Jeepers, My Peepers

Song Lyric of the Day:

I can see clearly now, the rain is gone / I can see all obstacles in my way / Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind

Johnny Nash / “I Can See Clearly Now

I’ve had to wear glasses for decades now, since I was a teenager (I’ll be 74 in a few decades). The past few years, if I wasn’t wearing my glasses or contacts, I could only see things within about 8 or 10 inches in front of me. Everything beyond that was a blur if I wasn’t wearing my glasses or lenses. The past few years, I also noticed how quickly my prescriptions were changing. Read: my eyes were getting worse every few months. If I got a new contact lens prescription in January, it would be outdated by April. Ditto new glasses. When vision insurance only covers so much, it gets expensive going to the eye doctor multiple times a year for new prescriptions.

After years of being frustrated by how blind I was without glasses or contacts and my eyes consistently getting worse, I made the big leap and decided to get LASIK, which I’ve thought about doing for years. I’m actually writing this post without glasses on or lenses in, because I don’t need them anymore: I got LASIK last Monday at Woolfson Eye Institute‘s Knoxville office (they also have one in Atlanta). (My work husband recommended Woolfson to me months ago when he got LASIK, and a couple other friends also recommended them via Facebook.)

I was jittery the day of the procedure because it’s a LASER BEAM CUTTING INTO YOUR EYE. The staff was great, explaining everything in detail before the procedure, as well as what post-op care would entail (resting the first couple of days and so. many. eyedrops.). I was actually in the waiting room with a few fellow LASIK candidates and one PRK patient for much longer than I was in the OR, because that’s how much detail they went into with us about what everything entailed. Once it was my turn to go in the OR, everyone put me at ease before I was even in the chair, which was fully reclined so you’re flat on your back. Dr. Woolfson talked me through things as they were happening, from the speculum being placed to hold my eye open (OMG) to what the laser beam was doing to what he was then doing. I started out staring into a laser beam, which I didn’t really feel doing anything to my eye other than slight pressure. It wasn’t until Dr. Woolfson did his part that I felt noticeable pressure, but nothing painful. It was like looking through a frosted lens. He talked me through the part where you briefly lose vision, which I can only describe as experiencing an eclipse inside my eye; the loss of vision lasted not more than 10 seconds, which was a short time, but was still a weird and freaky experience for me. I think the doctor then used a soft brush to smooth out my cornea once he was done; all I could see was a small white object moving across my eye in the same direction a few times. Then it was on to my right eye to repeat the process. At some point during the procedure I noticed a nurse patting my hands, which I had crossed on my stomach. All told, I was in the OR maybe 12 minutes. After surgery, I was given wraparound sunglasses to wear the rest of the day and the two following days to keep my eyes as protected as possible. You don’t realize how much you touch, scratch, or rub your eyes every day until you’re specifically told to stop doing that. I also had clear eye shields to tape over my eyes to sleep in. Other patients weren’t kidding when they said that was one of the worst complications post-LASIK — that surgical tape really hurts when you peel it off the next morning. Feeling like I was losing a layer of skin was the most painful part of all of this.

Post-procedure you’re told to take it easy, including trying to avoid screens and even reading; when you are watching TV, on your computer/phone/tablet, or reading, you blink less. Blinking is good after LASIK as it helps keep your eye lubricated. So I followed their advice and tried napping (with my eye shields on) as soon as I got home. After my sort-of nap I managed to listen to some TV and text quick group messages to my family to let them know how I was doing. I was in hell not being able to read because my book had gotten really good (I highly recommend Abandon by Blake Crouch). By bedtime Monday night, my right eye was driving me crazy, because it felt like something was stuck in it. Of course there wasn’t, but I tend to fixate on things like that, and it felt 100 percent better when I woke up Tuesday morning. I drove myself to my first follow-up last Tuesday morning and was told I’m now at 20/20 vision. I have another follow-up today that I expect to go just as well.

