Google to the Rescue!


In case you don't already know...

You can send a text to Google containing a search term and they will respond back, almost instantly.

For example, on Sunday I had the good fortune to get a flat tire. Lucky for me, my car insurance includes roadside assistance--so instead of trying to change the tire myself (all covered in grime and road salt--the tire, not me), I wanted to call a tow truck to come out and change it for me.

Oh right. It was Sunday. I couldn't exactly call up my agent and ask him for a tow number. What was a girl to do?

Google to the rescue. I simply sent a text message--"tow truck [zip code]"--and got three responses back with addresses and phone numbers. I could even scroll down to the number within the text and dial it directly.

The number for texting Google is 466453 (Google, spelled out on your number keys).

Who needs AAA?

Cool Whip's got nothing on me


I tried my hand at making homemade whipped cream yesterday. You know, those folks at Food Network are always talking about how easy it is to make, and how superior it is to that store-bought stuff.

They were right! It WAS easy. And I don't think I can go back to ready-made whipped cream. I just don't. Okay, so here's how it's done:

Use a hand mixer or a stand mixer. I wouldn't recommend whipping by hand.

Whip on high one cup heavy whipping cream until it starts to get stiff (but not whip creamy yet).

Add 1/4 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla (I splurged on the real deal). Whip on high until it looks like whip cream.


Was Santa good to you?

A good friend of mine asked me yesterday if Santa was good to me this year. My first impulse was to respond immediately with a list of the cool presents I had received. But I paused, and thought about it for a minute.

It’s been a difficult year.

My weight has fluctuated, 15 pounds either way. Aside from feeling uncomfortable in my body, I know that it is incredibly bad for my health for my weight to yo-yo.

The recession has directly affected me in that the new year will bring a pay cut, and I am becoming ever slightly more fearful about the stability of my job and my bank accounts—oh—and my retirement.

The dry weather has been wreaking havoc with my sinuses. Seriously. In an almost-can’t-function sort of way.

We had two deaths to cap off the end of the year. One was somewhat expected, but still very sad. The other death came just three weeks later and was a complete shock.

I had all these things in mind as I was reflecting about whether or not Santa had been good to me this year.

But I realized…Santa HAS been good to me this year.

I still have a job. The pay cut is slight, and prevented the company from making any layoffs. I would gladly donate that small portion of my salary if it means that someone else can keep his or her job.

Santa brought me eyesight.

Santa brought me knowledge on eating whole foods.

Santa brought me a fuel-efficient and fun-to-drive car.

Santa renewed my childhood fondness for the Legend of Zelda.

Santa brought me a new nephew.

Santa brought me a mind open to new possibilities.

Oh—and Santa brought me fabulous presents on Christmas Eve!!

Was Santa good to you?

The Day the Music Died


Okay, so not quite that dramatic, but it was the catchiest title I could think of.

I heard an old-school Metallica song on the radio on my drive home from work today.

I remember back in the day, when I was a concert-tee-and-gobs-of-silver-jewelry-wearing pre-adolescent, I read in one of my heavy metal fan magazines that it was a GOOD thing Metallica was never played on the radio. Because, really, did you want to hear One or Whiplash played right after Only in My Dreams (that would be Debbie Gibson, thank you)? No, you really really did not want to hear Metallica on the radio. Metallica did not belong in a Top 40 playlist.

And as much fun as I had on my drive home today (cuz you know just one Metallica song lasted the entire commute), I still do not want to hear old-school Metallica on the radio. Call me a purist or an old-school snob. I don't care.

By the way, play all the new-school Metallica on the radio all you want. Because I don't really care about that, either.

*I know your dying to ask. The song was "Blackened" from . . .And Justice For All

PRK: 4 month update


I'm supposed to say, "I can't believe it's been 4 months already, it's gone by so fast!" Actually, it feels odd that it's ONLY been 4 months. I feel like I've been without glasses or contacts forever! It's a nice feeling.

I had another checkup yesterday, and it went really well! Before the appointment, it seemed that my vision had become a little sharper, but I can never be sure until I have my vision "tested" by a pro.

With my right eye, I could read the 20/15 line! I was reading 20/25 at the previous appointment. With my left eye (that's the troublesome little bugger), I could read the 20/20 line. It was at 20/30 at the previous appointment. (That's according to the doc, who knows what I wrote in my last post) Woohoo!!

The doc also said that I have about a -0.5 astigmatism left in both eyes. He said that it is not even correctable with contacts, as contacts start correction at -0.75. I was surprised, as I still have trouble reading signs and whatnot at a distance--the lettering still appears as ghosting, or double vision. Maybe that's just an artifact (side effect) of the surgery, or maybe that's just how people with normal vision see the world....

At any rate, the doc had some great news! He did not say anything at all about the possibility of an enhancement, and I did not ask. For the first time since the procedure, I have hope that I will not have to go through this all a second time!! I go back to the doc in six weeks. Keep your fingers crossed!

The Day After


I think that I am in shock.

I keep waiting for someone to pop out of the corner and yell, "Gotcha!"

Election Day


I voted! Did you?

I was prepared for a line at the polls, but I also had a stinking suspicion that the only poll lines being shown on the local news were the isolated long lines, and that there may be reasonable lines across the rest of the city.

I arrived around 8:00, and there was no line. Not really. The booths were taken, so I opted to fill out my ballot in the open on the table. And there were no chairs, so I was literally on my knees while filling out my ballot.

However, several coworkers told me they went to vote at 6:00 when the polls opened, and waited over an hour. I guess many other people had the same idea, and all those early bird voters were gone by the time I got to the poll.

I almost feel a sense of relief that it is over; two years is WAAAAYYYY too long for a campaign to run. However, the nervous apprehension is starting to set in. All I can do now is wait and see. And pray that it doesn't take two months to determine who won.

PRK: 14 week follow up


I administered my very last [knock on wood] steroid eye drop Monday! Woohoo!

I also had a follow up appointment on Monday with my eye doctor. The vision in my right eye has worsened somewhat, from 20/20 last time to 20/25 this time. That is to be expected, and just means that my vision is fluctuating as my corneas heal. Somewhat disappointing, but not too concerning.

My left eye, however… The doc says the vision is improved over the previous appointment, although I could not really tell. I’m currently seeing at 20/30 out of that eye. He also shared my prescription strength in that eye. My vision is – 0.50, and my astigmatism is at –0.75. I asked him to just tell me what it all meant, in regards to my potential need for an enhancement.

He expects that the right eye will be fine. He said that he has seen prescriptions like the one I still have in my left eye completely clear up within 2 months of discontinuing the steroid drops. As in—it’s possible the vision will clear up, but not definite. I told him I was preparing for the worst (needing the enhancement), but would gladly accept being pleasantly surprised. He seemed to agree with my assessment.

So—no more steroid drops. My eyes finally get a chance to “settle down” and time will tell where my vision is going to end up. I go back to the eye doc in 3 weeks, but may not know for another 2 months if I will need the enhancement.

PRK: 12 week update


Yes, I'm still here. September was just a slow writing month.

Tomorrow is my 12 week PRK anniversary. At about the 10 week mark, I thought I was developing another sensitivity to my alternate steroid drop, so I went in to see the doc. He thought it was probably allergies, and gave me a couple of sample bottles of antihistamine eye drops, to be taken in each eye twice per day. Oh joy! My eye drop regime just increased! But they seem to be helping, so I'll try to limit the complaining.

