No, we can’t cancel Christmas this year.

I’ve been hearing this A LOT this year from colleagues, clients, random people in the street.  This idea of canceling Christmas isn’t new.  There’s a movie about it, and even when I googled “Cancel Christmas” to fact check that there was indeed a movie about it, my hits were all blog posts “Why We Canceled Christmas”  “How to Cancel Christmas”  “Fed Up Parents Cancel Christmas”.  Those were just the top three.  So tell me, bloggers, why are you telling people to do something they can not do?   Canceling Christmas in my mind is like going to the beach and running out to the shoreline and yelling to the ocean “NO! Don’t send the next wave in!  Stop the waves!” You can’t do it.  YOU (or I, or the bloggers telling you to) don’t have that kind of power.

Why do you want to cancel Christmas?  Let’s address that instead because THAT (whatever “that” is) we have some control over.

  1. The Holidays/Christmas are overwhelming.  Take a step back, take a deep breath and keep breathing.  What aspects are overwhelming? Are you overextending yourself physically, financially, both? Is your extended family coming and you’re worried that everything has to be perfect?  These are the kinds of thoughts and behaviors that you can examine and change.  Limit yourself to one or two holiday parties, or NO holiday parties if that is the right answer for you.  Don’t participate in the office Secret Santa if that is too overwhelming for you.  Make a budget and stick to it. Let go of the idea of perfection.  Nothing is perfect.  NOTHING.  Work on progress, not perfection.

2.  I can’t afford Christmas.  Kids’ Christmas lists a mile long? Not sure how you’re going to pay for that PS4 and the tablet they are asking for?  Don’t.  Have the kids re-write their lists.  Give them a spending cap.  How do you explain a spending cap to a five-year-old?  You don’t.  You just tell her that she can pick from one of these 3 items (all within your spending limit) to ask Santa for.  You do explain the spending cap to the older ones, and not to sound like a cheesy Hallmark movie, but you remind them that Christmas is about giving.  Find an angel tree or have them pick out a new gift for Toys for Tots (Thank you,  Marines!) and explain that this gift they are giving will be in place of one they are getting this year.

Scale down the rest of the works, too.  You don’t have to have a 5-course holiday dinner or fancy, catered party.  Have the family do things pot-luck style, or go with appetizers and snacks on Christmas Day.

3.  I just can’t get into the spirit this year. Now, I am a therapist by trade, so I am totally going to give you a pass if you’re grieving or dealing with something larger than life right now (terminal illness, extreme mental illness) but if this is just a case of the blues- get yourself into the spirit.  Watch a TV special and eat a Christmas cookie, damn it!  Go window shopping.  Drink some Limited Edition seasonal tea or coffee that screams “Holidays are Here!”

What I’m trying to say, is that who are we, to stop or cancel Christmas (or any wintertime holiday*)? I am not even coming from the religious aspect here (although that is important for many). If nothing else, the holidays should be about a feeling of peace and love and if you’re wanting to cancel that, it might be time to rest, take a breath and examine what is really going on and what you are really running from.

*footnote, just utterly curious if people of other religions/beliefs threaten to cancel their festivities?  I have never heard of anyone threatening to “Cancel Hanukkah” this year or “Skip Kwanzaa”.   I have a feeling that might have to do with how much expectation and commercialization are associated with Christmas, but I was just curious.  Feel free to comment.

Happiest of Holidays to you, and Peace always,  Joanna.

 

 

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I survived Black Friday- as a retail clerk!

Many of you know that my “real” job is not an author.  It is being a therapist.  So you might wonder why I was working retail on Black Friday.  Over the summer, I picked up a few hours here and there (PRN, as we say in the medical world) at a little, locally owned, used bookstore and art gallery.  AND I LOVE IT.  (I know, don’t start a sentence with and.)

I love being around the books, I love seeing what people read, I love the quiet, I love the rotating art we display and the privilege of meeting some of the artists.  When my boss (who is the nicest lady in the world to work for) informed me that Black Friday was mandatory, I was not surprised.  This was the retail world.  Black Friday is always mandatory.  It’s a day off in the therapy world for most therapists, because everyone is too turkey hungover or busy spending money to come in for therapy.

I was excited until she mentioned that because it is in conjunction with Dicken’s Holiday ( a Fayetteville tradition) it would be the biggest, busiest day of the year, AND I would need to be in Victorian dress. Um, what?  Thanks to my recent weight loss of 40 lbs, anytime I’m not wearing “normal” work clothes or my standard jeans (now with a belt) I have to play a fun game of “will this be too big or too small?”  If you’ve ever struggled with weight, you have a closet like I do- several sizes too small “just in case” or “I couldn’t bear to part with it”, or “my inspiration outfit”.   I stopped doing that crap years ago, but I do have several dressier outfits that I’ve held onto.

