Passing Glasses

dorothy-parker-quote-men-seldom-make-passes-at-girls-who-wear-glassesI was four or five when I started wearing glasses.

I hated them.

They were heavy—this was when glasses were made of Real Glass—and made my nose hurt and my eyes look too small and they lost themselves twice a day and  broke about twice a month.*

But it was either wear ’em or walk through a world that looked like it was covered in soft-lit fuzz, but still hurt when you tripped over it or walked into it,

So I endured steamed up lenses and sweat-slick frames and clip-on sunglasses and the conviction—supported by my gleeful sister, who didn’t have to have braces, either—that Dorothy Parker was right, until I turned fifteen** and my mother took me to an optometrist who specialized in contacts.

molested1

I was overjoyed.

Contacts hurt at first, but not as much as being the weird kid with the glasses.

Turns out, I was a weird kid anyway and it would have saved time and endless agony if Dorothy Parker had offered a longer list of all the other qualities boys passed over *** or wrote a pithy poem about how to overcome one’s crippling self-esteem issues enough to notice when a boy was making a rare pass.^

But I was unwilling to give up on my Dreams of Normalcy—as defined by my assumptions of what other people assumed it was—and somehow ended up with the core belief that I Could Not Wear My Glasses In Public, lest dogs howl, small children cry, or well-meaning adults say things like, “Smarts count more than looks, anyway.”

It didn’t matter that some of the popular girls  in high school and some of my cousins and friends wore glasses and looked really good in them—they had attractiveness to spare and obviously weren’t  battling my natural deficits.

So I wore contacts—or sometimes just one, if the other escaped down the drain or disintegrated—outside the house or in front of anyone outside of my immediate family, or my ophthalmology clinic, for twenty-eight years.^^  I could go months without wearing my glasses at all, especially when I switched to extended wear disposables, bless them.

But then some things happened.

I finally met some of my favorite online friends face-to-face and (reluctantly) agreed to have my picture taken by and with them.  I survived the experience, and so did the cameras.

My doctor told me that some of my headache problems were most likely caused by eyestrain from wearing contacts for too many hours at a time in front of too many electronic devices and backlit rolls of microfilm.  Since the lenses on my glasses are anti-glare, she suggested that I wear them more often.

I set a new personal budget that is a bit stricter than my previous non-existent one.

And I ran out of left contacts.

According to my budget, contacts are luxury items.  And until I save up enough to get more,^^^I’m stuck with my glasses.

Oddly, at this point, this was more of an annoyance than a devastating tragedy, maybe because I know have family and good friends  and a husband who don’t care what I look like—or actually think I look pretty good.

Or maybe I’ve matured along the way somewhere.  Or at least run out of non-essential give a damn, which appears to be much the same thing.

Regardless, I started wearing my glasses to work.

It’s been a surprising experience.

I’d already figured out that my teenage paranoia was unfounded and my glasses aren’t a sign that the Ugly has finally claimed Its Own. I knew my colleagues wouldn’t point and laugh or call me four-eyes, at least to my face. And I’m so used to thoughtless comments from patrons I wasn’t especially braced for ‘em.

But I never expected all the compliments.

Glasses

Apparently, my big, black rimmed frames, chosen because they were cheap and relatively comfortable, aren’t considered BCGs¹ anymore—they’re retro.  In a good way.

In fact, according to most of the people who bothered to notice I was wearing them2, they’re flattering. They pull my “look” together.

How cool is that? I had no idea I had a “look”, let alone one that could be pulled together, but it’s a relief to know the specs don’t clash with whatever it is.

I even wore them to the Piano Guys concert, where I met another wonderful online friend, who looks awesome in her glasses.

So here I am.

Wearing glasses.

Having a “look.”

And yeah, these things still weigh on my nose and they steam up and slide down and smear and I can’t stick pencils behind my ear anymore, no matter how hard I try.  Chopping onions for the first time without the protection of contacts was definitely a Learning Experience™, as was opening the dishwasher, right after it stopped.

So was trying to put on sunglasses, which I attempted a few times before it dawned on me that the reason it wouldn’t work is that I hadn’t removed my pair.