My eye doc also continues to discuss the option of an "enhancement." (*Note: I'd been calling it an adjustment. I knew that wasn't the right word. I knew the right word was much more soothingly euphemistic.) Enhancement Schmenhancement. It's a re-do. I have two more weeks of steroid drops, and then will wait a few weeks to see what happens with my vision. If my left eye still doesn't improve--I will probably have to do an "enhancement." I have a feeling, just a gut feeling, that it won't improve. It has actually gotten worse these past few weeks.

On the bright side, the right eye seems to be doing okay. If I do need an enhancement, it would be a plus if I only needed it in one eye. Also, let me be clear. I am not complaining about potentially needing an enhancement. Just disappointed. Going into this, I knew I was blind as a bat and that fact placed me at a higher risk of needing more than one procedure to completely correct my vision.

I would still do it all over again. And if my doc recommends the enhancement, even though I'm functioning okay with my current vision, I will probably decide to do it. Why have just "okay" vision that allows you to simply function when you can be close to 100% corrected after a lifetime of wearing glasses and contacts?

Oh, and my friend L. thinks I'm nuts, but I swear the steroid in the eye drops is making my hair fall out. Not in big clumps, thank goodness. It's just thinner overall, and there is a LOT of hair in my shower on a daily basis.

What Song Makes You Want to Dance?


Okay, time for some audience participation.

(and to find out who is actually reading this thing)

If you're reading this, you are required to participate. Or, um, I will, uh... Just humor me here, okay?

Instead of doing the dreaded "exercise," my new goal is to just dance for 20 minutes a day at least 4 times per week. But I need some dancing music. This is where you come in. All I need is one simple answer to one simple question. Ready?

What song makes you want to get up and dance?

You are not allowed to tell me you don't dance. If you are fond of music at all, there has to be a song out there somewhere that makes you want to get up and move, even if you resist the urge.

So come on, hit the Comments link, and tell me what song makes you want to dance!!!

PRK: 8 week update

Most of my research into the PRK healing process consisted of reading the blogs of those who underwent the procedure and shared their experiences. The postings on many of these blogs tended to drop off after about 8 weeks, which was very frustrating. Then, at about the 4 or 6 month mark, there would be the obligarory post--"Sorry I haven't updated more often. Things are great. So glad I had the procedure, yada yada yada." But, dammit!--what happened between 8 weeks and 6 months? Inquiring minds want to know.

Now that I am at the 8 week mark myself, I understand the sudden disappearance of updates after about 8 weeks. There just is not that much to update. My vision seems to be better than it was 2 weeks ago. But the imrovements at this stage are so gradual, it is hard to tell. I still have some double vision. It is most noticeable on signage--road signs, business signs, any large lettering at a distance, and small lettering that is more than an arm's length away.

Overall, my vision is very functional. None of my activities is limited. The double vision is not as irritating as it used to be (because it has gotten better, not because I have gotten used to it--important distinction). However, if there is no further improvement, I believe my doctor will recommend an "adjustment." That means doing the whole damn thing over again.

But I am optimistic. I truly believe my vision is not 100% because the steroid eye drops--say it with me--slow down the healing to prevent the formation of scar tissue. Every time I have decreased the number of eye drops per day--from 4 to 3 to 2--I have had a noticeable improvement in vision. Therefore, I have three more milestones in the healing process. First, in a week, I will decrease from 2 steroid drops daily to 1 steroid drop daily. Second, in 4 weeks, I will stop the steroid drops altogether. Third, after four weeks of no steroid drops, my vision should be close to maximum improvement.

It is all still one big waiting game.

Oh, and I can't be positive about this, but I think the steroid eye drops are making my hair fall out. Hair loss is fairly common with oral steroids, and although I haven't been able to find any connection on steroid eye drops, I sure do seem to be losing much more hair than usual. And it has progressively gotten worse since I started on the drops. Yet another reason to celebrate when I get to discontinue the steroid drops.

Although I must admit that even if I develop a bald spot or two, it will be temporary, and so worth ditching the glasses and contacts!!

A New Trail


I tried a new hiking trail this past weekend. It is a few miles north of my house, and had a few asphalt trails along with grass and dirt trails, so I thought it would be a good place to start out on the "wuss" asphalt trails and work my way up to the more traditional trails.

Um. Yeah. It was a beautiful nature preserve. But I think I figured out why hikers carry walking sticks. First and foremost, to tear down the spider webs covering the trail path. I would head down a trail, encounter a web right across the path, turn around, find another trail, encounter a web across the path, turn around, find another trail... You get the idea.

I think if I had a big long stick to tear down the spider webs from a safe distance, I'd be alright. Empty webs, of course. If the spider is home, he gets to stay no matter what, and I will be turning around to find another trail--walking stick or not.

Also, I thought a walking stick would be good to beat off any surprise wildlife visitors. Of course, my mom thinks it would be useful to beat the crap out of any would-be muggers or rapists, as well. She watches too much news.

Where the heck does one find a walking stick, anyway???

PRK: 6 week update

Yup, kiddos. Tomorrow is the 6 week anniversary of my PRK procedure. Hard to believe this much time has passed. Overall, I would say my vision is doing well. I was becoming sensitive to the preservative used in my initial steroid drop, Pred Forte, and switched to another steroid drop, Alrex, last week. I noticed an improvement in the quality of my vision within a day, and the burning and itchiness went away as well. At my follow up appointment on Monday, the doc said my prescription hadn't improved from last week, but my "line of vision" had improved. I don't really know what that means, and I haven't had time to Google it. My biggest problem right now continues to be the double vision for objects at a slight distance (10 feet away and further), but even that has improved somewhat the past couple of weeks.

The doc also clarified the healing process, which made me feel much better about the seemingly s.l.o.w. progress of my vision improvement, especially when compared to the more rapid improvements I experienced in the first two weeks. He approved me this week to transition from the steroid drops three times per day to two times per day. This will last for four weeks, and then I will do them once per day for four weeks. He said that my vision won't even out and reach maximum improvement until I've been off the steroids for at least four weeks. In case you haven't already done the math, that's three more months before I can expect to see optimum improvement; 18 weeks from date of surgery.

Which all makes sense, if I had stopped to think about it. The steroids slow healing (stop me if I've told you this before) so that scar tissue won't develop. Naturally, I won't heal completely, then, until I discontinue the steroids.

Meanwhile, my mom's coworker had LASIK on Monday and was back at work on Tuesday...

In other news, I may be trading in the Eh-scah-pay for something more fuel efficient within the next week or so. Details to follow.

Conquering Fear


Okay, so hat on head and bug sprayed up, I went to go conquer the hiking trail across the street after work today (see previous post); I've just returned from my adventure. I walked through the mown-grass path and walked straight into the forest without stopping. As I followed the trail, I kept my eyes straight ahead the whole time, looking for spider webs across the path. When I did look around me, I was almost afraid I'd actually spot something wild! Silly, right?

But it was okay. I came across a large pond of stagnant water. Mosquito heaven. Here's hoping my bug spray was effective. However, shortly after the stagnant pond, I came to a fallen tree, blocking the trail. There was a makeshift trail just off to the left. Seriously, it was a teeny tiny path worn into the brush, still semi-overgrown by brush.

Okay, ladies and gentlemen, I think I did pretty good just going into the trail to begin with. Stomping through the brush is not exactly what I've signed up for. I think this trail may be a little too advanced for a first-timer.