All told, I’m really happy with how my vision turned out. Being able to SEE again is an adjustment in itself. I don’t have to run to the TV now to read the forecast, because I can see it from across the room. Everything isn’t blurry when I wake up in the morning, although I look forward to being told I can rub my eyes again — the Prednisone eyedrops leave a lovely white gunk behind. My biggest adjustment is reminding myself to not reach for eyeglasses that are no longer on my nightstand. They’re now packed away to be donated down the road, because I don’t need them anymore.

My Glasses

I took this when I put my glasses in the case for the last time, right before I went into the OR.

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Better Together With Time Apart

Song Lyric of the Day:

To realize the hand of life is reaching out / To rid me of my pride, I call allegiance to myself

half•alive / “still feel.

No, this is not a post announcing a separation. Lately, though, Rich and I have been working to give each other solo time. For years now, I’ve complained that even though he’s promised I’d get alone/quiet time to write and do non-household-related things, it’s almost never happened for one reason or another, whether through my own fault or his. So to shut me up and make me happy, he recently said we needed to make a point to prioritize solo time and finally make it happen.

For the last several weekends, I’ve grabbed my laptop and a book and headed out for a solo lunch, followed by writing time. So far I’ve only gone to local Paneras, which is where I wrote this post. That way I can kill two birds with one stone: I can eat lunch while I read a bit, then enjoy using their free Wi-Fi to help me do book research and update my blog. Also, I’m not a coffee drinker, so I’m not sure I’ll ever head to a local cafe to write unless it has a decent lunch menu. (If any locals are reading this, I’d love to get recommendations on local haunts with free Wi-Fi.) Eventually I’ll go somewhere different for a change of pace. I might hit Lawson McGhee Library downtown as it’s the only library branch open on Sundays, which is usually the day I get to pop out for solo time as we’re typically running errands and doing house projects on Saturdays.

I recently found this list on The Write Life of places to write outside the home, and it has some great ideas. For instance, I never would have thought to hit a museum to get some writing done. I like the public park idea, but given that the weather here is all over the place lately, that’s probably not in the cards for me — I really don’t need to catch a cold right now. I love the idea of a coworking space, but (1) it could be cost-prohibitive and (2) I haven’t heard anything through the grapevine about the ones that exist here in Knoxville. Again, maybe a local can share what they know about these spaces.

As for places in/around the house to work, that’s where things get tricky. Sebastian is an avowed mama’s boy, and trying to shake that kid off my trail is not easy. Our house is a good size, but have you ever tried to hide from a toddler? They’re basically smaller, more committed, more relentless bloodhounds. They won’t rest until they’ve hunted you down. I could simply close the door to my home office, but Sebastian — who has freakish strength for an almost-2-year-old — would just bang on the door until he either knocked it off the hinges or I cracked and let him in. You remember how the leper pirates knocked on doors in The Fog? That’s pretty much Sebastian’s knocking style.

I could turn on the heat lamp on chilly days and hang out on our screened-in porch as long as the curtains stay closed. Or I could hole up in the guest room downstairs; I’m pretty sure Sebastian wouldn’t think to look for me there. Then again, the dogs might give me away, too: “She’s in there, kid. Now get us a treat as a thank you.”

I’m really enjoying my new solo time, and have to thank Rich again — in writing — for making sure I get it. (In case you were curious, his solo time is usually gaming nights with buddies.) You know those couples who have no problem working together, living together, and spending all their free time together? Those couple who seem to never argue or get on each others’ nerves? Yeah. That’s not us. Rich is my best friend, but that doesn’t mean I need or want to spend 24/7 with him, and I know he feels the same way. We both think some alone time is healthy for our relationship. It’s also critical for our sanity. Time apart is making us better together since we’re now both getting dedicated time to decompress and just do what WE want to do, even if for a few hours a week.

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Medium Post: Things I Wish I’d Known As a New Mom

After being on Medium for who knows how long, I finally wrote something for it, a piece about motherhood and parenting. You can read it here.