“Just go to a thrift store!” my nice boss told me when  I explained that I knew I didn’t have anything that passed for Victorian in my current size.  Now, I don’t know the thrift stores she frequents, but the ones I went to head skin-tight leather pants and cropped black tops with “bebe” emblazoned across them. Or REALLY old lady stuff.  Not Victorian though.  I managed to find a size too small $6 long plaid skirt on an online shopping app I use, a $16 blouse at Burlington (way too much for a blouse I will never wear again, but it was long sleeved and kind of ruffly).  Those, paired with a decorative black scarf tied around my waist and ankle boots, and I kind of looked like a pirate/waitress.  My boss loved it, so it worked.  I couldn’t really breathe in the skirt, but it zipped, so that led me to sit with Victorian-like posture for most of my shift- which was slammed.   For a small bookstore, there was barely move to room- gotta love that with PTSD.  Luckily, I was behind the desk for most of my shift, or I would dash outside, to equally crowded streets, for fresh air.

I survived, and  I will do it again next year, now that I have a year to search for Victorianesque items, or as my one coworker said: “just make it look like you work in a fancy Italian restaurant and throw a crinoline under your skirt.”

There you have it.  I hope you survived Black Friday, and that you will support your local business for Shop Small Saturday!

Let’s start over- a lesson on the Missing Man Table and respect in general

So my hometown kind of has a bad rep- Fayettenam, The Ville (or Da Ville, if you prefer), Fayetteville is known for it’s “go go dancers and car lots” as my one LCAS supervisor used to say.  (“Go Go dancers” is putting it mildly.)

Over the past few years, there has been a small group of people trying to change the overall look and reputation of Fayetteville.  From the new slogan- History, Heroes and a Hometown Feeling  to a downtown you can actually walk around (if you can find free parking 😉 ) to enjoy the great shops and restaurants, Fayetteville is really improving.  Our patriotism really shows too.   Fayetteville has really outdone themselves this time, as Veterans Day approaches, over 50 local businesses have decided to set up a Missing Man Table to honor the fallen,  and the missing.  Those lost in action, those that still might be imprisoned, those that their status is unknown.   They are important and shouldn’t be forgotten, and business owners are going out of their way to make sure those MIA are not forgotten this coming Veterans Day.

So please imagine my shock this past Friday (yesterday) when this took place during my training session.  Satan’s sister, I mean, my trainer, was talking to me about a local business while putting me through my torture workout.

Trainer: Do you know {name of business redacted}?

Me: (barely able to breathe) Yes.

Trainer: Well she {owner} set up a missing man table, and she posted on Facebook yesterday that some moms and their kids came in yesterday and the kids were playing on the table.  And they were letting them!  I don’t blame the kids, I blame the moms.

Me: (dying) pant, pant, pant.  That’s bad parenting.  They need to learn respect.

Now before you jump all over me for the bad parenting comment, I want to say 1) I love kids.  2) I understand that a 2, 3 , 4, 5, year old is NOT going to understand the significance of a Missing Man table, or gravesite, or a religious relic, or anything that others hold with a sense of reverence or honor.  3) I’m fine and survived the workout, thanks so much for asking. My shoulders ARE burning as I type this.

Yes, I am not a parent.  But I do have a wonderful just turned one nephew, a just turned one niece and a 5 year old niece.  Do they act out?  You better believe they do.  They are kids.  We re-direct them.  Because that’s what parents (or aunts) do.  So your kid wants to play on the empty table at a coffee house?   I guess that’s ok, assuming its safe.  Just make sure it’s not the Missing Man table.

I get it, the Missing Man table is cool looking.  It has hats, and a rose, and some other nifty things on it.  But each one of those things has a reason for it’s placement on the table.   Grab your kid, take them to another table, and try to fascinate them with Splenda packets, an empty coffee cup, your phone (not my usual endorsement, but in this case, yes).  If all else fails get your coffee to go, or chat with your friends outside.  Just please don’t disrespect the Missing Man Table.

Just in case those moms didn’t know, here is the significance of the Missing Man Table.

The Missing Man Table, also known as the Fallen Comrade Table, is a place of honor, set up in military dining facilities of the U.S. armed forces and during occasions such as service branch birthday balls, in memory of fallen, missing, or imprisoned military service-members The table serves as the focal point of ceremonial remembrance, originally growing out of US concern of the Vietnam War POW/MIA issue.

  • Table: set for one, is small, symbolizing the frailty of one isolated prisoner. The table is usually set close to, or within sight of, the entrance to the dining room. For large events of the Missing Man Table is set for six places: members of the five armed services (Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard) and a sixth place setting reminiscent of the civilians who died during service alongside the armed forces or missing during armed conflict. Table is round to represent everlasting concern on the part of the survivors for their missing loved ones.
  • Tablecloth is white, symbolic of the purity of their intentions to respond to their country’s call to arms.
  • Single red rose in the vase, signifies the blood that many have shed in sacrifice to ensure the freedom of our beloved United States of America. This rose also reminds us of the family and friends of our missing comrades who keep the faith, while awaiting their return.
  • The red ribbon (yellow ribbon for Air Force ceremonies) represents the love of our country, which inspired them to answer the nation’s call.
  • Slice of lemon on the bread plate: represents the bitter fate of the missing.
  • Salt sprinkled on the bread plate: symbolic of the countless fallen tears of families as they wait.
  • Inverted glass: represents the fact that the missing and fallen cannot partake.
  • The Bible represents the strength gained through faith to sustain those lost from our country, founded as one nation under God. (The Bible has been removed from several displays at federal facilities due to pressure from the Military Religious Freedom Foundation)
  • Lit candle: reminiscent of the light of hope which lives in our hearts to illuminate their way home, away from their captors, to the open arms of a grateful nation.
  • Empty chair: the missing and fallen aren’t present.