But I'm not giving up. I'll find easier trails and start walking those. And when I feel ready, I'm going BACK to the trail across the street, and I'll keep going back until I finish walking the whole darn thing!!

Gone Hiking

I have a new hobby. Well, okay, let's just say I'm in the development phase still.

I like to be outside. I like to walk. What do you get when you combine the two? Why, hiking, of course!

I've thought about taking up hiking for several years--probably going back to my days at Baker. But seriously--hiking? In the midwest? I didn't really think it was possible. I mean, my visions of hiking do not exactly involve a paved path around tennis courts and ball diamonds at the local park.

But a couple weeks ago I decided to take a serious look into the potential for hiking in my area. As far as hobbies go, it has a pretty low start up cost. I did a little googling and found a book called Hiking [insert name of town here]. I did the frugal thing and checked it out from my local library.

Oh! What a book! There are hiking trails ALL OVER the metro area. In fact, there is a trail right across the street from where I live. I honestly had no clue it was there.

I got a little excited over this past weekend, and probably bought more "equipment" than I needed, just starting out and all. I bought the book, of course. Also a couple of t-shirts and a pair of socks designed to wick away moisture, and some "trail shoes." Trail shoes look like regular tennis shoes, but they are sturdier/stiffer and have a more rugged sole for navigating terrain a little more natural than asphalt or rubber.

After my shopping excursion, I was ready! Saturday morning I geared up and headed out to the trail across the street. There was a wide path mown into the 6 foot tall grass (the parks and rec dept apparently didn't budget $4 per gallon gas into the park mowing fund this year--all the green park areas are overgrown).

I should mention here that I really do not like bugs. Or snakes. Just as I got past being in the middle of 6 foot tall grass, I got to the trail head. "Trail head" is hiker lingo for trail entrance.

And I should mention here that I have a smidge of claustrophobia.

The trail was a good ol' nature path. It was dirt, the path was pretty much worn in by years and years of previous hikers. It was about a person and a half wide. And the thing simply disappeared into the forest. In other words, it was an honest to goodness actual hiking trail...

I stood at the trail head and psyched myself up to go in. Bugs and claustrophobia aside, I really really wanted to check out this trail.

I took a few steps in. I stopped. I realized I was woefully unprepared to hike this trail.

Did I mention my dislike of bugs? Or the fact that bugs, especially the biting kind, looooove me?

As the trees closed in around me, I realized I had no bug spray for the mosquitos and chiggers, and no head covering for the ticks. (Ick. I know. I'm really going to have to get over this bug thing if I'm going to be a hiker).

I hesitated. I didn't want to use this as an excuse to give up on the trail. But then I recalled my effort to "fight through the pain" in NOLA and the horrid consequences of my bullheadedness. Being covered in mosquito bites and chiggers, and paranoia about ticks all night, certainly not worth it.

I believe I did the responsible thing by turning around and going home. Then I went shopping again (bug spray!!). Unfortunately, the issue with my eyes left me drained the past few days, and I wasn't able to return to the trail right away. But I was able to go back today after work (see my next post). I won't let the fear conquer me!!!

Another eye update


I was having some issues with my eyes that made me concerned I may have an eye infection. My eyeballs themselves felt really hot; I could actually feel the heat through my eyelids. They were also drier than usual, and the steroid eye drops burned when I put them in (that was new--they never stung or burned before). However, what prompted my call to the doctor was the stinging and burning I experienced Sunday evening. That was definitely not within the norm. I was able to get in to see the doc late Monday afternoon.

Good news overall. No eye infection, but he thinks I may have developed a sensitivity to the preservative in my steroid eye drop. I think that is fairly common, as steroid eye drops aren't normally meant to be used for long periods of time, and I've been on them for a little over four weeks. He prescribed me a new steroid drop, and already my eyes feel better.

Also good news, the astigmatism in my left eye has changed. If it were a leftover astigmatism that would require an "adjustment," it would be a static sort of thing. But because the astigmatism has changed, that means it is there because of the healing process. That is, the astigmatism is there because the layers growing back on my cornea are affecting my eyesight, and as the layers change as they grow back, my vision will change as well.

Sheesh, I hope that made sense.

Overall, my vision is still not so hot, and I haven't noticed much improvement in the past couple of weeks. But I am still in the "Be PATIENT" phase. Considering most wounds take an average of 6 weeks to heal (thanks for reminding me, Lori), and my healing is slowed because of the steroid (to avoid scarring), and I'm only at 4 1/2 weeks post-op, I'm doing my best to just chill. I checked out some blogs yesterday, and most experiences I read about didn't have satisfactory vision until the two month to four month mark.

Of course, I stuck a mascara wand in my left eyeball this morning. I'm sure that won't help matters AT ALL. I go back to the doc on Monday, so I guess I'll find out then if I screwed up the healing process on that eye.

On the positive side, I can:
read magazines and the Kindle
look at a computer screen several hours per day
watch t.v.

So when I say my vision is still crappy, I mean that it is nowhere near where I wish it to be (probably still fluctuating between 20/40 and 20/30--maybe 20/50 today after the mascara incident), but I can see well enough to function without glasses, darnit, and wasn't that the point of this whole thing???

Vision update


Just a small update. Since my last post probably conveyed my disappointment in my vision taking a step backwards, I just wanted to share that my vision was improved considerably when I woke up yesterday morning. Yay!! My guess is that my vision is back to what it was before it declined, and I am just fine with that! (for now--just as long as it keeps progressing)

Tight rolls? Seriously?


In the interest of blogging about something besides New Orleans and my eye surgery...



and AGAIN??? I know the 80's have been back for a while, and surely expected it to be on its way out. But is trendsetter Kate really trying to bring back the tight roll??


PRK 2 1/2 week update


Feels like it's been much longer than 2 1/2 weeks, so it helps to remind myself it's been only a short time since the surgery. Patience. Patience.

I had a follow up appointment yesterday. My first follow up was the day after the procedure, my second follow up was the Monday after the procedure, and this was my third follow up.

I knew my vision had worsened over the past few days, but I was still discouraged at the results yesterday. My right eye had improved one line on the eye chart. My left eye, however, had declined one line. Apparently I have an astigmatism in the left eye at the moment. My doctor reassures me that this is normal, and that my vision will continue to fluctuate over the next couple of months. He said he won't know until 4 to 6 months after the surgery if they will have to do an adjustment, which is basically going through the whole process over again, to correct for what they were unable to get the first time.

The doc was quick to say that the adjustment was a possibility, but nothing at this time indicates I will need an adjustment. He told me, in a nutshell, to be patient. And to give my vision at least 2 months to settle down.

Patience. Patience. Patience. Not one of my virtues, but I'm working on it.

PRK: My experiences so far


Dammit!! I was almost through with surgery day and my computer re-started (stupid updates). Here we go again...