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Horror Movies: A Love Story

Song Lyric of the Day:

And then silence! It was a whole new day / I thought, “Huh, I wasn’t scared of him anyway.” / Until I noticed those rips in my sheets / And that was proof that there had been a nightmare, on my street

DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince / “A Nightmare on My Street

It’s November now, time for my annual horror-movie detox. Not that I only watch them in October — I just watch more horror movies in October than during the other months. Really, watching horror movies is a year-round hobby. It’s just that October is our favorite month for me and my sisters to indulge in our love of all things horror. Why? Because we grew up watching it.

For us, horror movies were family time. Whenever the latest Friday the 13th would premiere on HBO (or whatever channel we watched them on), Mom, Dad, my sisters, and I would all be huddled together on the couch to watch. I have fond memories of my dad sweetly consoling my sister when she cried about the dog dying in Cujo, even though, let’s face it, Doggy had to go. I still laugh when I think about how my sisters and I were home during a storm watching Aliens when the power went out; I laugh because I left them yelling in the dark while I hauled ass downstairs (my bad). It was right when the Xenomorph rises up in the water behind Newt. Great timing, power outage! And I know — Aliens is technically a sci-fi movie, but only because it’s a horror movie in disguise.

I reveled in instilling what turned out to be a lifelong fear of clowns in my sisters thanks to a local TV guide cover that featured Pennywise, complete with sharp teeth, on it. Every night at bedtime I’d show them the cover and tell them that he was going to get them. The fun lasted for me until my mom caught me, rolled up the TV guide, and smacked the crap out of me with it.

Not scary, right?

Because this isn’t terrifying for kids to see at bedtime, right? #worstbigsisterever
Image found on via Google search

Of all the serial killers we watched slash their way through countless movies — and victims — Michael Myers from the Halloween franchise is our favorite boogeyman. My sister and I went and saw Halloween on opening weekend. Our verdict: good scares, great homages to all the sequels its timeline erased, and a fitting direct sequel to the 1978 original. Our other sister begged to differ.

I’d say Jason Voorhees is probably my second-favorite slasher-movie serial killer. There’s just something intrinsically terrifying about a seemingly unkillable killer running after you in the woods, in the middle of nowhere. Which is why when I’d go on Girl Scout camping trips, I’d always position myself in the middle of my troop on hikes. Why? Because if said campground boogeyman were to grab anyone, it’d be the ones on the outside, giving me a chance to run. (Issues, I got ’em.) I wish I had a photo to share with you of my mom’s expression when I told her that several years ago. That’s the only time I can recall her saying that maybe, just maybe, she shouldn’t have let me watch such scary movies at a young, impressionable age.

I don’t just enjoy slasher movies. Those can be pretty predictable and follow a typical horror-movie formula, and excessive gore does not equate fear for me. It’s just gross. There are some great ghost stories out there that don’t rely on gore or violence to scare the pants off a viewer. I watched The Woman in Black in the daytime and almost peed myself; don’t bother with the sequel, though, as it was pointless, not scary, and literally too dark to see for most of it. The Others was a beautiful haunted-house movie. The Changeling is terrifying with its mostly implied scares. And Spanish gothic-horror movies El Espinazo del Diablo (The Devil’s Backbone) and The Orphanage (El Orfanato) manage to scare while also ultimately breaking your heart.

I’m glad my parents exposed me to horror movies at an early age, though. Even though most of those movies scared the crap out of me and my sisters, we always knew those things weren’t real. Those movies taught us the rules for how to stay safe — or at least how to survive in a horror movie. We learned to run out of the house, not back upstairs. Never be dismissive of weird, unexplained noises. Always keep the doors and windows locked. Work on your cardio so you can outrun even the fastest walker. Watch where you’re running so you don’t trip. Make sure your flashlight has fresh batteries. Keep your car properly maintained so it will always start. Don’t go investigate anything by yourself. Always, always go for the zombies’ heads (characters in zombie movies almost never figure this out in time). And NEVER, EVER leave the weapon behind.

Coraline — who I have not yet allowed to watch horror movies — once asked me why I love horror movies so much. I explained that for me, they’re like roller coasters and other thrill rides. It’s fun to know I can scare myself silly. And unlike a ride I can’t get off once it’s started, I can always hit pause on a movie and walk away if I need to.

True story.

