanor Farjeon to write words for a new children’s hymn to a familiar tune (an old Scots melody also used for a popular Christmas Carol of the time). He wanted a psalm that would remind both singers and listeners to be thankful for the Lord’s bounty every day. That hymn is Morning Has Broken, later also published as the poem A Morning Song for the First Day of Spring.

Many people I know first heard the song when Cat Stevens recorded it in 1971, but I remember singing it in church in the 50’s and 60’s in children’s choir. I even got to sing the middle verse as a solo once in church. My daughter sang it at her uncle’s wedding. And the words have never been lost on me. Mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning. So much to be grateful for, whatever else is going on in the world. Praise with elation, praise every morning.

 Don’t let that grateful spirit slip away. Renew it every day.

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Thanks to “BilboKepa” for posting this montage version of the song on YouTube:

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This post was written in response to the weekly Travel Theme challenge by Ailsa of WheresMyBackpack: Outdoors   and  to the WordPress Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge: Ephemeral.  To see other bloggers’ creative entries and get more info on these challenges, just click on the links! 

My previous Lenten posts:

 

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The Value of Connections – MS Awareness Week

Well, I signed on to my blog to do this post, and as it happens, today is the 3rd anniversary of the registration of this blog! It hardly seems possible.
WordPrerssAnniversaryIn that time, there have been days when I spent as much as 12 of my 24 hours in the blogosphere, and there have been weeks, maybe even months, when I neglected it pretty completely. But one way or another, I have come to value my connections with the other bloggers I have “met.” These are people I would never have known otherwise. People of a variety of ages, nationalities, and interests. People with an astounding spectrum of points of view and reasons for blogging. Fascinating connections.

In addition to being my blogoversary, it’s also MS Awareness Week – which is what really brought me to the keyboard this afternoon. The National Multiple Sclerosis Society has a theme: Every Connection Counts. This is a perfect expression of how MS patients feel. It’s not just that the disease is isolating (which it can be), it’s also that the disease itself is manifested by a literal lack of connection.

Most people think of MS as a neurological disease – which it is. Or, at least it’s a disease of the central nervous system. But it’s more than that. Think of your nervous system as the electrical wiring in your house. If there’s an interruption in power, or a short in part of the system, a very frustrating loss of ability to do things ensues. Your house wires are all covered with plastic tubing to keep the connections intact and prevent shorts, but now picture a family of mice in your attic and bearing walls, chewing away at that plastic or loosening plugs, causing unexpected shorts and failures in different places around the house at different times with varying severity. That’s MS. Yikes.

For some reason, the immune system in MS patients perceives that insulation around the nerve fibers (the myelin sheath) as the enemy, and starts eating away at it. Then sclera (scarring or lesions) form around the areas of the damaged myelin. When they’re found in more than one place or at different times (and aren’t caused by anything else), you have Multiple Sclerosis. And here’s where my metaphor ends, because the wiring insulation in your house can’t grow back on its own, but myelin can. And the rates of deterioration and the rates of regrowth from person to person are as different as the people themselves.

MS is hard to diagnose, because the symptoms point to the nervous system (particularly the brain and spine) rather than to the elusive and more capricious auto-immune system – and the symptoms could be caused by many other things (tumors, strokes, inflammation, viruses…) that have to be ruled out. It’s made more difficult because of the variety of symptoms. There is no one test for MS. It’s a diagnosis by exclusion of all the other possibilities.

Even when there finally is a diagnosis, there’s really no solid prognosis available, because every case is different, and things can change. The “types” of MS are based on severity and whether or not there are periods of remission… which means you have to wait to see what happens to know what you’ve got. The patient may continue to work and appear fine to daily contacts for a very long time – but appearances can be deceiving.

So, every connection counts, and every bit of information or support is important. I say this with conviction, because MS has popped up in my family more than once. There seem to be tendencies for some families to have more auto-immune disease occurrences than others. That means MS, Diabetes, Lupus, and a variety of other syndromes and diseases that attack multiple areas or systems of the body show up more often. Yikes again. We don’t know why yet; we’re still connecting the dots.