Thursday (Day of surgery):
My appointment was not until 1:20, so I worked that morning. I did not allow myself much downtime that day, so I did not have much time to dwell on what was in store for me this day. I arrived at the surgery suite a little early (of course), but they took me back to get prepped right away. They did not even give me time to sweat it out in the waiting room before they got started!
The nurse took my vitals, gave me a chewable Valium, and went through all the post-op instructions. She had me put on the beautiful blue surgical "shower cap" as well as the blue booties. She then swabbed my eyes with Betadine. And then I had to go back out to the waiting room, blue cap, blue booties, and yellow circles around my eyes!! It wasn't so bad, as it was the waiting room for the surgical suite, so everyone there looked just like me. Can you imagine a room full of blue shower cap, blue bootie wearing, yellow raccoon-eyed people? I can't. One of the first things the nurse did was take my glasses away, so I was blind for the whole waiting experience.
It was little weird, giving up my glasses. It was sort of like giving a part of myself away. A part that annoys the heck out of me and that I couldn't wait to get rid of, but a part of me nonetheless.
So, there I am, in the waiting room, worrying that the Valium would not kick in. I don't know how much time passed, but I know that when they called my name, I had spent so much time worrying about the Valium that I didn't even get around to getting scared about the surgery itself. But I guess the Valium was working, because instead of running screaming from the room, I allowed them to lead me back to the surgical suite.
The room was COLD, so they gave me a heated blanket. That was the best part of the whole experience. They had me lie down in the "dentist's chair," covered me with the blanket, handed me a stress squeezy ball, and swung the chair around underneath the laser contraption. It all happened that quickly!! (They also confirmed my date of birth--thank you Joint Commission National Patient Safety Goals). They patched my left eye, taped my right eyelashes to my face, and inserted the Clockwork-Orange-type contraption that would hold my eyes open during the procedure. That thing wasn't NEARLY as bad as I was expecting. I couldn't really distinguish what happened next, but from my research I knew that they were dissolving and scraping away the top layer of my cornea. That was pretty awful. Seriously. That was the WORST part of the whole experience. Truly truly awful. By the time the laser started, I was relieved because I knew it was almost over. But. Then. It was time for the left eye. Not fun at all. However, it did go quickly. My mom said I was in the surgical suite for about 15 minutes. That includes the time it took to lead me back there, get me situated on the chair, patch, tape, and insert the keep-the-eye-open contraption, dissolve cells, and laser each eye. My guess is that it took less than 5 minutes, start to finish, for each eye.
I came home, took a Tylenol 3, and went to bed. However, I couldn't really sleep--not the way I wanted to. I wanted to just pass out for three or four hours, but I just sorta cat-napped the afternoon away. Before I left the doctor's office, they taped clear, hard plastic shields over my eyes, and I was instructed to wear them until the next morning, and every night for the next five nights. I hated the shields. Probably, more specifically, I hated the industrial strength surgical tape used to hold the shields on. Anyway, I could tell that my vision was much improved, but I couldn't really judge how much because the eye shields distorted everything.

My first post-op appointment was this morning. At my pre-op on Wednesday, as well as at the procedure appointment, they warned me that I would feel okay Thursday and today, but Saturday would be the worst day as far as pain and light sensitivity, and that I would want to stay in bed in a dark room all day. The relevance of that statement will be clear shortly.
While in the waiting room my mom pointed out a lady who had her procedure just after me. She was flipping through a magazine. She must have had LASIK. At that point, I must admit I was little jealous of her, as my vision was still pretty poor (but better than before!!!).
The doctor was an hour late. During this time, I was growing increasingly t.i.r.e.d. and light sensitive. I was wearing my sunglasses indoors. The post-op exam went well, albeit late. I think my vision tested at about 20/60. I could squint and make out the 20/60 line on the eye chart, but functionally, I couldn't have read a darn thing on the eye chart. But still, before the surgery, I couldn't have made out the "E" on the top line, no matter how much I squinted and tried.
The light sensitivity continued to worsen, but I attributed it to becoming fatigued. Oh. No. Was I wrong. As we left the appointment, I got into the car and reclined my seat back so I could sleep on the way home. The sun hit me full in the face. My eyes watered. They HURT. I sat up and looked around for something to shield my face. All I could find was a black canvas bag from Wal-Mart. I draped it over my face, and rode home with a bag on my head. Dear mother was very supportive, though. Every time she looked over at me to check on me, she laughed at her dear daughter wearing a bag on her head!
I was in denial, as everyone said my bad day would be on Saturday. However, it soon became clear to me that I was in Hell. And my hell had started about 12 hours early. It was pretty bad. My eyes were dry, scratchy, burning, and stinging. The light sensitivity was so bad that my mom had to close all the blinds and curtains, AND put blankets over the curtains. I laid in bed with my sunglasses on and a light-colored shirt over my face, but the light coming in through the light-colored fabric was still too much. Mom finally got one of her navy blue t-shirts that I could put over my face, and that helped tremendously. I started taking the Tylenol 3 every two hours. It would take about 20 minutes to kick in, and would be in effect for about 40 minutes. Then I had a whole hour to wait before I could take another one. I kept telling myself that this was temporary, and hoped that because it all started a half day early, that it would end a half day early. I knew that if it was going to last no longer than a day and a half, that I could handle it.
Friday night I was up every two hours, putting lubricating drops in and taking more Tylenol 3. My eyes watered constantly the whole night, which was okay because the moisture helped ease the pain somewhat.

The Hell ended Saturday morning. I felt blessed, as I expected it to last much of the day. I was so relieved! Saturday was still uncomfortable, and I still needed the sunglasses indoors and blankets over the windows. My poor mom must have felt like she was living in a cave all weekend. I slept most of the day Saturday, and don't really remember too much about it. My vision is clearer, but not all that functional. And I've had a cloudy, milky haze since the procedure.

It's a whole new day!! No pain, some discomfort, but no pain. I didn't have to wear sunglasses indoors. I could have a light on. I even wrote down some notes for this blog entry. I watched about an hour of television, which consisted of looking at the screen for two minutes, and looking way for five minutes, and so on for about an hour. I took a shower this morning, first one since Thursday morning. I was so thrilled about being able to shower and wash my hair that I didn't even notice until I was almost done that I could SEE IN THE SHOWER! First time I can remember being able to see in the shower. Things are going so well today, that I'm a little anxious about having the bandage contacts removed tomorrow. From my research, vision tends to decline and some discomfort returns after the bandage contacts are removed.

My second post-op appointment, and the doctor is an hour late, AGAIN. Mom said now that they got all my money, they aren't as worried about customer service. :) My vision tested at about 20/30, and my doc said I could now get the corrective lens restriction removed from my driver's license. That was a little scary. Although I could squint and squint and focus and focus and make out some of the letters on the 20/30 line, my vision is still not even close to being good enough to drive. Mom and I ran a few errands, and I could be in the direct sunlight with sunglasses on without any problems. It felt good to be out in the world again.

I worked from home this morning, and was able to spend about three hours in front of the computer screen. Mom went back to work today. I was forbidden to drive anywhere, was stuck in the house for the fifth straight day, and was going absolutely out of my mind!! However, Lori came later that afternoon to rescue me, and took me to TJ Maxx and Target. I did sneak out and drive around the neighborhood for about an hour. My distance vision was blurry, but I did feel comfortable driving.

I returned to the office today. My vision today was worse than yesterday, and I actually felt less comfortable driving. I only stayed for a couple of hours before getting tired, and drove home around 11:00. I have to say at this point that I have been sleeping A LOT. Two to three hours at a time. But the body recovers and heals while it sleeps, so I'm cool with that.

Back to the office. I lasted until about 3:00 today, but definitely overdid things. Although the fiscal year is over, I was trying to get some billing entered before the final final deadline, and I think I pushed it too much. My vision has been relatively stable, but I did notice some ghosting on street lights and business signs. I hung out with Lori this evening and had a couple glasses of wine. I was nervous about driving home, as that was the first time I had tried to drive at night. But it went really well! The street lights and stop lights were fine--no ghosting, starbursts, or halos. At least no more so than with glasses or contacts.