I’d forgotten I had them on.

dorothy-parker-quote-i-shall-stay-the-way-i-am-because-i-do-not-give-a

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*Could someone please tell me why items made to assist people who can’t see well are held together with screws so tiny that fully sighted people have trouble manipulating them without the aid of a powerful magnifier and the devil’s own luck?  And heaven help you if you lose one in a carpeted room . . .

**Barring a brief time around fifth grade when something—probably the dawning of acute astigmatism—warped my eyeballs into something that approached normal until it went too far.

***Or perhaps added a simple couplet:  “Because, until they mature, / They’re asses.”

^ Or so I was told about twenty years after the fact.

^^ The one time I did wear my glasses out—I was off sick, but still had to drive the kids to school—I received my first and only traffic ticket for nearly sideswiping a county squad car during an improper lane change.  It wasn’t the 102-degree fever, you understand—it was the glasses.

^^^Or decide to rock the eyepatch look—or squint like Popeye—until I run out of righties.  Halloween IS coming up . . .

¹Birth Control Glasses.  It’s a military term, like SNAFU.

²It took my sixth grader three days.  My second grader immediately started wearing her lens-free fashion frames so she could be as “pretty as Mommy.” I feel like Queen Lear.

Paper Trail

paper nest

I seem to have developed a latent cleaning compulsion as a response to stress and/or writing avoidance—I’m as surprised as you are—and spent the weekend cleaning and rearranging my desk and going through my overstuffed file cabinet.*

So far, I’ve found research for abandoned and active stories, clippings, half-written first chapters, short stories, shipwrecks, dialogue chunks, outlines, plot bunny droppings, frankendrafts,** essays, extremely questionable poetry, and various other scribbles of a fictional nature.***

Some of the fiction writing dates back to my college days and some is older. There are dot matrix printouts in there, wide-ruled notebook paper written in pencil, floppy disks^ and a lot of adolescent angst.

So, I’ve been hauling this stuff around since I was at least thirteen,^^  keeping it as close as Smaug did Erebor’s net domestic product and defending it with as much sanity as Thorin hoping to uncover a publishable Arkenstone—or a certain protoHobbit searching for his birthday present.

This hoard of mismatched wordsmithing is my work.  It’s my precious.

But, you know . . .

Those drawers are packed so full that they’re useless, and it’s getting to the point that . . .

It might be time to. . .

I mean, it’s possible that some of this stuff isn’t . . .

And it’s not like I really believe I’m ever going to finish that story about the . . .

I don’t even remember writing that scene and it’s just a single loose sheet of paper so there’s no context for it, so there’s no point in . . .

But what if I need it . . .

It’s been more difficult than I thought to pare it all down—it’s painful.

Because I have four drawers (and several cartons and binders) full of clinkers and clunkers

Coal Scuttle

but I can’t help seeing each one as a you-know-what in the rough

Rough_diamond

that might, if I just applied myself, turn into something fantastic.

Diamond Ring

Except that’s not true.

There may be a few diamonds among the dross, but only a few—and as time passes, they tend to disappear.

I’m not the same person I was when I started making stuff up and putting it down. I don’t think the same way, feel the same way, or express myself in the same ways. My imagination may be a tad slower, but it has a lot more raw material to work with.

And these drawers and cartons full of words and thoughts,  ink and flattened fiber pulp were instrumental in that development.  They aren’t failures or wasted potential—but their work here is done and they’re blocking my way.  Literally and literarily.

They’re a collection of dull, abandoned, heavy carapaces from a series of scintillating insects that flew off a long time ago.

And to be honest, some of ‘em need to be shredded before anyone else can get a good look.  Especially the children.

So I’m taking it a folder at a time.   Reading, recognizing, wondering, wincing, saving, shredding.

Acknowledging. Honoring.  Releasing.

I’ve done a desk shelf and two and a half drawer.  So far, my Keeper stack is smaller than my recycling pile.

It still hurts a little to let go, but I think I have the hang of it now.

I’m still planning on sedation, though, when the time comes to tackle my bookshelves . . .

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*Ever see one of those commercials where a pile of folded sweaters approximately the height of Hasheem Thabeet is crammed into a plastic bag and vacuum-sealed down to the width of Giselle Bundchen?  It’s the same principle, except I used wooden drawers and brute force.