(Source Wikipedia)

Therapy and “IT”

This post will contain spoilers of the new movie IT (2017 version) but not the TV movie/mini series version or the book. The book is third on my to read list.  I figure if I survived the movie with minimal hiding behind my hands, I can read the book.

I am particular in which horror movies I see, and I can’t find a pattern.  I had no problem* seeing The Conjuring and it’s sequel, or Annabelle.  I found Paranormal Activity and it’s sequels boring.  The idea of IT scared me and I think it has to do with the fact that  IT has been around since my childhood and it was scary back then. Tim Curry as Pennywise looked pretty frightening from the clips I’ve seen, and this new guy? Pure terror.  Still, curiosity got the better of me, and with a rare early evening off, my husband and I were at IT on Friday.

(* “no problem” here really means  that I hid behind my hands less than half of the movie)

I was dumb struck when Georgie just talked to the clown in the sewer.  Then I had to remind myself that this was the 80’s, a happier time, a more innocent time, before we knew about child porn, internet stalkers, To Catch a Predator and such.  But really?  A clown in a sewer?  And no red flags went off? Before TMNT when it was cool for things to be in the sewer?   Anyway, that’s not the point of this blog…

As I was driving home after the movie I couldn’t help but think of how despite my unanswered questions (remember, I haven’t read the book yet), the basic theme of IT is pretty simple (no disrespect to Stephen King, of course).  Good vs. Evil.  Whether you’re looking at the losers vs. the bullies,  Bev vs. her father, or the kids vs. Pennywise, you’re essentially looking at good vs. evil- the cornerstone of many stories.

*SPOILERS*

What seemed almost simplistic to me (in the movie) was once the kids faced their fears (which I realize SOUNDS a lot easier, because I wouldn’t have gone into that house) the less control IT had of them.  When they figured this out, they almost taunted Pennywise with the fact that they weren’t scared and he tried to up the ante.

Immediately therapy came into my mind.  I think so many clients have fear in their life– fear of the unknown, fear of their past traumas incapacitating them, fear of their anxiety, that they allow it to control their lives.   It doesn’t manifest quite like a creepy clown that lives in the sewer (unless they are coulrophobic, of course) but they see it everywhere and it starts to mess with their mind.  Like Bev, they are desperate for someone else to see their reality too, to make sure they aren’t crazy.  But as Billy asserts inside the house “it’s not real”.  Their fear is comfortable to them though, in a way.  Think of the boys that didn’t want to confront Pennywise at first. They weren’t happy about the fact that a terrifying clown was creeping them out with their greatest fears, but they didn’t want it to get any worse.  Billy felt he had nothing to lose, as did Bev, because they had reached their breaking points.  Their home lives were worse than any fears Pennywise could dish out.  It shouldn’t have to come to a breaking point for people to reach out for therapy, but often that’s when people come in the door.  They come in the middle, or after the crisis, when the counselor is working with them to pick up the pieces.  In reality, they had signs and warnings that the crisis was coming, however they ignored them, or maybe, they were afraid of what they would find?

 

 

 

It has been a while, but now I can see!

Not that I couldn’t see before, but I was hoping to gain a little sympathy from my publisher, also a writer, whom has probably killed me in at least three of her books. I have put aside all work on my novel and marketing and everything to help the  baby sis get ready for her wedding.  We are less than a week out and I actually have some writing time scheduled for next week (if no last minute wedding errands get thrown my way).

Since so many people wanted to know about my recent Lasik eye surgery, I thought I would make it a blog post, instead of just a Facebook post.  This way I can hopefully tell those that want the play by play about it (honestly) and appease my publisher  by bringing a little traffic to my blog.  (see Nancy, I’m doing marketing, really!)

Like most important, life changing things in my life, I decided to Lasik with some research and then jumping in head first.  I took about two weeks this summer to look into different doctors in my area and surrounding areas.  Sorry Fayetteville docs, Raleigh docs just seemed to have more experience in this area (I suggest everyone do their own research and find the doctor/practice that is best for them).  Plus a friend of mine and my dad had used this doctor and they both gave very good reviews.

I did my consultation in late July.  The consultation was free *IF* you are going to use that doctor. It is about 90 minutes of eye tests, some that you’ve probably had before if you’ve had any regular kind of eye exam and some that are specific for laser eye surgery.

This particular practice is very popular and busy.  They have snacks and water (and free wifi!) in the waiting room, so you won’t need much as you wait.  You do a few of the eye tests, then watch a video, then meet with an optometrist/ophthalmologist (eye doctor) who looks at your glasses/contacts and does that “which is better, 1 or 2?  3 or 4” with the lenses.  I had a really nice eye doctor, Dr. Amy. I expressed my concern that if I picked the wrong number (by accident) that my eyes would be surgically corrected to the wrong prescription.  She assured me that there were many fail safes in place for just that sort of thing.  She answered my 4,394 questions and never stopped smiling.  I asked if she would be doing my surgery and she said no, only Dr X, (whom the practice is named for) performs surgeries.  We discussed the two kinds of surgery I was eligible for, PRK and Lasik and the advantages/disadvantages of each.  I chose to go with Lasik, the more expensive of the two, mostly because it has a faster recovery time.