The good news is that we’re learning more. Please don’t listen to the TV shows that portray young characters with MS seeing it as a death sentence. The disease is unpredictable and its course can change. Many MS patients have long periods of remission, and many lead very full, active, long lives. There are new treatments all the time that work on relieving the symptoms and slowing the course of MS (and similar diseases), and some that assist with the healing process as well. There are holistic and dietary treatments that can help. Each patient has to do a little work to find what works best.

So why blog about an unpredictable and currently incurable disease on a generally upbeat blog? Well, because it’s MS Awareness Week, silly. And because in your lifetime there is likely to be someone you meet who is one of the world’s 2,000,000 people living with the uncertainty and frustrating effects of MS. Because you can help with awareness, or maybe with fundraising for research. Because you can set the record straight when someone describes it incorrectly. Because you’re now one of my connections.

And every connection counts.

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If you know someone who has, or may have, MS – here are A few helpful items:

Posted in Blogging, Caregiving, Health Issues, Health-Diet, Information, Ruminations | Tagged , , , | 16 Comments

C’mon Guys, This is Boston!

P1090234I went to college in Boston, arguably one of the most resilient cities in the USA. I still go back whenever I can. I love taking the T or just walking the Freedom Trail. I lived in the Back Bay area, and from my dorm we could hear the shouts across the railway when a home run was hit at Fenway Park. Back when I was there, the EPA hadn’t cleaned up rivers, and pollution was so bad that at freshman orientation we were told to get a tetanus shot should we fall into the Dirty Water of the “muddy River Charles.” Still, sailboats on the river around the Esplanade were a favorite sight of mine.

So, for a time, I lived in Boston, and it will always be a part of me – a sort of second hometown. We’ve all heard the slogans:  Believe in Boston. Boston Proud.

Boston is a hard-working, glass-half-full kind of city. Underdog, schmunderdog. Give Bostonians a challenge – go ahead, I dare you.  Tax our tea? We’ll give you a tea party. Laugh at our Sox and call it a curse? We’ll patiently wait for our revenge. Bomb our Marathon? We’ll turn it into a celebration of strength and galvanize the whole country around us. Dump a couple of feet of snow on the city this week? We’ll walk our dogs on the Common and say it wasn’t so bad.

The people who thumbed their noses at King George, waited 86 years for the Red Sox to win a World Series, and have survived numerous renamings of their precious Boston Garden in the name of commerce aren’t afraid of a few bumps and bruises – that’s just part of the fabric of life in the Cradle of Liberty.

So all week long, in the unrelenting wake of “deflategate,” I’ve been asking myself why it is that the New England Patriots feel the need push the envelope of fair play. Of course, money, glory, records – I know all that.  But what I mean by this is, I think they’ve forgotten who it is they represent. I know the Pats’ constituency covers much more than the city, but Boston is at its heart. Bostonians will (grudgingly) forgive a hard-fought, honest loss – in fact, a loss often unifies and energizes the city. After all, Boston has the most – sometimes unreasonably – loyal fans in the world. But even they may have trouble forgiving a continued reputation as a sleazy or cheating team. Nobody likes to be demonized, and nobody wants a cloud over a win.

The really awful and ironic thing is, the Pats didn’t need to fudge or cheat. By just about all accounts, they would have won last week’s playoff game handily on their own merits without underinflated balls, and then (mostly) everyone would be celebrating with them, and the team and the NFL wouldn’t be splashed with mud – again. Somebody didn’t trust the team, and risked so much for nothing.

Someone lost the faith. They stopped believing. They forgot who they are, and they forgot the fans who deserve better.

Mr. Brady, Kraft Family, Coach Belichick: lead from the top. Don’t solicit, encourage, or tolerate violations of fair play. Win with integrity or take your loss on the chin, but don’t play the angles and skirt the rules. Give us a good, honest, well-played game on Sunday – something to embrace and be Boston Proud of. Just give us your best.

C’mon guys. We can take it. This is Boston.

Enjoy a little Dirty Water:

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