**You know—the drafts cobbled together out of typed and handwritten pages, scrap paper, envelopes, post-its, napkins, images, and digital files saved . . . somewhere.

*** Along with ancient and presumably paid bills, medical assessments, paycheck stubs from a job I left twenty years, school papers and deathless art generated by my kids, not to mention my old IQ tests from ages 6 and 11 which were, in my opinion, a tad optimistic.

^The 3½” ones, thank you, so you can keep your age-related technology jokes to yourself. We who were born before the invention of the Internet and entered the workforce when ASCII was king do not appreciate them. Mouse dependent whippersnappers . . .

^^Though some of it had been archived for decades in my childhood home, until it was dumped on passed back to me by Dad during one of my folks’ U-haul-themed Thanksgiving visits.

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Image of the coal scuttle by Lajsikonik is shared under creative commons license via Wikimedia Commons.

 Image of the rough diamond is from the United Stated Geological Survey and is in the public domain.

Image of the diamond ring by TQ Diamonds  is shared under creative commons license via Wikimedia Commons.

Blindsided

My mother has always had a special way of taking her children’s minds off their troubles.

Like the time I called to complain at length about how sleep deprived I was, and only after it dawned on me that I rarely managed to get in touch with her in the afternoon, did she mention that she was getting all the laundry done for the week because she’d spent the early morning—as in 4am early—at the animal shelter scooping cat boxes and running dogs and was scheduled to close at one of her Curves locations that night.

Or like the time she said, “Ow” over the phone in the middle of my rant about how stressed I was and then, when I asked if one of the cats had stepped on her, said that she’d pulled her biopsy scar—the one I didn’t know she had because I hadn’t known about the lump—while climbing a ladder to get a toy one of the neighbor kids had launched into a tree.

So I really should have known better when I called my folks yesterday to catch up on the news and to describe my latest migraine, which had just knocked me for a 36-hour loop of throbbing, nauseating pain.

“ . . . but it seems to be getting better,” I said.  “I can see without all the sparklies and my tunnel vision has nearly cleared up. And breakfast is staying down nicely, which is a big relief.

“I’ll bet,” Mom said.

“So, how are you two?”

“Fine,” Dad said. “Took some scouts out for an orientation, so I’m feeling that.”

“I have eye surgery scheduled for Thursday,” Mom said, like she might mention a routine, if inconvenient, dentist’s appointment.

“Eye surgery?” I asked, after a pause.

“Yeah. It’s my third, so I’d kind of  like it all to be over.”

“Third?” I said, my mouth going on by itself, as it tends to do when my brain stalls.  “You only have two eyes, Mom.  How can you have surgery on a third one?”

She snorted. “My third surgery.  I’ve already had one on each, but this is on the left one again.”

“Why?”  I asked. “For what?”

“Glaucoma.”

“Oh. Is that bad?” I asked, hoping it wasn’t. “Or is like Dad’s cataracts?  Or . . . ?”

“It’s not good,” she said.  “The first surgeries were to drain my eyes, and when I mentioned to the doctor that the drains must not have worked, he said, “Oh, yes, they did!” So it’s pretty bad.”

“So . . . if this surgery works . . . “

“Then I’ll be fine for a while.  If it doesn’t, I’ll be blind in my left eye.  And they’re watching my right one closely, because the same thing is going to happen. Just a matter of time.”

“Oh.”

“Yep.”  She chuckled.  “If things don’t go as planned, I’ll just get a white cane and a cup—“

“No you won’t,” I said, my own coping mechanism snapping into place.  “You’ll get a service dog.  You know you want one. In fact, you probably signed up for one already.”

“Not quite,” she said, laughing.  “But you’re right.”

“Admit it—you’ll be disappointed if the surgery works and you can’t get a new dog out of it.”

“Well . .  .”

“I told her no more big dogs after Philander’s gone,” Dad said.  “But she found a way around it.”

The call ended with laughter and I love you’s and a promise that someone would call me on Friday.

And then I went into the bedroom and lay down in the cool dark and thought about my mother going blind.

I stayed up until 4:30am, thinking.

About my green-eyed mother who weaves beautiful art baskets and volunteers at the no-kill animal shelter, and travels, and teaches Zumba and takes metric tons of photos and reads serial romances by the double handful.