I tried to get the surgery scheduled as quickly as possible, but their next date that worked for me was 24 August- only 9 days out from the wedding. I spoke with the office manager about my concerns and Dr. Amy came back in to reassure me that I would be “wedding ready” two to three days after the surgery.

Two weeks before surgery I stopped wearing contacts (recommended is 10 days, I wanted to be super safe).  Doing workouts in glasses SUCKS, at least for me.  I found it affected my balance and some moves I could do with no issue I really had issues with wearing glasses.  That just made me more eager for surgery day.

I was asked to bring three filled prescriptions back with me- 2 different kinds of eye drops and 2 tablets of valium.  The instructions were clear– do not take anything, we will give it to you at the appropriate time.  I picked up my meds Weds (day before surgery) and the pharmacist asked if I was nervous, and I was like “I haven’t even had time to be nervous”.  I’ve been seeing patients double time to prepare for the week off for the surgery/wedding.

Even on the drive to surgery Thursday afternoon (yes, I worked up until 12:30pm Thursday) I was too busy trying to work to be nervous.  My husband drove me (you HAVE to have a driver present) and I was on the phone, trying to send last minute texts and emails and make vacation plans as we made our way to Raleigh.  We got a call around 2pm from the Doctor’s office, asking if we could get there sooner.  I told them we were enroute, and they said “great, when you get here, no need to wait, we had a cancellation, so you’ll go in a little  before 4pm.”

I all but ran into the office when we arrived at 3:10pm.  There was one other patient, who was VERY anxious.  My main concern was “do they have to run an IV line?”  I am NOT a good stick.  As far as an IV? Forget about it.  Ask my iron doc.  I had brought 48 ounces of water with me and was preparing to chug like a frat pledge during rush week.  I got called back almost immediately. First, more eye pictures.  The tech explained these were for comparison purposes to my last set of pictures. Sent back to the waiting room again. Called back again, this time to an eye doctor (not Dr. Amy) who explained that she was comparing my two sets of pictures (ones from the consultation, ones from that day).  She explained that I hadn’t been wearing my contacts for 10 (actually 14 days) in my current set of pics, and I HAD been wearing contacts prior to taking the consultation pics.  One of the fail safes Dr. Amy had told me about.  She then did the “lens 1, or 2” thing and assured me that all of my answers were on target with my Rx. She then administered one of the eye drops- antibiotic into each eye. (no IV line, by the way)

Back to the front for the most painful part (haha) the payment. This particular doc accepts cash, credit card and the payment plan/credit line Care Credit.  I’ve done Care Credit in the past for surprise dentist bills, but I had budgeted for the Lasik.  I slapped my Disney Visa down (woo hoo, lots of Disney points here) and they swiped.  They then went over the informed consent (smart, made sure I had the money first) and then handed me a “hello my name is” sticker with my first and last name on it and “Lasik, both eyes” on it.  My first thought was “damn, I could have paid for PRK and then switched stickers!”

My husband and I were then escorted back to a private waiting room with a TV, more snacks and water, a large fan, and books.  A tech administered my eye drops and then asked me to take one of the Valium tablets. Then she made me put a cap over the top part of my hair.  She told my husband to hold on to the other Valium and that I was to be given it as soon as I got to the car, after the procedure.  (Please remember this for the next part of the story.)

I was given a few minutes for the valium and eye drops (numbing) to take effect, at which point I got extremely hot (Valium) and turned on the fan.  Then a nurse came in and told Husband he could wait in the big waiting room and I’d be back shortly.  She led me directly across the hall to the OR, which was a huge room.  I met Dr. X, whom I had seen around the office on my first day.  It took me a moment to recognize her because 1) Valium 2) she had her hair under a surgical  cap of sorts 3) my eyes were numb.  She made me state some PII, I guess to verify it was me, which I did.  I then sat in a chair and she examined my eyes with a bright light and a machine.  Then I laid down on the operating table, which looked more like a leather lounger, but sterile. They made me repeat my PII again.

Dr. X talks you through the whole surgery.  They do tape your eyelids open, as it is human instinct to close your eyes whenever stabby items or lasers are pointed right at them.  It was at THIS point that I thought “oh shit, maybe I DON’T want to do this.”  Remember that valium?  Yeah, they give you that for  reason.  I was aware that Dr. X and two other people were looming over me and she kept telling me to focus on a green light that was surrounded by red lights.  The red lights would completely obscure my vision at times.  Then she told me she was going to suction my eye and that I would lose all vision at this point but not to worry, it would come back.  She did (I’m guessing my other eye was taped shut) and everything went black for several seconds and then slowly came back into blurry light, like in a movie scene, when a person is coming out of a coma.  Then she told me I would hear and smell a laser, and to keep very still and to keep looking at the green light.  It did smell odd, like burning hair, but no pain.  I focused on staying still.   Same process was repeated for the  next eye.  They helped me up, Dr. X looked at my eyes again through the machine, and then the nurse taped large, clear discs over my eyes and took my hair net off.  She walked me down the hallway, and RJ (another office manager) led us outside, told us not to take the steps, and reminded me to take the second valium and to supplement it with OTC sleeping meds if I needed to.