Found on via Google Search

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14 Years of Talking to Myself on the Internet

Song Lyric of the Day:

Well if you don’t like girls that are stronger than you / And if you don’t like girls that are faster than you / And if you don’t like girls that are smarter than you / Well then you might not like me / You might not like me

Brynn Elliott / “Might Not Like Me

Today marks 14 years of blogging for me. I started out with a post about how miserable I was in my professional life. Last year I wrote about how it turns out things were the way they were meant to be. I’m happy to say I’m still in a good place, particularly now that we are single homeowners once again.

So what have I learned in 14 years of blogging? As I wrote recently, I know I’d be doing a lot better with this blog and have an audience of more than six (hi, guys!) if I had more time to write and post with regularity. Alas, I have a full-time day job and a full-time 24/7 job as a mom. There’s a reason my blog had the most readers I’ve ever had when I was unemployed and could rant write whenever I felt like it. Which, it turns out, was often. Turns out *that’s* when I should have monetized, but at the time I didn’t know you could do such a thing. Oh, well. Good thing I have that day job to pay the bills, right?

I started blogging to stretch my writing muscles and to keep our (then far-away) family up to date on our lives. This blog is basically a de facto journal for me, with certain events, travels, and random adventures written down for posterity. I do want to get back into writing an actual journal, though, where I can write down the really personal stuff I would never broadcast on the internet. To that end, I need to work on my handwriting. After 12 1/2 years of a computer job, my once lovely, legible cursive writing is now a scrawled mess.

I’ll keep writing here for the foreseeable future since writing is still very much a release for me and I love the immediacy of being able to write a post and the ease with which that helps me preserve a memory. Here’s to future blogging and whatever that might bring.


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Photoblogging: Up Close & Personal

Tiger Through Glass

We visited Zoo Knoxville last week, and Sebastian has been obsessed with all things animal since. The Malayan Tigers made a HUGE impression on him, and we loved being able to see them up close thanks to the new Tiger Forest habitat. (photo taken 10/10/18)

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Scene From a Marriage # 27,784

While discussing a certain best-selling “erotic” literary trilogy:

“You know those books started out as Twilight fan fiction? Twilight fan fiction!”

“At least she finished writing them. Bam!”

“Shut up. Honestly, she just took Twilight and threw some S&M stuff in there. Ugh. Makes me want to kill someone.”

“You do know the ‘M’ in ‘S&M’ stands for masochism, not murder, right?”

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A Burden Lifted

Song Lyric of the Day:

Oh, and once it held laughter / Once it held dreams … If there’s love in a house, it’s a palace for sure / But without love it ain’t nothin’ but a house

Tom Waits / “House Where Nobody Lives

If you’ve read here at all the last few years or you know me personally, then you know we moved out of our A-frame when I was pregnant with Coraline — about eight years and five months ago, to be precise. You also know we were not able to find buyers for it, so we ended up renting it out. Over and over and over. In between tenants we would try to sell the house. Of the five real estate agents we had in six years, only one got us to a contract, which the buyer then backed out of at the last minute. Turns out the sixth time — specifically the sixth real estate agent* in 8+ years — was the charm as WE FINALLY SOLD THE A-FRAME.

To say Rich and I were on pins and needles as we approached the late-August closing is an understatement. We didn’t tell anyone — at least I didn’t — because we were afraid to jinx things when it was looking so promising (if you know me, you also know I can be irrationally superstitious). A young couple with two little girls who call the A-frame “the treehouse” are now the new owners, and we couldn’t be happier. The house was bought by people who truly love it. There won’t be any more renters causing destruction and chaos and stress in our lives. (Not all our renters were bad — the first were great, in fact — but it turns out there are things professional background checks just cannot tell you.) There’s now a new family to love the house and make it their own, which made finally selling the house a genuinely happy occasion for all of us.

Now that the A-frame is sold, we are looking forward to investing in the house we live in, now our ONLY house, which is more of an adjustment than I’d expected. Turns out it’s a hard habit to break, saying the street name of your house so you know which one you’re talking about. Now when we start a list of house projects that need to be taken care of, it can simply be titled House Projects. It’s a good feeling.

