A Free Spirit I’m Not

You’ve seen those pictures of beautiful blonds with flowing locks streaming behind them as they drive along the ocean in a convertible? They look so glamorous and like they’d be the life of any party. . .

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I’ve never been a convertible kind of girl. I don’t have the hair for it. Nor have I ever been the carefree type. These undeniable truths came back to me the other day when we were driving to the doctor’s office.

My husband, who has a cough that frightens small children and dogs, decided we should take the 1965 Mercedes convertible to UCLA. Even though I had just spent a half hour trying to coax some volume into my hair, I got into the car without protest. It had been his dad’s car and he loves it.

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How bad could it be?

Within six blocks I knew. First, since the seat belts are older than my kids, I couldn’t get mine to work. (Do you think the blonds with flowing hair care about seat belts? Nah!) There I was, without the protection of a roof, sitting next to a driver who doesn’t think following traffic rules is necessary. I started praying.

Then I felt the sun beating down on me. And I hadn’t put on sunscreen! I put my hand up, trying to block the rays. Which made it difficult to guard my hair.

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“Isn’t this fun?” my husband asked between coughs.

“Really fun,” I said, trying to sound enthusiastic.

On the way home, I figured out my seat belt, but the sun was even hotter. And the fumes from cars and motorcycles started me coughing.

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“You don’t look like you’re enjoying yourself,” my husband said.

“Oh, no, it’s great!” I tried creating a smile to match my words. I didn’t want to be a killjoy.

 

Today my husband had a better companion in his convertible. He and our granddaughter took the Mercedes to the mall to buy her school shoes.

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They came back all smiles! That’s what grandchildren are for: to make us happy!

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Double or Nothing

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A funny thing happened to me on the way to writing about what a piece of cake my cataract surgery was: I started seeing double out of the cataract eye.

We’re staying in Santa Barbara for two weeks so I thought it was a perfect time to do the cataract surgery. Our ophthalmologist here is world renown–as a matter of fact, he’d just returned from India where he’d done thirty retinal implants.

The cottage we’re staying at is on the golf course. I knew my husband was playing with our son and grandson so I kept watching for them. When they came by, I went out to say hello. The only thing strange was that it looked like they were playing with two golf balls instead of one.

Oh well, I thought. I’m only day 3 from the surgery.

The next day, my husband and I took a walk by the ocean.

“How many buoys do you see out there?” I asked him.

He looked at me strangely. “What do you mean? I see six.”

“Well, I see twelve.” (I’d show you the image, but only I can see it.)

The following morning I mentioned to my sister what was going on.

“You’re going to talk to the doctor, right?” she said.

“Sure, I’ll text him this morning,” I assured her.

There’s a lot of sures in that sentence because I was sure the doc would say it was normal. But, instead he said it wasn’t.

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The actual cataract surgery was a breeze. I was in by 6:30 and out by 8:30.

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The nurse had me get into a gown and took my vitals. Then she started the IV. She had just moved to Santa Barbara from Tennessee and was new to the Surgical Hospital. “But I’ve been doing this for 35 years,” she said.

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The surgical nurse came to wheel my gurney into the operating room. We passed storage rooms in the rather crowded hall, but other than bumping into a wall, it was a smooth ride.

I don’t think the surgery itself took more than fifteen minutes.

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You’re not put to sleep so you can respond to their direction to move your eye as they put in the lens. But, happy juice is pumped into your system via an IV so all is well. As the anesthesiologist had explained, “Being in a very cold operating room where you know someone is going to be cutting your eye can be extremely anxiety producing. We don’t want that.”

“No we don’t,” I said. “Count me in.”

I don’t know how long I was in recovery because the happy juice was still flowing through my skinny veins even if it was cut off at the source. I was impressed by the mix of professionalism and caring nature of everyone.

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Soon I was dressed, in the car and on the way to breakfast at The Pharmacy in Montecito. My eye shield made me a fashion sensation but I was so busy admiring how yellow the hibiscus flowers were that I didn’t notice. I did make some new friends as I heard their cataract stories.