And the next paragraph, my friends, is why I will never do drugs.  If I could do it over again, the ONLY thing I would do differently, is get a room in Raleigh, so that I could have had a quick 10 minute drive “home” instead of a 2 hour drive home. Poor, poor, Husband.  Apparently I had just enough Valium to drug me up, but not enough to knock me out.  Also, fun fact, Valium gave me nausea. So the two hour ride home was me shifting around the front seat, wearing the eye shields, my sunglasses over those, and a blanket I had found in the back seat over my head.  At some point I began gagging and spitting, crying for Husband to pull over and get me 1) more medicine 2) sprite or ginger ale  3) chapstick.    He made it to Linden Oaks area and ran into a drug store where he grabbed it all.  We then found my friends’ house to pick up a surprise for my sisters’ wedding (can’t post it here yet, in the off chance she reads it). I’m sure I was helpful in that endeavor as I remember taking off the blanket as it was “too hot!” and then immediately putting the blanket over my head again “it’s too bright and the light hurts my face!!!”

I then demanded we call the doctor because I started to panic.  My closed eyes wouldn’t stop tearing and I wanted to know if this was normal.  This was also causing my nose to run and clog up.  I wanted to blow my nose so I could breathe, but I was afraid that if I blew my nose, the pressure would blow my eyeballs out of my head. (Valium)  My husband called the doctor where RJ patiently answered the questions.  That was not good enough for me (Valium).  *I* needed to speak to RJ.  Husband patiently called him back and I proceeded to ask RJ if constant crying was normal and if I was ok.  RJ assured me it was fine and I swear I heard him say “you know you can supplement that Valium with OTC drugs to knock her out, right?” to Husband.

We made it home, where I took off my snotty, spitty shirt and took another Tylenol PM.  I lay in bed for an hour or so, (time is meaningless- Valium) where I had crazy stream of consciousness thoughts about work, the surgery and the wedding until I finally did fall asleep. I slept in the guest room so that I would be free from cat hair (relatively), cats, and any stray elbows thrown around in sleep.  Husband woke me at some point to take my nightly meds (not related to eye surgery) and I went right back to sleep.  Woke at 3 am starving, but realized I could open my eyes (behind the shields) and could see the alarm clock without aid.  Darn Husband hadn’t left any food or drinks around.  Got up, made a peanut butter sandwich, drank the rest of my diet Sprite and took some more Tylenol PM.  Complimented myself on my survival skills.  I can definitely survive if left in any suburban setting, with a semi to fully stocked kitchen.

Dr. X’s office had told me I could drive to my follow up appointment, but it was at 9:20 am (leaving at 7:20am) and I kept wanting to close my eyes, even with sunglasses on, so Husband cancelled his plans for that morning and drove me.  Dr. Amy examined me and told me that for less than 24 hours surgery I looked great, and that my light sensitivity was normal.

My takeaways from this:

Do your research.  Doctors, types of surgeries, payment options, all of it.

If you have to travel a far distance, seriously consider a room nearby, as you usually have a follow up the next day.  When they said “mild discomfort” I think they were downplaying it.  I had straight up pain.  Not the worst pain I’ve ever felt, but it was odd pain, as I had never had eye pain before.  I spoke with a guy in the waiting room at my follow up appointment and he said he had to take several muscle relaxers to sleep in addition to his valium and said “no, that wasn’t discomfort, that was pain.”

That being said, by our ride home from the follow up visit I was feeling better.

Eye drops will be your best friends.

 

It has been a while, but now I can see!

Not that I couldn’t see before, but I was hoping to gain a little sympathy from my publisher, also a writer, whom has probably killed me in at least three of her books. I have put aside all work on my novel and marketing and everything to help the  baby sis get ready for her wedding.  We are less than a week out and I actually have some writing time scheduled for next week (if no last minute wedding errands get thrown my way).

Since so many people wanted to know about my recent Lasik eye surgery, I thought I would make it a blog post, instead of just a Facebook post.  This way I can hopefully tell those that want the play by play about it (honestly) and appease my publisher  by bringing a little traffic to my blog.  (see Nancy, I’m doing marketing, really!)

Like most important, life changing things in my life, I decided to Lasik with some research and then jumping in head first.  I took about two weeks this summer to look into different doctors in my area and surrounding areas.  Sorry Fayetteville docs, Raleigh docs just seemed to have more experience in this area (I suggest everyone do their own research and find the doctor/practice that is best for them).  Plus a friend of mine and my dad had used this doctor and they both gave very good reviews.

I did my consultation in late July.  The consultation was free *IF* you are going to use that doctor. It is about 90 minutes of eye tests, some that you’ve probably had before if you’ve had any regular kind of eye exam and some that are specific for laser eye surgery.