Today is my last day of four sets of drops four times per day!! I have one steroid drop, two antibiotic drops, and the lubricating drop. I have to wait five minutes between each drop, so it takes me about half an hour, four times per day, to administer all the drops. Today is my last day of antibiotic drops, so after that I will have just the steroid drop, four times per day, and the lubricating drops as needed. I am also able to sleep through the night, waking up about once per night to put in lubricating drops.

Saturday and Sunday:
Everything is going well. I have small improvements day-to-day with my vision, but the improvements have slowed significantly from the drastic day to day improvements I had earlier in the week. I can read for very short periods of time, but I'm still sticking to the audiobooks for now. My distance vision is still not great, but I have faith that it will continue to improve. It has been quite the process, and the more traumatic parts are fading from my memory, even now. Getting my wisdom teeth out still tops the list of traumatic life events. I think I'm still in shock about being able to see without glasses or contacts. I think it will start to hit me as I'm able to resume normal activities. For example, this Thursday I get to wear eye makeup again, AND go to the pool.

If I had it to do over again, would I decide to get PRK? Absolutely. I never, for one minute, wished I hadn't done it. Not even during the hell day. I am blessed to be healing quicker than average, to have fewer than average "artifacts" (ghosting, starbursts, etc), and to have a positive experience overall. Getting vision correction surgery is a personal decision, and not one I would recommend across the board. However, if it is something that makes sense given your lifestyle and unique circumstances, I would definitely say "Find out what you are getting into, and then go for it!"

I can see!!


It's my one week anniversary! It's been quite a week, and most of the excitement happened in the first three or four days after my PRK procedure.

I have wanted to post an update before now, but have only been able to look at a computer screen for the past few days, and by the time I get done with my work duties on the computer, my eyes are too fatigued to do anything more.

I plan to post a more detailed update in the near future, hitting all the exciting highlights for those first few days after the surgery. However, I just wanted to let everyone know that I am doing suprisingly well, and have recuperated faster than I was expecting. I started driving and returned to the office yesterday, but I am still getting tired easily so am only working half days. (My nap schedule has gone from two three-hour naps daily, to two two-hour naps, to one two-hour nap). But I figure that much of the healing occurs while I sleep, so I'm okay with that.

I want to think everyone for the phone calls and the cards. Even though I may have been drugged up and drowsy when you called, I still appreciated the support.


Tomorrow is PRK - Day!!!


I am writing this on the evening of the 9th, Wednesday. It probably won't get posted until sometime on Thursday, and for that I apologize. I'm having technical difficulties with Blogger at the moment.

My PRK procedure is tomorrow!!! Although it is technically a "surgery," I feel a little odd calling it a surgery. It is, even more technically, an ambulatory outpatient surgery. That means I will walk in, have the surgery, and walk right back out. Here is how I'm expecting things to happen:

I'll be working Thursday morning, mostly to keep the anxiety at bay by keeping my mind off the surgery, and also to avoid an unnecessary PTO day. Then I will come home, pick up my dear mother, and we will drive to the eye doc's. I'm supposed to be there at 1:20, but will probably arrive a little early, because that's how I roll. There may be some last minute topography of my eyeballs taken, they will give me a valium, and then wait for the valium to kick in. The procedure is scheduled to happen at 2:20. That's a lot a waitin'.

After the valium has kicked in, they will take me back to "the room," where I will lie down on a dentist-type chair. I'll get lots of various eyedrops administered, one of which will numb my eyeball. The doc will then put a solution on my eye to dissolve the top layer of the cornea. The doc explained this part very well at my pre-op appointment this morning. The topmost layer of the cornea is about 5 cells thick, and is really more of a "skin" to the cornea. After the dissolving solution does its job, the doc will then scrape off the remaining cells, position the laser, and set the computer to do its work to re-shape my cornea. After the re-shaping, each eye will get a bandage contact. I expect that whole process to take less than 5 minutes per eye.

Dear mother will then drive me home, and the plan is for me to sleep the afternoon away. I was informed to expect things to go fairly smoothly Thursday after the surgery, as well as Friday, but to expect extreme light sensitivity and irritation/pain most of the day Saturday. The tech said I will probably just want to spend the day in a darkened room, sleeping. I can think of worse ways to spend my time. The doc also gave me a script for Tylenol-3, so hopefully the painful bits will be tolerable.

I have a follow up appointment Friday morning, and another one Monday morning (when they will remove the bandage contacts). I expect weekly, then monthly follow ups after that. My vision will be corrected immediately, but my vision will be wonky for a while (two weeks? two months?) while my cornea is healing. The process of the cells growing back is what causes the light sensitivity and vision problems (hazing, ghosting, starbursts), and my vision will fluctuate during the healing process. From my online research, I think the fluctuating vision should calm down significantly within two months, and the corneas should be completely healed by six months.

It sounds like a lot to go through, especially when people who get LASIK talk about their instantaneous vision correction and lack of healing time. To that, I say that PRK has been performed a LOT longer than LASIK, and I also say that the flap they cut for the LASIK procedure never fully heals. The PRK may have a more involved and more irritating/painful healing process, but when I'm healed...I'm healed.

Yes, I am very nervous. The emotional bit of the nervousness hasn't kicked in yet. Of course, I haven't really had a chance to stop and think about so far today. But intellectually, I'm nervous for the procedure, I'm nervous for any pain that comes after, I'm nervous that I'll be discouraged while my vision is still fluctuating, and I'm nervous--in a VERY good way--about no longer having "nearly blind" as part of my identity.

Keep me in your thoughts, prayers, vibes, what-have-you on Thursday, and through the weekend. Cheers!

One week from tomorrow!!


PRK--How will I love thee? Let me count the ways:

1. No more looking down when walking in the rain.
2. No more hand mirrors to apply eye makeup.
3. I can wear real eyeshadow instead of blush/bronzer on my lids.
4. I can wear mascara without worrying it will smudge my glasses.
5. Being able to see exactly what I am shaving in the shower.
6. Sunglasses!!!
7. Sinus headaches/migraines will last no longer than absolutely necessary.
8. No more disembodied voices at the pool.
9. Being able to be in the pool and see at the same time!
10. Garrisol can splash me in the face and I won't care.
11. I can take spontaneous naps.
12. No more trips to the eye doc office when little hands grab at my face (to get my glasses readjusted).
13. No more alarm clocks with ginormous digital numbers.
14. No more cramming my glasses on while wearing my headwrap when I get out of the shower.
15. Being able to see getting in the shower, while in the shower, and getting out of the shower.
16. Being able to see the mold in the shower and being able to clean it before getting the sneezing fits.
17. No more "dedicated" spots for my glasses in the bedroom and in the bathroom.
18. No more glasses sliding off my face when I'm sweaty. (Not that I sweat or anything...)

Checking In


I apologize for my lack of content lately. Work has been quite a pain, and it's been all I can do to keep up with my day-to-day stuff when I get home from work, so blogging has taken a back seat. I got a massage Saturday, came home, and passed out on my bed for 2 1/2 hours! And I didn't move the whole time--woke up in the exact same position I fell asleep in!

So, I told myself that this was going to be a better week. The first of July is tomorrow--and that means the end of our fiscal year as well. What a great time for a fresh start. Of course, today being the 30th, I walked into some more ick at work this morning. However, tomorrow is a whole new day. I'm choosing my attitude and things will be better!