Rich and I are looking forward to taking care of things that our house needs taken care of — like new eaves and gutters, a drainage issue in the backyard, and chimney repairs, to name a few — that we had to put off while all our attention (and money) was focused on the A-frame. I can’t quite put into words what it means to finally be able to start truly making our house a home, but I look forward to trying.

A-Frame Exterior

Farewell to a beloved home

*Again, a MILLION thanks to Brandon Hutchison of Hutch & Howard with Keller-Williams here in Knoxville. Brandon and his partner Rob Howard and their right-hand woman Carrie Mays pulled off what, after so many years, truly felt impossible.

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Piecemeal Decorating: The Kids’ Star Wars Bathroom

Star Wars Song Lyric of the Day:

Well, I’m not dumb, but I can’t understand / How he can lift me in the air just by raising his hand / Oh, my Yoda / Yo-yo-yo-yo / Yoda yo-yo-yo-yo Yoda

“Weird Al” Yankovic / “Yoda

I love decorating our house. The problem is I can’t do a big project, like the whole upstairs living room or the basement, all at one time due to budgetary restrictions (as in we have no decorating budget). So I’ve taken to doing projects bit by bit. I scour the internet — OK, mostly Pinterest — looking for ideas for the rooms/spaces I want to tackle, then I start buying furniture or decor when our budget allows or when there’s a fantastic sale. Et voila: Piecemeal Decorating.

When Coraline decided she wanted her and Sebastian’s bedroom redone in a Star Wars theme, she quickly concluded that their bathroom should match, too. Until now, the hall bathroom the kids use has been known as the Old-Man Bathroom thanks to the walk-in tub in there. My initial half-assed attempt at decorating that bathroom was to hang up the black-and-white ’70s-era shower curtain my mom gave me and a matching zebra-striped bath mat. I remembered the shower curtain fondly from our days in Charlotte, so I was happy to discover Mom still had it. Coraline’s only comment about it at the time was, “Look at that. It’s boobs!” Which pretty much sums it up. And yes, I still have it. I will keep it forever. I mean, look at it. It’s awesome.

I like to think the pattern is called It Came From the Seventies.

As Coraline got a bit older, she gave me input on what she liked or didn’t like for her bathroom. We ended up buying a cute fabric owl-patterned shower curtain from Target and a little zigzag bath rug (also from Target) with colors that matched. We bought a toothbrush holder (one guess as to where it’s from) that says “Brush Your Teeth” in matching colors. And we painted the built-in cabinet a teal blue to match; it also broke up the monotony of the white cabinets against pale tile walls.

When she decided on Star Wars, I asked if she wanted classic or new Star Wars. Being a huge fan of Rey and Finn, you can guess which Star Wars era she chose; I, of course, had been hoping she’d choose classic, but it’s not my bathroom. I then took to the interwebs to find ideas and get her opinions on what I found. I started a Pinterest page for their bathroom on which I pinned a whopping two things. At least the Pinterest board I started for ideas for their bedroom has a lot more pins, thanks in large part to me showing Coraline how to pin things; I’d search for a particular item, and she’d run with it.

The first item we bought for the bathroom was the easiest to agree on: the shower curtain. We found this guy on Amazon.

Star Wars shower curtain

This even came with Star Wars-branded matching shower curtain rings.

I — surprisingly — found a lot of Star Wars-themed bath rugs online. I was partial to a Death Star one, but Cora put the kibosh on that. I soon found this BB-8 bath mat at Bed, Bath & Beyond, and she decided that was the one she wanted.

While picking up the rug at Bed, Bath & Beyond, I came across this BB-8 lotion dispenser, which we decided to use as a soap dispenser. It works well with the Creamy Luxe or Nourishing soaps we like at Bath & Body Works, although we can’t use the Exfoliating soaps in this as the micro beads will jam up the pump.

Next we started looking for bath towels. We agreed these towels from Target were cute, were new Star Wars-themed, and matched the shower curtain. We bought two, one for Coraline and one for Sebastian. We also bought a 4-pack of matching washcloths. We also chose this R2-D2 trash can and set it next to the vanity.