My mother, whose offer to take us on an Alaskan cruise this summer—one we’d had to pass up because of difficulties that seem like sheer laziness now—had, in retrospect, a more urgent ring to it than I’d noticed at the time.

My mother, who didn’t tell me a goddamn thing about glaucoma or surgeries or eyeballs  for months.

Not word one.

That doesn’t sit well.  I mean, maybe I couldn’t have done much, maybe but I could have listened to her fears or rage or rants.

But that’s about me.  This isn’t about me.

Maybe she wanted to get her feet under her first, scream and cry, where no one could hear—I can understand that.  I’m sure she didn’t want anyone to worry, and I can understand that, too.

And even though sparing one’s loved ones—traditional on both sides and by marriage—tends to backfire in a big, dramatic, guilt-ridden way, this time . . .

This time, I think it may have worked.

The guilt is still there—it may not be completely rational to think I should have known from two states away that something was wrong, but that’s never stopped me.

But I’m not worried.

Not really.

I don’t want Mom to be in pain of any kind, and I’m sorry this is happening to someone I love so, so much—and, to lapse into selfishness for a second, facing reminders of the mortality of one’s parents is never a walk in the psychological park—but again, this situation isn’t about me.

It’s about Mom.

And going blind—if it happens, when it happens, whatever happens—won’t be the end of her world.

That conversation up there?  That wasn’t just whistling, as they say, in the dark.

I’ve known the woman all my life, and if she wants to, she’ll learn to weave by touch.  She’ll take her future service dog—and Dad—and keep traveling all over the world, swimming with sea creatures and zip lining off mountains—with Dad, not the dog . . .  probably—and continuing eploring and enjoy different places by scent and taste and weather and people.

She’ll rope me into finding her audiobooks and risqué radio plays.  She’ll Zumba with that white cane sh mentioned and laugh when she smacks the sound system off the shelf and not give a good goddamn, except to say that she really wished she hadn’t, because Dad doesn’t know how to fix it.

And she can already scoop cat boxes blindfolded—how risky can the rest really be?

My brave, impossible, stubborn mother isn’t going to slow down one tiny bit.

She’ll just regroup and reroute, like she’s been doing all her life.

So as much as I wish this wasn’t happening and that I could make it all go away, and I really, really hope she won’t be in any pain at all and that everything will go perfectly on Thursday, I’m not worried.

Not for her—and not for me, either.

Because when I get to the point where I’m casually mentioning my major surgeries to my kids in the most infuriating way possible—and I will—Mom will already have shown me how to keep going.

Like she always has.

Apples for the Teacher

Is there anything less welcome in the middle of a workday than receiving an e-mail from your kid’s teacher with the subject line:

[Your Child’s Name]’s Homework/Performance/Participation/Behavior?

And then receiving another one an hour later, with your other kid’s name in the subject line?

There probably is, but it sure doesn’t feel like it at the time.  At the time, it feels like winning back-to-back Razzies for being The Worst Mom in the World.

I mean, one iffy apple can happen in the best of groves, but two on the same branch?  That tree must be slacking.

According to my children’s teachers, our little autodidacts decided to take this semester off.   I don’t know if they decided this independently or dropped out in an act of surprising solidarity, but either way, the timing is worrying.

Jane was doing the homework written in her assignment book, because we were checking that, but she wasn’t writing everything down, clever girl, and wasn’t turning in what she did do, for reasons we have yet to ascertain.  And then she lost—or “lost”—the assignment book.

Sunny simply decided she didn’t want to participate in class, and didn’t.  She was doing the work that was in her take-home folder, but there were also a lot of assignments lost between school and home, and back again.

My husband and I learned about all this last Tuesday.

Except for the reasons behind it.  We can guess, but we really don’t know, and it’s possible they don’t either.

Today, we have back-to-back conferences with Jane and Sunny’s teachers, and the principal, to see if we can help the kids turn this around.

In the interim, we cut off all non-school use of screen time, including Jane’s beloved iPod and the TV.

I gave Jane a composition notebook for her assignments and due dates and she came up with the idea of having her teacher initial her homework list at the end of the day, at least until we could trust her.  Her teacher believes in student responsibility, but has agreed to this for now.