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When we got home, I was tired. I always put a lot of energy into being anxious before events like this. I also eat like there may be no tomorrow. When I had uterine cancer and had to have a hysterectomy, I won’t say I was hysterical, but I did eat a donut. The cataract surgery really was no big deal, but French fries became a staple for a week. As did pancakes.

So all was well except for me being tired—which may be a part of being in my seventies anyway. Your sight is not perfect, of course, because it takes a few weeks for the lens to settle in. But at my afternoon post-op, all looked fantastic. So much so, that my husband took over, as usual, and got a check up too.

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It took two days for my natural disaster karma to set in. It turns out I have monocular diplopia. It’s very rare—it occurs in maybe 1 out of 100,000 cases. I always did say I was unique. My friend, Earl, put it another way: “Do you ever feel like you’re a magnet for trouble?”

Now I’ve been back to my ophthalmologist for a very thorough exam. He even tested for macular degeneration. While I waited for him, I looked at the charts on the all the computer screens in the examining room.

IMG_0818Not being able to interpret any of them, I immediately imagined myself with a white cane and seeing-eye dog by my side in the near future. Fortunately, all those tests came out super-duper.

To be safe, the doctor also sent me to a specialist for a second opinion and another thorough exam.

“Wow, your lens is positioned perfectly,” the specialist said. “That all looks great.”

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I smiled and gave a thumbs up in my head.

“But yes,” he continued, “you do have monocular diplopia.”

My smile turned upside down.

“But that’s better than binocular double vision.”

“Better?” I didn’t sound sure.

He nodded. “It could resolve itself. Probably will.”

That sounded good and concurred with my ophthalmologist’s opinion.

“You also have SPK,” this doctor added.

“What is that? I asked, my poor stomach’s knots getting even tighter.

 

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(A brief hopeful thought that it could be a consonant Words With Friends word flitted through my mind, but then I was back to fear.)

“It’s nothing to worry about. Just a surface inflammation of the cornea. But since you’ve seen some flashes of light, I’m going to have you see a retina specialist.”

What? Another specialist? I was beginning to feel I’d fallen down the rabbit hole.

I could barely see anything when I drove back to Montecito.

My eyes were dilated to such an extreme that my iris was almost completely eclipsed. You could only see the black pupil and a sliver of blue. Although I am partial to that particular blue which signaled my particular eyes, I didn’t think of that. I just thought I was permanently blind.

I probably should have stayed a while in the waiting room, but I’d already been there for two and a half hours. It was already 12:30 and I had a manicure appointment at 1:00. (There are priorities, you know.)

So I Mr. Magoo’ed it along the freeway in the slow lane, making my way to the Nail Shop. I’d never been there before but had a general idea where it was. I only missed by three blocks—not bad since I still could barely see a thing.

I was, to put it mildly, a nervous wreck.

“Take an Uber home,” my wise older brother advised me over the phone.

“I don’t have Uber,” I said.

“Then take a cab. You don’t want to have an accident on top of all of this.”

We talked for a few more minutes until I said, “You know I’m going to drive home.”

“Yeah, I know,” he said.

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By the time my manicure was finished, an hour had passed and my eyesight was returning. Driving home was barely a challenge.

My eyes were almost as tired as I was. I dropped into bed and slept for two hours.

When I woke, my eyes were still very dilated and things were fuzzy, but improving.

Today, things are much better. I have blue eyes again and my sense of humor is returning along with some energy.

I’m also feeling grateful. What’s a little monocular diplopia? Nothing, my friends, as long as I can basically see.

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Keeping An Eye On The Ball

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Tomorrow I’m having cataract surgery. I’m a little nervous, which I didn’t think I’d be. It’s that same feeling—so maybe I can’t see perfectly, but I can see pretty well—I can see enough. Why the hell am I playing around with my sight? I really depend on my eyes—reading, writing and my grandkids are my life. Why take a chance I won’t be able to see any of them? I made the mistake of reading the whole consent form—I was bored and had nothing else to do. Geez, some bad stuff can happen. And having a very active imagination, I can imagine them all happening to me!

