“I Can’t See Clearly Now!”

Two years ago I had cataract surgery in both eyes which produced a marked improvement in my vision, particularly driving at night. I had not seen so well in many years since cataracts develop slowly over time until they are “ripe” enough to replace with intraocular lenses. While I still needed glasses they gave me 20/20 vision. I thought done was done.

Over the last two months I began to notice difficulty driving at dusk, more glare from ongoing cars and struggles with very small print. All these problems had been solved by the surgery. So yesterday I went back to my eye doctor to find out what was going on with my eyes. I wasn’t sure what was causing this marked decrease in vision and had some anxiety about the visit.

After a thorough exam she told me I had developed posterior capsular opacification, basically a return of cloudiness caused this time not by the cataract but by the space behind the new lenses. It sounded much worse than it apparently is. Around 25% of cataract surgery patients have this occur, often after two years. I go on April 7 for an in office procedure with a laser beam to open vision in the first eye. Then I will return for the second.

I had never heard of this complication and wanted to alert any of you who note a decrease in vision after cataract surgery to head straight back to your ophthalmologist for an exam. My routine one was a month off and I am grateful I moved it up to yesterday.

“Here’s looking at you kid!”

“Laura You’re Muted”

Before the pandemic I had never heard of Zoom as a computer application. I was familiar with zooming around. (Our puppy Zoe has bouts of what we call “puppy zooms” tearing around the back yard.) Any classes or meetings I attended took place in one location with the attendees sitting around in chairs. Everyone was fully dressed. Rarely did anyone arrive late and no one walked off in the middle leaving their chair empty until they returned many minutes later. For most discussions people took their cues from listening for a gap in the conversation before they spoke. If someone was droning on and on I just had to wait him out. Zoom has changed many of these characteristics of meetings.

This week I have “attended” two Zoom classes. The first was a gathering from my church as one of our friars gave the third of four talks on interpretations of the Cross. Half of the attendees had their video cameras on so we could see their faces and their names. Half just showed up without video with such titles as “Ray’s IPad.” (Maybe some people were in their pajamas or just feeling antisocial.) Many of our parish don’t drive at night, so this evening session allowed more older attendees than might have occurred on site at the church. For most of the sessions we were all “muted” by a moderator who called on anyone who wanted to ask a question with the instruction to “unmute yourself” and speak.

The second was a series of talks and discussions on T.S. Eliot’s poems The Four Quartets. Sponsored by a Canadian journal, this was taught by a professor from Texas with attendees from around the world from Ottawa to Sydney. While I might have been able to attend the first class at church in person, the second was an opportunity entirely enabled by Zoom. In this instance after the lecture the moderator broke us up into eight person discussion groups. A great trick. The eight of us were unmuted and we had to figure out when to talk and when to listen.

As for the title of this post, the comment I hear most often coming from my husband’s office where all work is on Zoom is “_____you’re muted.” And I have come to know what that means in Zoom talk. It means you are talking but no one can hear you.

I am curious about the experiences any of you have had with Zoom. Have you found it adds or takes away from pre-pandemic ways of meeting?

“The Great Disrupter”

A certain amnesia creeps in around puppies, rather like the amnesia that sneaks up before the birth pains of the second labor. Oh yeah. Been here before. How could I have forgotten? Why on earth did I do this again?

So this little perhaps five pound puppy has decided that she is to be the center of our life. Our previous dogs have always been Australian Shepherds. They are raised to be basically one person dogs with an outside jobs(herding sheep)to keep them occupied. Not big on cuddling, rather aloof with new people, and pretty content to be alone for a while chewing on something(preferably something disposable!)

Zoe, on the contrary, is a very social dog. She loves everyone she meets. But she regards every person as one more opportunity to get petted, rubbed and spoken to. She loves cuddling even though her idea of cuddling includes much ear nipping. She hates being alone and runs after whoever makes the mistake of moving from one room to another. Needless to say the song “Me and My Shadow” constantly runs through our minds as she pursues us around the house.

She has gradually accepted that the crate is a safe place to spend the night and sleeps about four to five hours at a stretch. Otherwise, however, she balks at going there if it is light out. She is too little to be in the back yard by herself since we are frequented by fox, raccoons and a large hawk in a nearby tree.

Despite nicknaming her the “great disrupter,” she is a joy and I can no longer imagine life without her. But as we each get used to life with the other we are coming to know a very different kind of dog. It’s requiring some major adjustments!

“And Puppy Makes Three”

I have been away from my blog for a few days as we traveled to pick up and then bring home the new addition to our home. Named Zoe, our cocker spaniel/poodle mix is eight weeks old, weighs just over four pounds and is getting acclimated to her new surroundings.

We have never owned a small dog, nor one that is so social, so we are especially careful where we step. “Under foot” seems to be a description tailor made for her. She doesn’t like being alone, whether in the living room or in her crate at night. She has imprinted on us and dutifully trails one or the other of us around the house. She is adapting to life without six siblings to play with at any moment. As you can see in the above clip, she is making good use of toys instead.

I hope to return to reading and responding soon. In the meantime, much love all from us and from Zoe.

“Speaking of Euphemisms”

After finding that in such far flung places as South Africa and the Midwest everyone calls that piece of chicken a “thigh,” I wondered if this was just an idiosyncrasy of my family. I followed Charlie’s advice and looked on line for any explanation.

Oddly, the only place I found the name “second joint” for the thigh was in a discussion from the state of Texas. No one in my family ever came from Texas, but the writing struck a chord. Apparently, in a bow to modesty, thighs were called “second joints” and breasts were called “white meat.” Both of those were how my mother referred to the pieces. I had, in fact, never heard her call the parts pictured above chicken breasts.