We had a series of talks with Sunny about the importance of homework that may or may not have made a dent.

And I didn’t turn on my computer on weekdays until the kids were officially in bed, except for school-related work—permission forms wait for no one, and Jane had an essay draft due.

We did our homework together—I dug out my yellow legal pads and favorite Ninja pencils and generated some wordcount—and in our free time, we played and danced and read and drew and make sure work was finished and put INSIDE folders and backpacks.

Not next to, not underneath, not on top of.  INSIDE.

We’ll find out this afternoon if this has been working.

The kids say it has, but we’re waiting for third-party confirmation.

If they’re right, we may continue the no screen time rule on school days.  The TV may remain off until Friday evening—after all homework is done.  I may have to adjust my blogging schedule a bit and move some deadlines.

Because maybe it’s not only the accountability, but the playing and dancing and reading and drawing that’s working.

Because maybe those Razzies were earned.

Maybe all apples really want is to know their tree is paying attention.

Fruit

Random Thursdays: Random Goodbyes

Random Thursday (ˈrandəm ˈTHərzdā): the day on which Sarah plunks down all the odd bits and pieces she’s been sent by friends or has otherwise stumbled upon this week in an effort to avoid writing a real post, the assembly of which usually ends up taking twice as much time as sitting down and creating actual content.

Dramatic Goodbye

I’m dedicating this Random Thursday to my sister-in-law Watson, who arrived almost exactly two years ago with her Swiss Mountain Dog for a week-long visit that sort of extended itself a little bit.

I’ve been storing up random stuff since she started making noises about moving to Texas, on the off-chance I couldn’t stop it from happening, but most of it was assembled in the past two weeks when it became obvious that I couldn’t.

The kids helped . . . by which I mean they kept trying to pronounce hippopotomonstrosesquipedalian and singing the Copabanana song  while I was putting this together.

Admit it, Watson.  You’ll miss us.

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So.  Many.  Movies.

Work Waste

I saw  Hansel & Gretel Witch Hunters in the theater.  Twice.

I own a copy now.  The extended version.

I also own Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead.

And Rocknrolla, 
The Losers, 
and the DVD half of most of the Marvel Universe and Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth milieu.

I have seen Run, Fat Boy, Run and The End of the World.

And I regret nothing.

ooooooooooooOOOOOooooooooooooo

We Taught Her the Song of Our People

Whenever two or more Wessons must find each other over a distance, one will call:

“Lala LA lala . . !”

And listen for the traditional response:

“ChicKEN!!!”

And when they have met, they must sing.

This is less of a joke than you’d think.

And useful in department stores, too.

ooooooooooooOOOOOooooooooooooo

hippopotomonstrosesquipedalian

Me:  Kids?  We have something to tell you.   Okay . . . Aunt Watson is moving to Texas.  She’s leaving this Saturday.

Jane: THIS Saturday? So soon?

Sunny: Hooray!

Watson:  What?

Me: What?

Sunny (hopping in excitement): We’re going to get a DOG!

Jane: What?

Me: Oh, honey . . . You know Jada’s going with her, right? Jada’s not staying here.

Sunny: I know! That means WE get a dog of our own! Because there’s gonna be room! Janie, we get a dog!

Watson: Umm . . .

Jane: REALLY?

Me: We’re NOT getting a dog. Sorry.  No.

Sunny:  Oh . . . I’ll miss you.

ooooooooooooOOOOOooooooooooooo

I’ll Miss Our Comedy Tours of the Supermarket

Again, not too far off the truth.

The Deli Counter just won’t be the same.

Wow.  Guess I’ll have to depend on the lunchmeat of strangers now . . .

ooooooooooooOOOOOooooooooooooo

 Crap.  I really didn’t think I was going to tear up.

Calm Goodbye

Dammit.

I’m going to have to buy my own GPS, aren’t I.

oooooooooooooOOOOOooooooooooooo

I’m Already Waiting in Line

This isn’t a good enough reason to keep Watson from moving to Texas, but it’s a good enough reason to haul her rear back up here in August.

Otherwise, I’ll just be giggling and elbowing myself in the movie theater—
that isn’t a euphemism or anything, but it’s still not appropriate public behavior.

I mean it.

I’ll come get you.

Lala LA lala . . . .