I just got up from the computer to put eye drops in my left eye. I’m supposed to put them in every two hours. The first two hours went slowly—I was hyper aware. But just now, it had been 2 and a half hours and I didn’t realize it. (Now, my sight is a little blurry. Oy vey!)

So, I’ll keep doing this until I go to bed. Then nothing to eat after midnight and get to the surgery center at 6:30 AM. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on your point of view, I’m not very assertive about these kinds of things. I don’t know what kind of lens or what vision it will give me. I talked to the doctor and now I’m leaving it in his more educated hands. He’s a world-renowned ophthalmologist and has just returned from a week in India doing corneal implants. Also, my husband says he’s a great golfer.

A funny thing happened on my way to getting a cleared Pre-Op. My EKG was abnormal. It turns out my heart beats way too slowly. So the cardiologist adjusted my meds. Hopefully that will all turn out well too. I’m taking it as a gift—to know something was wrong before something happened is like getting a free-bee. I’ll wear a monitor and have some tests in August. A pacemaker may be in my future—I wouldn’t be surprised as it runs in the family. (no pun intended! HA)

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I’m grateful that modern science offers solutions to these glitches. But, I’m telling you—once you hit 70, it’s double time patch, patch patch.

 

 

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Destruction for Destruction’s Sake

via Destruction for Destruction’s Sake

Destruction for Destruction’s Sake

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I don’t understand some sorts of destruction—destruction for destruction’s sake.

I get disaster—like in Montecito this winter. These houses were eaten by the mudslides after the rains after the fires. Mother Nature played her hand, and it’s the most powerful one.

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As far as I can tell by reading on-line, the fires were not deliberately set. Power lines, not properly cared for, seemed to have been the cause. It wasn’t an arsonist—someone who started the fire for their own pyschotic reason. It wasn’t even people being careless—Smokey the Bear’s warnings were heeded. But the fires were catastrophic and set up a scenario that could have come out of the diabolical mind of a Hollywood screenwriter. The destruction was horrible but it wasn’t on purpose.

I understand accidents. They happen. But they can be destructive in so many ways. As well as the behaviors that lead to them.

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But people going out intentionally to destroy things, that I don’t get.

The other day on my walk, I saw what could have only been a purposeful act of destruction. I love artichokes and I’d been watching  these lovely  plants develop since Spring.

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I loved the symmetry of the artichokes and the colorful blooming of the flower as they matured.

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But then one day, I came upon this—the smashed remains of part of the plant. It couldn’t have been an accident.

IMG_0713.jpgIt grows on an incline. There’s a wall. I don’t think an animal could gain purchase there—even the mountain lion that people see every once and awhile. No, I’m assuming this was wanton destruction by a human hand. Someone hacked it down.

Why?

Were people so angry, so hurt, so disturbed, that they had to take it out in some way? Does the violence of school shootings stem from this same kind of rage? Is the urge to destroy primal? Or does someone just not care about other people’s property? Or other people’s lives?

And what happens when something or someone is crushed? They wither and die, that’s what.

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We live in a huge, complex country. We’re no longer a melting pot but a stew with the ingredients of different races, religions, languages and ideas. To destroy one branch will lead to the destruction of the whole. History has taught us that. Nature displays it. Let’s learn from it.

 

As American As The Fourth of July

Last Saturday morning, we gave up our usual recreational pursuits to gather on a street corner with other families in Thousand Oaks, California. What a great American morning! We were there to protest children being separated from their parents as they tried to seek asylum in the United States. And also to celebrate the ideals of the Red, White and Blue.

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Over a 1000 of us were also there to support the sanctity of family and American values, the ideals of freedom and equality for all Americans, and for the humane treatment of all people and families.