This particular practice is very popular and busy.  They have snacks and water (and free wifi!) in the waiting room, so you won’t need much as you wait.  You do a few of the eye tests, then watch a video, then meet with an optometrist/ophthalmologist (eye doctor) who looks at your glasses/contacts and does that “which is better, 1 or 2?  3 or 4” with the lenses.  I had a really nice eye doctor, Dr. Amy. I expressed my concern that if I picked the wrong number (by accident) that my eyes would be surgically corrected to the wrong prescription.  She assured me that there were many fail safes in place for just that sort of thing.  She answered my 4,394 questions and never stopped smiling.  I asked if she would be doing my surgery and she said no, only Dr X, (whom the practice is named for) performs surgeries.  We discussed the two kinds of surgery I was eligible for, PRK and Lasik and the advantages/disadvantages of each.  I chose to go with Lasik, the more expensive of the two, mostly because it has a faster recovery time.

I tried to get the surgery scheduled as quickly as possible, but their next date that worked for me was 24 August- only 9 days out from the wedding. I spoke with the office manager about my concerns and Dr. Amy came back in to reassure me that I would be “wedding ready” two to three days after the surgery.

Two weeks before surgery I stopped wearing contacts (recommended is 10 days, I wanted to be super safe).  Doing workouts in glasses SUCKS, at least for me.  I found it affected my balance and some moves I could do with no issue I really had issues with wearing glasses.  That just made me more eager for surgery day.

I was asked to bring three filled prescriptions back with me- 2 different kinds of eye drops and 2 tablets of valium.  The instructions were clear– do not take anything, we will give it to you at the appropriate time.  I picked up my meds Weds (day before surgery) and the pharmacist asked if I was nervous, and I was like “I haven’t even had time to be nervous”.  I’ve been seeing patients double time to prepare for the week off for the surgery/wedding.

Even on the drive to surgery Thursday afternoon (yes, I worked up until 12:30pm Thursday) I was too busy trying to work to be nervous.  My husband drove me (you HAVE to have a driver present) and I was on the phone, trying to send last minute texts and emails and make vacation plans as we made our way to Raleigh.  We got a call around 2pm from the Doctor’s office, asking if we could get there sooner.  I told them we were enroute, and they said “great, when you get here, no need to wait, we had a cancellation, so you’ll go in a little  before 4pm.”

I all but ran into the office when we arrived at 3:10pm.  There was one other patient, who was VERY anxious.  My main concern was “do they have to run an IV line?”  I am NOT a good stick.  As far as an IV? Forget about it.  Ask my iron doc.  I had brought 48 ounces of water with me and was preparing to chug like a frat pledge during rush week.  I got called back almost immediately. First, more eye pictures.  The tech explained these were for comparison purposes to my last set of pictures. Sent back to the waiting room again. Called back again, this time to an eye doctor (not Dr. Amy) who explained that she was comparing my two sets of pictures (ones from the consultation, ones from that day).  She explained that I hadn’t been wearing my contacts for 10 (actually 14 days) in my current set of pics, and I HAD been wearing contacts prior to taking the consultation pics.  One of the fail safes Dr. Amy had told me about.  She then did the “lens 1, or 2” thing and assured me that all of my answers were on target with my Rx. She then administered one of the eye drops- antibiotic into each eye. (no IV line, by the way)

Back to the front for the most painful part (haha) the payment. This particular doc accepts cash, credit card and the payment plan/credit line Care Credit.  I’ve done Care Credit in the past for surprise dentist bills, but I had budgeted for the Lasik.  I slapped my Disney Visa down (woo hoo, lots of Disney points here) and they swiped.  They then went over the informed consent (smart, made sure I had the money first) and then handed me a “hello my name is” sticker with my first and last name on it and “Lasik, both eyes” on it.  My first thought was “damn, I could have paid for PRK and then switched stickers!”

My husband and I were then escorted back to a private waiting room with a TV, more snacks and water, a large fan, and books.  A tech administered my eye drops and then asked me to take one of the Valium tablets. Then she made me put a cap over the top part of my hair.  She told my husband to hold on to the other Valium and that I was to be given it as soon as I got to the car, after the procedure.  (Please remember this for the next part of the story.)

I was given a few minutes for the valium and eye drops (numbing) to take effect, at which point I got extremely hot (Valium) and turned on the fan.  Then a nurse came in and told Husband he could wait in the big waiting room and I’d be back shortly.  She led me directly across the hall to the OR, which was a huge room.  I met Dr. X, whom I had seen around the office on my first day.  It took me a moment to recognize her because 1) Valium 2) she had her hair under a surgical  cap of sorts 3) my eyes were numb.  She made me state some PII, I guess to verify it was me, which I did.  I then sat in a chair and she examined my eyes with a bright light and a machine.  Then I laid down on the operating table, which looked more like a leather lounger, but sterile. They made me repeat my PII again.