I am also reminding myself of the people around me who are facing much more significant challenges than a few weeks of stress at work, and that helps me to keep things in perspective.

On a brighter note, my PRK procedure is less than two weeks away! The isolated moments of panic and excitement are getting closer together. By this time next week I'll probably be barely able to contain myself!

I hope this post finds all of my friends doing well. Peace. Out.

Quinoa and Black Bean Salad


Omigosh! This is SO GOOD!!!

quinoa salad

1 c. quinoa
2 1/2 c. water
1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
3 T. fresh lime juice
1/2 t. cumin
1/4 t. hot pepper sauce (or to taste)
1/4 t. freshly ground black pepper
1 (7 oz) can Niblets whole kernel corn, drained and rinsed
1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained and well rinsed
4 oz baby carrots, thinly sliced on the diagonal
3 ribs celery, thinly sliced on the diagonal
1 lg. red bell pepper, cored and chopped
1/2 med. red onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely minced or put through garlic press
1 T. canned chili peppers, rinsed and well drained

Place quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer and rinse under cold running water, drain. *Note: If you use Ancient Harvest brand quinoa, you don't have to rinse it. Follow the cooking directions instead of the following* Bring water to boil in a medium saucepan, add quinoa. Return to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Drain quinoa in strainer and rinse under cold running water. *Note: I just cooked it until all water was absorbed, spread it thinly in a bowl, and cooled it in refrigerator*

In a small bowl, stir together olive oil, lime juice, cumin, hot pepper sauce, and black pepper. Set aside.

To the quinoa, add the black beans, corn (I used frozen corn instead of canned), carrots, celery, bell pepper, onion, garlic, and chili peppers (I didn't use any chili peppers). Pour in olive oil mixture and stir gently until well blended. Cover and refrigerate at least four hours. Before serving, add more olive oil and lime juice if salad has become too dry.

Letter to my 7th grade self


In "blogspeak," there is something called a "meme" going around, asking you to write a letter to yourself in middle school. I fired this one off in 30 minutes to my 7th grade self:

You are about to like something classified as a "boy band." They will name themselves New Kids on the Block. You will like them a whole lot, but it will only be for a short time. Then you will be embarrassed that you ever owned their tape, or had their pictures taped to your walls. You will shun them. However, around your first or second year of college, you will unexpectedly hear one of their most popular songs. And it will make you happy. And you will appreciate their sound in a whole new way, and you won't be embarrassed to admit it. Because all of your friends will feel the exact same way.

In high school, everyone you know will start listening to country music. It's true.

You will experience a high degree of angst in high school and college, but eventually you will get over yourself.

Although you really really really want to get the heck out of Dodge, you will end up going to the last college you ever thought possible, just 30 minutes away from home. And you will meet some of the best people there, including professors. But don't worry. You do eventually get the heck out of Dodge.

Your female friends in 8th and 9th grades are going to be MEAN. Yes, meaner than they are now. When you grow up, they will make a movie about this phenomena called, appropriately enough, Mean Girls. Stick by your friends, remain loyal, and you will get through it. When things get to be their worst, and you feel like your life is over, get some perspective by the fact that most of them won't even be your friends by the time you are 20.

In a couple of years, your mother will buy you an album by a band called Pearl Jam. Pay attention to it, even though you will like this other band, Nirvana, better.

There are a lot of untrustworthy people in Pomona. But once you leave Pomona, open yourself up to trusting others.

Very important. During your freshman year of college--in that ongoing fight you are trying to stay out of: D. is the bad guy and L. is the good guy.

Oh, and your freshman year of college is going to be one amazing year.

In 2003, the Jayhawks will change forever. But there will be some really really good years before that happens.

Pants DO eventually come in a long length. I recommend you keep your eyes peeled.

You won't have cable your first year in college. And you won't really miss it.

You won't be in a ton of clubs in college, as you will be in high school. And you won't really miss it.

I suppose I can't ask you to change the past (your future), as that would create some sort of weird rift in the time-space continuum. However, credit cards are not your friends. Even though significant damage will be done, you will someday see the light and start being responsible with your money. Someday.

You are going to have some crazy ass roommates. Learn from them. Enjoy the ride, and know when to exit the ride.

Someday, gas is going to go up to $2.00 per gallon. You will be angry. It gets much worse.

NOLA pt. 4: On all the rest


*Note: I apologize if the text layout around the pictures is jacked up. It's taken me several hours over a few different days to get this posted, as Photobucket and I have been going around and around. At this point, I am VERY open to other recommendations for an image hosting service.

Oh, there are so many other topics I could post on, but I have a feeling it would be like making friends watch a slide show narration. Interesting only to me. However, I would like to share a few more pictures of my trip. Wanna see 'em? Here it goes:

The "menu" at the Cafe du Monde:


It poured like this at least once per day during my trip. I happened to be out in the French Quarter during this particular downpour:


Here's a pic of Brad and Angie's place. At least, according to the horse and carriage tour operator I overheard:


Pics of St. Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square:


A pic of the Sainte Jeanne d'Arc statue in the Cathedral (that's Ms. Joan of Arc to you and me):


The view from the Riverwalk--not so pretty, but the cool breeze coming off the river was fabulous:



A few pics of my bed and breakfast, La Maison Marigny:




A pic of the cemetary (the cemetary REALLY needs to be a separate post, perhaps it will):


And last, but certainly not least, from the Jackson Square, a pigeon with a mohawk:




Both are surgical procedures performed under a local anesthetic that uses a laser to correct one's vision. LASIK is probably the most popular procedure, as it has very little healing time. However, the procedure I'll be undergoing is called PRK (Photorefractive keratectomy). PRK has a longer healing time. The reason for the longer healing time is the way the procedure is performed.

In a nutshell, LASIK uses a laser to cut a flap from the top 1/3rd layer of the cornea, then uses a laser to reshape the underlying layers of cornea. PRK uses a chemical solution to dissolve a much thinner top layer of the cornea, then uses a laser to reshape the layers of the cornea. The higher the vision correction, the more layers of cornea need to be used in the reshaping process. My corneas happen to be on the thin side, and therefore there aren't really enough layers to successfully perform the LASIK. Hence, because I have such a large correction, I am undergoing PRK instead.

One downside to LASIK is that the flap never completely heals, and any moderate trauma to the eye area can cause the flap to re-open. One advantage to PRK is that it has been around for many years longer than LASIK. However (and this is a big one), the healing time for PRK can last months. I have read varying experiences on different blogs, but they range from some mild discomfort and irritation for a few days to extreme pain for a couple of weeks, and everything in between. I suspect the variation in experiences of pain have a lot to do with individual differences, including tolerance to pain. I have a pretty high tolerance for pain, but I do know that even when my contacts were at their most painful, I could wear them for several hours knowing that relief could be mine at any time just by removing the contacts. I won't exactly be able to "escape" the pain from the PRK procedure.

Consistently, these blogs report a week or two before the person feels comfortable enough with their vision to drive, and up to a month to see actual improvement in vision. Good correction is usually achieved by six months. Let me clarify. Once the laser correction is done, the vision is corrected. But because the very top layer of cornea is gone, the vision itself isn't very functional. People typically report a haze, ghosting, starbursts, and halos until the cornea has healed completely (3-6 months to heal).

Another disadvantage is severe light sensitivity. As most of my work is done under fluorescent lights, staring at a backlit computer screen, I'm not sure how long it will take me to be fully functional at work.