Signs were everywhere. “We Welcome The Hungry and Poor,” one sign said, referencing Emma Lazarus’s poem about the teeming masses yearning to be free, and to the fact that we are proud to be a sanctuary city. “I Care. We should all Care,” said another sign.

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We ran the gamut of Americans from the youngest to the oldest. For a lot of us, it wasn’t the first time we’d sung “We shall Overcome Some Day” and I think we’ll be singing it again. Cars driving by honked in solidarity, raising our weary spirits.

 

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It was a patriotic event with many American flags waving. It reminded me of a 4th of July celebrations we’ve been attending for years. Below was Westlake Village in 2003.

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People milled around, exchanging greetings and actually smiling.

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Congresswoman Julia Brownley gave an impromptu and impassioned speech that came from her heart.

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She held back tears as she said that our being there gave her so much hope. Once, her voice filled with anger and tears as she talked about the plight of the little children, and that we must do something about it!

As the morning wore on, more people streamed to Thousand Oaks Blvd. We congregated on the sidewalks and the grass. It was the first time I had a sense of peace in days.

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Standing between my son and my husband, I couldn’t help beaming from ear to ear. I kissed first Dave’s cheek, then Moe’s. (I know, I know. I’m so mushy. It just happens.)

Will our public stand together make a difference? I don’t know. I’ve already been challenged on my Facebook page: “Did you march for homeless Americans or just non-Americans?” someone asked. I wrote back: “Yes. We were marching for all in need. We were marching for vets who are homeless, for people with illnesses without health insurance who lost their homes, for people who lost their jobs and have no way out. We marched for people who are our neighbors and who aren’t our neighbors. We marched against injustice and cruelty. We marched for helping those who need help. Do unto to others …” and I add, we marched for the best of what is in America’s heart.

I certainly didn’t think this would be my third “March” of the year. I’m a babyboomer senior citizen…I should be on a porch somewhere rocking in a chair. Yet none of us can just sit by while children, all children, are being harmed. My children and grandchildren are safe right now, but we’ve all read history. There are no guarantees.When will we get the knock on the door?

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Letters, emails, tweets and phone calls to our Congress people are essential. But there is power in the visual image. Standing shoulder-to-shoulder on a sunny June morning, we proved we were willing to show up. And gave notice that we’ll do it again. And the world knows it.

Happy Fourth of July to all. Enjoy the parties and the fireworks and let’s remember what the holiday is about.

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We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

 

 

 

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From Russia With Malice

via From Russia With Malice

From Russia With Malice

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I’ve just read a sobering article about Russia’s plans to disrupt the November 18 elections. And it brought me up short. One of their main goals is to pit American against American—to have us go at each others’ throats. To turn neighbor against neighbor—family members against family members. And they are succeeding. We can’t let that happen. We need to remember we are all Americans. We might disagree on many things, but fundamentally, UNITED WE STAND. However, this isn’t our reality now.

“In the coming months, (cyber security) experts told [the writer}, Russian operatives will likely start creating fake Facebook groups (if they haven’t already)—some that slam to the left, others that lean as far right as humanly possible—that will argue with one another, and help us do the same; there will be accounts on social media that use Cambridge Analytica-style targeting to serve up ads, and a barrage of cleverly designed and perfectly disguised bots on Twitter.” (Nick Bilton, Vanity Fair, June 22, 2018)

The goal: to set American against American and confuse us to the point we can’t see a fact from an alternative fact or outright lie. And it’s working well as demonstrated by my conversation yesterday with my daughter before I read the article.

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“I can’t believe what my cousin’s neighbor said,” she told me as we discussed the families separated at our southern border. “It was so heartless. And you know what, she’s really a nice person. But I don’t want to be with her again.”

“I totally understand,” I said. “Someone I know who is really a good person, asked me yesterday why I only care about immigrants, not Americans. I was so outraged I could barely say, ‘I don’t only care about immigrants. I care about all people. Of course, I care about Americans!’ But then I sounded so defensive! Why am I on the defensive! I love America—and I love American values. I just don’t want them to be destroyed…along with America.”