Dr. X talks you through the whole surgery.  They do tape your eyelids open, as it is human instinct to close your eyes whenever stabby items or lasers are pointed right at them.  It was at THIS point that I thought “oh shit, maybe I DON’T want to do this.”  Remember that valium?  Yeah, they give you that for  reason.  I was aware that Dr. X and two other people were looming over me and she kept telling me to focus on a green light that was surrounded by red lights.  The red lights would completely obscure my vision at times.  Then she told me she was going to suction my eye and that I would lose all vision at this point but not to worry, it would come back.  She did (I’m guessing my other eye was taped shut) and everything went black for several seconds and then slowly came back into blurry light, like in a movie scene, when a person is coming out of a coma.  Then she told me I would hear and smell a laser, and to keep very still and to keep looking at the green light.  It did smell odd, like burning hair, but no pain.  I focused on staying still.   Same process was repeated for the  next eye.  They helped me up, Dr. X looked at my eyes again through the machine, and then the nurse taped large, clear discs over my eyes and took my hair net off.  She walked me down the hallway, and RJ (another office manager) led us outside, told us not to take the steps, and reminded me to take the second valium and to supplement it with OTC sleeping meds if I needed to.

And the next paragraph, my friends, is why I will never do drugs.  If I could do it over again, the ONLY thing I would do differently, is get a room in Raleigh, so that I could have had a quick 10 minute drive “home” instead of a 2 hour drive home. Poor, poor, Husband.  Apparently I had just enough Valium to drug me up, but not enough to knock me out.  Also, fun fact, Valium gave me nausea. So the two hour ride home was me shifting around the front seat, wearing the eye shields, my sunglasses over those, and a blanket I had found in the back seat over my head.  At some point I began gagging and spitting, crying for Husband to pull over and get me 1) more medicine 2) sprite or ginger ale  3) chapstick.    He made it to Linden Oaks area and ran into a drug store where he grabbed it all.  We then found my friends’ house to pick up a surprise for my sisters’ wedding (can’t post it here yet, in the off chance she reads it). I’m sure I was helpful in that endeavor as I remember taking off the blanket as it was “too hot!” and then immediately putting the blanket over my head again “it’s too bright and the light hurts my face!!!”

I then demanded we call the doctor because I started to panic.  My closed eyes wouldn’t stop tearing and I wanted to know if this was normal.  This was also causing my nose to run and clog up.  I wanted to blow my nose so I could breathe, but I was afraid that if I blew my nose, the pressure would blow my eyeballs out of my head. (Valium)  My husband called the doctor where RJ patiently answered the questions.  That was not good enough for me (Valium).  *I* needed to speak to RJ.  Husband patiently called him back and I proceeded to ask RJ if constant crying was normal and if I was ok.  RJ assured me it was fine and I swear I heard him say “you know you can supplement that Valium with OTC drugs to knock her out, right?” to Husband.

We made it home, where I took off my snotty, spitty shirt and took another Tylenol PM.  I lay in bed for an hour or so, (time is meaningless- Valium) where I had crazy stream of consciousness thoughts about work, the surgery and the wedding until I finally did fall asleep. I slept in the guest room so that I would be free from cat hair (relatively), cats, and any stray elbows thrown around in sleep.  Husband woke me at some point to take my nightly meds (not related to eye surgery) and I went right back to sleep.  Woke at 3 am starving, but realized I could open my eyes (behind the shields) and could see the alarm clock without aid.  Darn Husband hadn’t left any food or drinks around.  Got up, made a peanut butter sandwich, drank the rest of my diet Sprite and took some more Tylenol PM.  Complimented myself on my survival skills.  I can definitely survive if left in any suburban setting, with a semi to fully stocked kitchen.

Dr. X’s office had told me I could drive to my follow up appointment, but it was at 9:20 am (leaving at 7:20am) and I kept wanting to close my eyes, even with sunglasses on, so Husband cancelled his plans for that morning and drove me.  Dr. Amy examined me and told me that for less than 24 hours surgery I looked great, and that my light sensitivity was normal.

My takeaways from this:

Do your research.  Doctors, types of surgeries, payment options, all of it.

If you have to travel a far distance, seriously consider a room nearby, as you usually have a follow up the next day.  When they said “mild discomfort” I think they were downplaying it.  I had straight up pain.  Not the worst pain I’ve ever felt, but it was odd pain, as I had never had eye pain before.  I spoke with a guy in the waiting room at my follow up appointment and he said he had to take several muscle relaxers to sleep in addition to his valium and said “no, that wasn’t discomfort, that was pain.”

That being said, by our ride home from the follow up visit I was feeling better.

Eye drops will be your best friends.

 

Catching Up and Preaching ?!!?

If you’ve followed my blogs in the past, I’m always apologizing in the March/April time frame and telling you that it’s my busiest time of year. It really is.  (Crap, typing “blogs” made me realize I haven’t written on my Square One blog in forever.  I’ll remedy that soon enough.)

This year, instead of chairing a charity Walk to Defeat ALS, I was attending the funeral for one of  my longtime ALS support group attendees.  His death came as a shock to me, and I’m tearing up as I type this now.  He had ALS since the mid 2000s, much longer than the expected life span of the average ALS patient, and still walked and talked, and drove and did all the things that “healthy” people do.

“A hazard of the job, I suppose” I had whispered to one of the Chapter staff that attended the funeral and sat with me.  “It doesn’t make it any easier” she whispered back.