While my mother would never have been reluctant to say either “thigh” or “breast” about chicken pieces, I imagine she learned her usage from her mother. Grannie was very proper. Once when I was 11 we were playing Scrabble. I formed the word “nit” from letters. She was appalled, wanting to know both how I knew that word and why I hadn’t formed “tin.” She was further horrified to learn that my upper middle class school had dealt with a lice infestation and we all learned the word “nit.”

Sadly, apart from butchering instructions, I found no other mention of the phrase “second joint.” I guess the “thighs have it.” (Couldn’t resist.)

“A Slight Detour”

I was standing in the kitchen dividing a “value pack” of fresh chicken into smaller freezer bags. So many people are eating chicken wings lately that the drumstick and this piece are suddenly very affordable in large packages.

As I was making the labels for the bags I printed “thighs,” the name on the package. But I suddenly remembered that for all of my childhood, whether from chicken or turkey, these were never called “thighs.” We always knew them as “second joints.”

I am very curious about what my readers around the world call said piece. Even if you are a vegetarian, what name have you heard to describe it?

This word nerd thanks you.

“Movie Gatekeeper Of My Youth”

William H. Hays

I had been about to write about the movie rating system that began when I was a young adult and continues to give letters(G,PG,etc.) to films when I began to wonder why the movies of my growing up years were so free of anything troubling. Why, for instance, did the married couples have twin beds?(All the adults I knew shared beds.)

In the same way that I was mostly unaware that the books in my school library, classroom and public library were being selected by others, I was unaware of the “Hays Code,” officially the Motion Picture Production Code which affected all United States movies from the early 1930’s to the late 1960’s. Named after the above pictured William Hays, this code laid out specific restrictions on everything from depiction of sex to scenes of violence. Below I have pasted a copy of part of the 1934 rules.

So it turns out that my experience in the movies was being as carefully curated as my experience with books. Although I had no idea, it is clear why movies began to jar me with scenes of violence and sex. I had been kept from both for many years. Now it would be up to me to choose what I saw. Now it would be helpful to have a rating system.

Tomorrow I expand on the successor to the “Hays Code.”

“A Day Set Aside”

Today is Ash Wednesday in Christian churches around the world. The officiant, using ashes, marks the sign of the Cross on each parishioner’s forehead. Then one hears either(in my church) “Repent and believe in the Gospel” or the more familiar “remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” The ashes themselves are made from burning the fronds from last year’s Palm Sunday service. Ours are mixed with blessed oil, leaving them somewhat tenacious to anyone wishing to quickly remove them. And it does seem to take a degree of bravery these days in the United States to go through the day with a black cross on the forehead.

Being told to repent and turn to the Gospels for how to live and love certainly challenges the bumper sticker “he who dies with the most toys wins.” It similarly refutes the current blame and shame rampant in our culture. And what young “influencer” wants to hear that she is dust?

But I am grateful for both reminders. I am far from perfect and, like the electric train of my childhood, I sometimes need to be put back on the track to run smoothly. In a congregate setting it is immensely reassuring to realize everyone around me is acknowledging the same truth. As for dust? We may be more comfortable with the promises of plastic surgery and joint replacements but deep down we know the statement is true. So, knowing that, how should I conduct myself?

I return tomorrow with my series on access to information and the current political debates about it here. Today is one set aside for contemplation.

“Screens Beckon and Change”

Throughout my childhood and on I went to the movies. In the 1950’s the movies I watched were often dramatic and upsetting. From the death in Bambi to the shooting of the rabid dog in 1957’s Old Yeller, no one seemed intent on keeping me from some of the hard truths of life. Even fantasy could be quite scary. I remember being haunted by the endless reproduction of brooms in Walt Disney’s Fantasia. My little brother went screaming out of the theater when the flying monkeys appeared in The Wizard of Oz. My father, brother and I went to see The Guns of Navarone in 1961, so I know I had seen some war scenes.

Still nothing could have prepared me for the 1967 film Bonnie and Clyde. For the first time violence was graphically and chillingly portrayed. At that moment I realized how much I had been protected from such scenes in movies until then. It sickened me in a way that movie goers since, hardened by endless scenes of graphic violence, probably never are.

At the same time television began to broadcast chilling scenes of racial violence. The evening news showed body bags returning from Viet Nam. Seemingly at once I was jolted, in the middle 60’s, out of the cocoon my culture had provided until then. It was a rough awakening to be sure.

“The World Widens”

In 1956 a new way to access information came into our home in the form of a television set. At the time there was only one station and programming was very limited. As a result I never really formed the television watching habits of my younger siblings. Still it did deliver new images that intrigued me.

But the world presented to me during those first years was carefully curated. For instance, married couples slept in twin beds. No one kissed. No one swore. Violence was limited to the wars between “cowboys and Indians.” And the world still looked terribly white. The Lone Ranger had a sidekick named Tonto. Jack Benny had a butler named Rochester. That about summed up the diversity presented to me. Commercials featured white actors only.

I think that many adults who grew up after the 50’s tend to confuse the television portrayal of life with actual life during that time. As my daughter once asked when she was very young “back when you were a kid when everything was in black and white before there was color” what was it like? No one lived like Donna Reed or the Beav in “Leave it to Beaver.” But we were content to enjoy these families, regardless of how unfamiliar they seemed.

Television was calming, never needing any censors or trigger warnings. As children of war veterans we were going to be lovingly protected from much of real life. At least in books and television.