“Did you tell them that?” my daughter asked.

“No, I was too mad. And what good would it do? These people won’t believe me. Anything I try to explain, they say it’s fake news.”

The Russians are winning as they destroy our faith in each other. We no longer listen, trying to grasp the other person’s point of view. We no longer search for compromise. We just turn away. That’s a sad truth…and it’s dangerous.

The article continues as Bilton says: “And then there will be new tactics. More than one expert told me that Russia will try to go after actual voting booths in smaller, more contentious districts across the country. The world we live in so intertwined with technology that you could imagine Russian hackers disrupting how we even get to the polls on Election Day. Ride-sharing services could be hacked. We’ve already seen instances of hackers faking transit problems on mapping apps, like Waze, to send people in the wrong direction, or away from a certain street. Perhaps most terrifying of all, one former official told me, are the possibilities arising from Russia’s alleged 2015 cyber-attack on Kiev’s power grid, which plunged the city into darkness.”

I’m a grandmother of five. What do I know about technical internet mechanics? Or about the threat of cyber attacks? I’m just praying that our government has a strike force of some kind that is working to counter these assaults on our country.

All I know is that despite our differences, despite our myriad problems, we need to work together to keep America safe. To keep America strong. To keep the American values of freedom, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness constant for ourselves and our future generations. Let’s see what we can agree on. Let’s stop polarizing one way or the other. Let’s not let the propaganda machines win.

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No Mercy, No Empathy

Let me start out by saying that I am not for open borders. I am not for porous borders. I want strong borders and for people to have to go through the correct process to be able to come into the United States.

That said, I want my America back!! It wasn’t a perfect America — there was a lot of prejudice and wrong doing by many. But at least America stood for a humane attitude towards human beings. Lady Liberty was our ideal, even if we didn’t measure up to her standards.

I thought I didn’t need to pay attention to what was happening in Washington, D.C. I thought our elected officials were people of conscience who cared about the welfare of our country over politics or personal gain. I thought I could count on our leaders to do the right thing. No more.

I sent Paul Ryan, Speaker of the House, a letter asking him to stand against children being separated from their parents at our southern border. I didn’t have to ask about our northern border — yet. I got the following letter back.

This cold, unfeeling letter gave me the chills when I read it.  It was like reading a statement from the government in “ANIMAL FARM”. Or words that a robot would repeat.

These little children at the Mexican border, some who are coming from frightening conditions in Central America, do not look like “radical Islamist terrorists”. Neither do their parents, who have been arrested as criminals. Their crime: they came to the United States looking for asylum. These are not the people who are trying to slip across the border. Double Speak is being used to call them criminals. They are accused of smuggling their own children! The law is being twisted! Please do not try to convince me this is the moral thing to do. Please do not try to convince me that I am safer because these children are being housed in cages.

You won’t succeed. I have not been brainwashed yet.

Update: Faith in Humanity

I thought you might like an update on the orphaned gosling I met on May 16. This is how he looked then:

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And this is how he looks now!

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Quite a difference, isn’t it? I couldn’t believe it when I ran into Kodak and his rescuer. I actually looked around for the scrawny runt who I guessed hadn’t survived. But no, there he was!

He still likes to stick close to his mentor:

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As he did a month ago:

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But the plan is to get him used to other goslings and get him repatriated into a clutch. To do this, his human “dad” brings feed to entice the other geese to come get to know Kodak.

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With patience, it seems to be working. “If there is a threat from outside of them, like a dog, Kodak will follow them into the water,” the man tells me. “He joins the group.”

He’s been concerned that Kodak has imprinted with him and also their dogs. Kodak is very comfortable around all of them, but is beginning to be more comfortable with other goslings, as well.

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Stay tuned for the next installment in the continuing saga of Kodak, the Wonder Goose!