It was good to hear that, because at times as a therapist, I forget that we too, are just people, and are allowed to have emotions.

Fast forward to Vietnam Veteran’s Day and Welcome Home day (March 29th and 30th).  I was able to see Dad on the 30th and even treat him to lunch at Applebee’s (his choice).   He was surprised to hear that there were two days dedicated to welcoming Vietnam Vets home.  I was surprised to hear that Vet Center hadn’t mentioned it (or maybe they had and he missed it).

I addition to these life celebrations, my contract job, asked me to present to a church in Chapel Hill.  The topic was Military and its Effects of Families and Children.   I prepared a 15-20 minute presentation (speech really) and then a follow up power point for the potluck lunch that occurred after church.  Imagine my surprise when my boss told me I wasn’t just presenting my speech, I was giving the sermon.  I explained to her that I didn’t know how to give sermons, and she explained that at this particular church, they usually have a guest speaker to present on a topic and that is the sermon.   I felt better, that’s what I had been planning to do- present a topic.

Imagine my surprise on Sunday morning when I arrived at the church, met the Pastor and he explained that I was part of the worship team and I would be sitting on the altar (not sure if they call it that) and I would be giving the sermon.  The altar thing took me by surprise, but I went with it.  Then, I noticed my name in the bulletin: “Preacher: Joanna Nunez”.  That cracked me up.  While, I’m certainly not anti-religious, if you had asked me if I was ever going to be preaching a sermon I would have definitely answered no.

So that has been my March and April so far.  Trying to spread awareness of the horrors of ALS and the plight of the Military Child (remember that April is the Month of the Military Child!)

 

 

A Smart Pen that outsmarts the User.

To be fair, I don’t know if I can honestly say I’ve been procrastinating with writing.  I have been writing, just not every chance I get. Getting used to the nuances of the smart pen (and it getting used to my handwriting) hasn’t been bad.  I will say it is a lot easier to carry a small pen and a regular sized notebook around, as opposed to lugging a laptop everywhere.  I can feel productive when I’m stuck in a lobby or waiting room somewhere.

I think the biggest problem with this new technology is getting used to actual physical writing.  I don’t think I’ve handwritten things since middle school.  True, I write handwritten clinical notes everyday at work, but those are brief and I don’t have to worry about my handwriting. To actually compose something with pen and paper is a skill I haven’t forgotten.  I’m used to my hands posed over a keyboard, as I think.  I like that as I’m thinking dialogue through I can be typing it.  Don’t like a word or think of a better one?  Just backspace.  There is no “backspace” or “delete” on the smart pen.  In grad school they drill into your brain that if you make an error in a medical chart (case notes are considered medical) you correct it by a single line strike through.  When you correct something with your smart pen, a single line strike through causes those words to be underlined when it’s transcribed to text.

All procrastination aside, I’ve had a great January with a trip to Arizona, several new clients, coordinating a fundraiser for ALS and at least 2,000 more words added to the novel.  I know some people do 2,000 words in a matter of hours, but these are special words.  They are written a sentence or two at a time, in the notebook with the smart pen, between clients, at doctor’s offices, in the drive thru line at the bank, on the airplane tray table.   I once saw a highly acclaimed cardiologist speak about the links between anger, anxiety and heart attacks.  Patients flew in to see this doctor, and she worked 5-6 days a week.  She had several books written and when someone asked how she managed to write with her schedule she said “a line or two, in between patients, every day adds up.”

This novel is a work in progress, but so am I.

Running Out of Distractions

It’s Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend and I have officially run out of distractions. I’ve gone Black Friday shopping, surfed the Amazon deals, gone to lunch with my friend Jessica, played PokemonGo- even training at a gym, and have gone grocery shopping for non essential things.  I don’t think I can avoid it (after this blog post, that is).  I have to start my writing marathon, which is now down to about a 10K.

(Nerd bonus: I even re-taught myself IRC last night to chat with people.  Because that is SOOO important, you know).

Do you find yourself putting writing off?

Do you know why I can beat all the Pokemons in a gym of my color, and not get a spot in the gym?

Please feel free to comment below (and distract me a little more!)

 

 

If you give a mouse a cookie…

…it will want a glass of milk.  If you give Joanna a project, she will find 300 other tasks to complete as well.

This is the only possible explanation I can come up with for why I haven’t written a post or touched my novel since late September.

I know that November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and I didn’t have any delusions that I could commit to 10,000+ words a day.  I do have a plan to have my own type of challenge- I want to be at 30,000 words by the end of the month.  I’m at 12,000.  I know with real NaNoWriMo you have to start from 0, but this is the Joanna challenge.  So today and the long weekend of Thanksgiving I plan to force myself to get this done.  I want the novel finished (for me, not edited) by the end of the year.  It would be great to have a Spring release date.

Just an update (if you follow my Facebook page you’ll get more timely updates)- I did my first craft fair (I’m not too crafty), gave a talk on Moral Injury in Charlotte, NC and was able to see Dad for Veterans Day.   I’m trying to prepare for Christmas and all the trappings of that.

I’ll keep this brief because I really want to get some words in today.