I am definitely going to have to sacrifice and "pay" for the opportunity to be able to see without contacts or glasses. But I strongly feel that it will be worth it. Another consistent bit of feedback across all blogs I read was that the individual absolutely regretting having PRK one week, two weeks, even one month out. However, by one year, every single person said that PRK was worth it, and they would not hesitate to do it again. The long term results for them far outweighed the short term pain and inconvenience. Let's hope I will be able to say the same.

My procedure is exactly one month from today!!

Subscription Feed

If you look over to the right of the screen, you'll see a new link to subscribe to my blog. I find it pretty convenient to use a feed reader service (I use Google Reader) as a central location to keep updated on the blogs I'm most interested in.

The Date My Life Will Change


Sounds dramatic, but I have high hopes.

I am scheduled for vision correction surgery on July 10, 2008.

It's not LASIK, as my corneas are too thin. It's a surgery called PRK. It has a bit of a longer recovery time (a few days), but is just as effective.

NOLA pt. 3: On the people


I hold two general assumptions that the people of NOLA did not fit neatly into.

Assumption # 1:
Although I wasn't raised in the city, I've lived in mostly urban or inner suburban areas for years. And my mother was raised in the city. Therefore, somewhere along the way I've learned that when in a non-social situation, if approached by a person you do not know who then begins speaking to you, it is a wise decision to be on your guard.

Assumption # 2:
Residents of tourist areas tolerate tourists because we are major contributors to the local economy. However, many locals hold some disdain for tourists. One, because of us, the majority of the jobs available are in the service sector; these jobs do not pay well and aren't considered by most to be all that fulfilling (I'm making large generalizations here, so please bear with me). Two, I think locals also see tourists as slightly ignorant, as we tend to stick to the tourist'y sightseeing spots and neglect to seek out the "real" culture of the area. In a harsh nutshell, locals may see tourists as ignorant meal tickets.

My long held beliefs that out-of-the-blue advances from strangers are suspicious and that locals aren't all that fond of tourists were significantly challenged while visiting NOLA. I only wish I had come around to this idea sooner.

The people I met in NOLA were nice! Not a let's-humor-the-tourists-so-they'll-spend-more-money nice, but genuinely nice.

My first encounter happened during my trek to the streetcar that would take me to the Garden District, and was with a little old lady who perfectly fit my schema of "cat lady." She was older with long gray hair pulled into a messy ponytail, was wearing a housedress in public, displayed less than ideal hygiene, and was wearing eyeglasses so smudged and smeared I could barely see her eyes. I first witnessed her trying to cross the 6 lanes of Canal Street that happened to be closed for the filming of a car chase. The poor police officer was doing his best to chase her out of the way.

*Okay, to be fair--it also took me a second and about 2 lanes before I figured out what the heck was going on.

*Oh! And I got to see a car chase being filmed.

I ran back into the cat lady at the stop for the streetcar that would take me to the Garden District. Much to my surprise, cat lady started talking to me. And talking. And talking. She mostly told me all about the famous people who live in NOLA, and how it's so great for them because the locals don't bother them at all. She told me all about how the residents of the Garden District were so worried when they heard that Trent Reznor would be moving in. I must say, I was shocked that this lady knew who Trent was, and even more so when she name-dropped his "band." (Quotes, because, you know, Trent Reznor IS nin.) She also told me all about Brad and Angelina. She even helped me find my stop. She turned out to be a friendly old lady who was proud of her city and wanted to share some of it with an out-of-towner.

Another day, at the height of my foot pain, I took a break from walking to rest the dogs in Jackson Square. I was sitting very near a large group of locals who could have been musicians. Or homeless. Or both. Or quite possibly neither. They were a loud and colorful bunch, that's for sure! I was entertained just eavesdropping. After a few minutes, I felt a tap on my shoulder. (Guard officially up). It was one of the ladies asking me if I was okay. She appeared genuinely concerned. (I'm sure--I bet my face was purple from the humidity and effort involved in walking at that point. I could not have been a pretty picture). Once I assured her I was, indeed, not dying, she returned to her friends.

On my last day, I was walking down a major residential street when a slightly older man walked out of his house carrying a magazine and an instrument case. I think he had been lying in wait for someone to come along so that he could brag about the write up on him that was featured in the magazine he was holding. He greeted me and showed me the article, reading a little bit from it, as he stepped in and started walking alongside. My guard was definitely up by this point. But I could tell he was very proud at being the subject of a magazine article. He then told me that I looked just like his ex. Guard went up a little bit more. I made some joke about it probably not being a great thing that I reminded him of his ex. He then said that she wasn't an "ex" because they split up, but because she passed away in the hurricane.

His demeanor was so genuine, and I could tell he meant the looking like the ex thing as a compliment, that I let my guard down a little bit. But only a small bit, as he was still walking alongside me. I wasn't really sure where this conversation was going, or how long he was going to tag along. Just as I was wondering how I was going to politely get rid of him, he turned the corner, wished me a good trip, and said goodbye.

I still feel a little stupid for being so suspicious. I blew an opportunity to talk with a local musician, perhaps brightening both his day and mine.

I'm not saying NOLA is a place where you can completely let your guard down as a tourist. And all bets are off on Bourbon Street after dark. But I did learn that the next time I visit NOLA, I want to be a little more open to conversing with the locals without assuming they are going to pick my pocket or try to scam me in some other way.

Now that I'm typing this, I realize that most of my surprising encounters were with people 20-40 years older than me. Maybe it was a generational thing.

A Brief History of the Garden District


Once upon a time, New Orleans was inhabited by people of French and Spanish descent, as well as a large population of free people of color. The French and Spanish weren't happy to see each other, but eventually started to get along, and became referred to as "Creoles." At that time, the French Quarter and a few other neighborhoods were the only settled parts of the city. But, as often happens, cities grow. After the Louisiana Purchase, Americans started moving to New Orleans. However, the wealthy Americans did not want to live with or near the original inhabitants of the city, and the Creoles did not want to live near the "rough" Americans, and so the Garden District was created in the early 1800's. (For comparison, NOLA was founded by the French in 1718 and was ceded to the Spanish in 1763 before being retaken by the French in 1801. The Louisiana Purchase happened in 1803.)

You'll notice that the architecture in the Garden District is very plantation, antebellum, American. Whereas the architecture in the French Quarter is very French and very Spanish. This reflects the influence of the early inhabitants of each neighborhood. Canal Street separates the French Quarter from the newer, American side of town. There is a large median in the middle of Canal Street (where the canal was "supposed" to go but didn't), and the median became known as "neutral ground" between the two sides. Even today, natives still call a median "neutral ground."

There were strict zoning rules in the Garden District, and each block could only contain up to four homes. Each property was on a "corner lot." Each home was landscaped with a large garden, hence the name "Garden District." Even today, most blocks still only have four homes; however, other blocks may have as many as 8 homes as property was divided and sold off.

The Garden District, as well as the French Quarter, are on fairly high ground, and saw very little flood damage from Hurricane Katrina.

NOLA pt. 2: The Garden District

The first item on my agenda my first day in NOLA was to take the St. Charles Streetcar to the Garden District. The St. Charles Streetcar is the oldest continuously running streetcar in the United States, and is associated with the Streetcar Named Desire. As it was told to me, the Desire St. Streetcar was not actually in service during the time the play was set, and the closest in reality was the St. Charles Streetcar. Here's a pic that I did not take of the St. Charles Streetcar on Canal Street:


This first home is just an example of a typical Garden District home. The smaller homes, such as this one, sell for between $100-200K. When I think of the gargantuan McMansions that $200K buys in the Midwest, I would MUCH rather own something like this instead.