BB-8 and R2-D2 forever

Coraline’s new Star Wars shower curtain, bath mat, and towels.

Next up were hand towels. Again, so many websites had so many options, but we ended up choosing these BB-8 ones from Kohl’s.

We’re pretty happy with how the bathroom turned out. It’s still not completely done, though — it needs an updated vanity light, but that will have to wait a bit. I won’t get started on how much I want to take down the floor-to-ceiling tile walls and replace them with drywall someday.

Coraline and Sebastian’s newly Star Wars-decorated bathroom.

Even though I was happy with how the bathroom now looked, I still wanted a little something for the walls. I did a lot of Googling and found a Yoda graphic, which I printed on glossy photo paper and put in an empty IKEA Ribba frame i already had. We happened to have some Command strips in the house, too, which ended up working perfectly for hanging the frame on the tile wall. I also still might buy some cute Star Wars-themed bathroom prints on Etsy — there are so many neat ones to choose from.

Personal hygiene important it is

All told, it took us a few weeks, maybe between two and three months, to find and agree on everything we ended up buying for the kids’ bathroom. We spent less than $125 total by shopping on sale, taking advantage of free in-store pickups and free shipping, using coupons, and paying with store cards for an extra percentage off items purchased online or in-store.

And now you know how we piecemeal-decorated the kids’ bathroom. Gotta start small, right?

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I Screen, You Screen, We All Screen for Screen-Free Time

Screen-Free Song Lyric of the Day:

Hey / Put the cellphone down for a while / In the night there is something wild / Can you hear it breathing? / And hey / Put the laptop down for a while

Arcade Fire / “Deep Blue

A few months ago I instituted screen-free evenings at home. My goal was to spend focused quality time with my family without the distraction of screens. Also, having struggled with popcorn brain for some time now and working all day on a computer, detoxing from screens is something I feel I occasionally need to do.

I let Rich and Coraline know a few days in advance that I’d like for us to designate a particular evening as screen-free so they both have time to think about or plan what we can do on those nights. We usually end up playing board games (Cora’s getting quite good at Clue Junior) or enjoying family coloring time, or a mix of both. And now that Coraline is a big reader, we also enjoy time where we’re all just reading our respective books; this either requires Sebastian be in a good mood and playing with some toys or him going to bed early if he is, shall we say, not in an agreeable mood.

On screen-free nights, we also try to be as device-free as possible. Which means no music streaming from Alexa or even the CD player. Quiet time means quiet time. As Rich and I both always have our phones on us (bad, I know), we silence them and leave them in a room we are not going to be hanging out in. The thing I miss most about not having my phone on screen-free evenings is not being able to immediately Google things that come up in our discussions. It’s not like we have a set of encyclopedias sitting around, waiting to be cracked open. Also, it turns out I rely on Google A LOT.

Our pets also benefit from screen-free evenings. Troubadour and Capone are always game for a neighborhood walk, while Buster has his choice of laps if we’re all sitting around reading. It’s a win-win for all of us.

When we first started having screen-free nights, I think we were all a bit hesitant to dive in. As I mentioned, Rich and I are pretty attached to our phones (so bad). And Cora and I like to watch a bit of Psych together (we’re almost done with season five), so that’s out on screen-free nights. Sebastian is not screen-addicted yet, but he’s definitely very screen-interested. It’s an active battle with him to keep him away from screens as we’re still trying to limit his exposure. We’re not doing as good a job as we did with Cora at the same age, but we do try. Although sometimes to buy myself a few minutes of relative peace, I’ll pull up the PBS Kids app on the Roku and put on Sesame Street. Sebastian LOVES it (“Street!”) and I feel a bit less guilty for letting him watch a few minutes of TV because it’s educational. Educational TV makes it OK, right?

I’d like to make screen-free time at least a weekly thing for us. Now that school has started again, that’ll help us get into a routine again, so we can designate a certain day as screen free. It’s validating to know Coraline likes it — she actually asks if we can have a screen-free evening or if we can designate a few hours on the weekend. So at least I’m doing one thing right. Right?

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