Here's a "fancier" home in the district. It probably belongs to someone famous, but I can't remember. Could be Nicolas Cage.


Guess who's house this is? Hint: it's the one I most wanted to see:


Give up? It's the former home of Anne Rice. It's on the market (see the for sale sign?) as she moved away from NOLA after her husband passed away. Below is her front door. You'll notice that the ceiling of the porch (veranda?) is painted a light blue color. That is to mimic the color of the sky, which keeps wasps away. Now, why aren't the ceilings of porches EVERYWHERE painted light blue? Heck, I might consider breaking the terms of my lease and painting my own patio ceiling blue if it will keep the wasps away! (Oh, and those are actual operating gaslights on either side of the front door.)


Here's a carriage step. The ladies back in the day would step up on them to get into horse drawn carriages so as not to get their dresses and petticoats dirty.


This is one of the largest houses in the district. It looks like two houses side by side, but it's really one very large home. The owners have spent twice as much as they paid for the house to restore it, and they allow various nonprofits in the city to hold their fundraisers onsite.


Oh! Here's the other house that I REALLY wanted to see. Trent Reznor lived here, but moved a few years ago and sold it to John Goodman. The story goes that the genteel residents were quite worried when they heard such a shock rocker was moving into the neighborhood, but that Mr. Reznor ended up being a very good neighbor. Very quiet. I think those of us familiar with Mr. Reznor's reserved personality and lack of publicity-seeking would not be surprised that he was a quiet neighbor.


Here's another shot of the Reznor/Goodman home:


The gentleman in the white t-shirt was our tour guide. *Due to editing issues cutting off my pictures, he's only half in this one. You can see a better pic of him in the lower left corner of the first pic at the top--of the house, not the streetcar.* He had just moved back into his home a couple days before this tour. It had taken 2 1/2 years to repair the damage from Hurricane Katrina. Two and a half years of being put out of your home. And yet he chose to rebuild instead of moving away.

The Garden District is as beautiful as you would expect it to be. The streets are lined mostly with live oaks and crepe myrtles. Many original details remain, such as the carriage steps and posts to tie your horses to. Several very famous people live there (Peyton Manning's parents, Harry Connick Jr's parents, Nicolas Cage, the French consulate, etc), but none of the homes are hidden behind gates, tucked away unseen behind acres of landscaping. It's the type of place where a famous person can live and not be harassed.

Anywho, look very soon for a brief history of the Garden District, especially as it relates to the French Quarter. Fascinating stuff, at least to me.

NOLA: A note


Since I was traveling alone in NOLA, I knew that experiencing any nightlife was out of the question. My plan, therefore, was to experience as much of the city as possible during daylight hours. I even planned ahead for all the walking I would be doing in the humid humid NOLA air. A few weeks prior to the trip, I bought a pair of Born flip flops. The most comfortable shoes on the planet, right? Naturally, this was my fourth pair of Borns, and the first pair that required breaking in. Can you see where this is going?

As I didn't think these shoes would need to be broken in, the very first time I wore them was my first full day in NOLA, during my walking tour of the Garden District, followed by a short hike and stroll down Magazine Street. By the time I got to Magazine Street, I was in agony. But I was a trooper, and pushed forward, because I had limited time and I was determined to seek out the NOLA that existed beyond Bourbon Street. Unfortunately, the public transportation back to my home part of town stopped at the opposite end of the French Quarter from the location of my hotel.

Let's review:
New shoes.
Three hour walking tour of the Garden District.
One mile walk to Magazine Street.
One mile stroll down Magazine Street.
Two mile walk back to public transportation.
Two mile walk after public transportation to my hotel.

I won't go into the gory details, but my feet were an absolute wreck. I could barely walk, but this happened on my first day and I refused to let it ruin my trip. I am a trooper. As a result, I had the largest, deepest blisters ever, on the BOTTOM of my heels. And my feet swelled to an unrecognizable shape, which didn't go away until my third day home.

I learned a very important lesson. Even if my most comfortable, most broken in shoes are my Adidas cross trainers, I will risk looking like a tourist (tennis shoes and khaki's, anyone?) in order to BE a tourist.

NOLA pt. 1: On Food:


My first night, after a lengthy flight delay and the last leg of my flight being twice as long as planned--I was a little too disoriented and it was a little too late in the day for a single traveler to do much exploring. I decided that finding dinner and unpacking was going to have to be enough. The B&B owner recommended a soul food place around the corner. It was a small place, but very nice. Again, being slightly disoriented, all I could muster up to order was a po-boy. It was alright... Come to find out later that this was a place well-known in NOLA for soul food, and I probably should have ordered meatloaf (the specialty), or at least fried chicken. Live and learn...

Speaking of learning, apparently "brasserie" is French for "expensive restaurant." The Marigny Brasserie was recommended to me by a nice bartender whose bar I had wobbled into (oh! the blisters. more on that later), looking for a quick burger. Turns out the bar didn't serve food, but the bartender recommended the cafe on the corner that had reasonable prices and where most of the food service employees in the neighborhood went to eat. The Marigny Brasserie:
Marigny Brasserie

I hobbled over to the cafe and enjoyed a glass of wine at the bar, as the restaurant itself didn't open for another 15 minutes. Once I'm seated, I get to take a look at the menu. I experienced a moment of shock as I realized the menu consisted of about five to six entrees, priced between $25 and $30 each. My server explained that they have a new chef and he's trying to keep things simple.

I have to mention here that I have never ordered an entree above $15 in my life, and certainly never patronized an establishment where the "chef" is mentioned during my course of conversation with the server.

Once I overcame my shock and regained my ability to breathe, I decided "What the hell. I've made a mess of my feet (again, that's another post) and as a result am spending half of my three short days in NOLA camping out in my B&B room." I decided to throw monetary caution to the wind and enjoy the experience of an honest to goodness upscale restaurant. I was pleasantly surprised, and just a little giddy, when my meal arrived. The presentation was straight out of Iron Chef America. And the meal itself. was. divine.

I'm still wondering how to re-create it, but know that I will never attempt such a feat. Monetary caution being thrown to the wind, I also enjoyed a second glass of wine and an after dinner coffee. I have not regretted one dollar I spent at the Marigny Brasserie.

Another thing I learned: I hate seafood gumbo. Especially when I ordered chicken gumbo at THE gumbo restaurant in the French Quarter and the waiter mistakenly brings me seafood gumbo. And double especially when the surprise seafood gumbo is garnished with the claw of a crawfish.

Statement of Purpose


You know when you have some exciting, or at least exciting-to-you news, and you're thinking of sharing it with Person A--and you know that you've shared the news with someone, but can't remember if it was with Person A or Person B? And at the risk of repeating yourself, you decide not to share the information at all?

Okay, I don't know if this is a universal phenomenon, or just unique to my less than organized way of thinking. At any rate, I've realized that I am so overcautious about repeating myself, that I generally end up not sharing exciting-to-me news with anyone!!

And we come to my idea to start a blog. I've decided on a home where I can share exciting-to-me news with my friends and family, as well as share other goings-on in my life. For example, I think my first series of posts will be about my recent trip to New Orleans. Because, apparently, I've shared very little of that trip with anyone. I put my insomnia to good use last night and wrote the first part of the series, and will enter it later. So stay tuned!!

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