Dry eyes, blurry eyes, and novels

Eyes

I recently experienced a sudden increase in blurriness with my normal computer glasses. It was hard to see my computer screens. This was distressing, given that my livelihood is all about looking at computer screens. I went to the eye doctor today because I thought I might need a new prescription, and it turns out I do not; a medication I take causes my vision to blur. Lesson learned: if you see an eye doctor, tell them about all your medications.

I also have dry eyes. It turns out that the best treatment for dry eyes is warm compresses! I use a thing called Thermalon which I heat up for 20 seconds in the microwave and then wear over my eyes for five minutes at a time. Apparently I’m supposed to do this 2-3 times a day, and never skip, else my eye’s oil glands will dry up and die. Spooky! I am told that these oil glands are super important for keeping the eyes moist and happy. Supposedly a warm wet (clean) washcloth over the eyes will do a similar job. I’d been skipping the compress treatment because I didn’t notice any difference, but apparently it’s a long-haul treatment that only improves things over many days of  use. Lesson learned: don’t skip a treatment just because you don’t feel an immediate benefit.

For drops, I use Refresh Optive Mega-3 Eye Drops Preservative Free. They are quite magical. I use them twice a day but you can use them a thousand times a day if you want.

In conclusion: Listen to your eye doctor. Don’t stare at a computer for too long. Take breaks. Look into the distance. Blink frequently! If you are in the Camberville region of Boston, I highly recommend this office: https://www.myeyescambridge.com/

Novels

In non-eye-related-news (or possibly eye related; I spend way too much time looking at computers) I have been absent on this blog because I have been working feverishly on my novel(s). If you are interested in becoming a beta reader and giving me feedback, please get in touch! I have two novels:

  • Glue, a coming of age story about a girl and her missing father & broken family
  • The Trick, a bisexual vampire love story with time travel

What counts as cold?

I took this photo several years ago when I lived in San Francisco

The photo features a bus passing by the Embarcadero neighborhood. At the time of taking the photo I thought it was incredibly cold. I wore gloves and a hat and couldn’t warm up. I was not quite miserable, but approaching. It was windy.

Now that I live in the Boston area I have a completely different attitude about cold. Do I need to wear the thick puffy long coat, or the thicker and even warmer puffy long coat? Do I need to wear the slush-proof boots, or will regular boots suffice? Will the subway station be flooded? Will the sidewalks be passable? Will I be stuck in a blizzard if I go into the office? Checking weather has more significant implications on my routine.

Since moving to Boston I have developed a winter uniform

When I first moved here I wanted to be fashionable in the winter. I thought puffy coats were silly-looking and made everyone look shapeless. Now, I think they are fantastic. The technology for keeping out the cold is amazing.

My winter uniform:

  • Standard long black puffy coat (what everyone wears)
  • Blazer and scarf
  • Fleece leggings and skirt
  • Knee-high boots (or sometimes Uggs)
  • Leather gloves
  • No hat unless it’s really cold, because my headphones double as earmuffs and I keep the hood up
  • A hat and a hood if it’s really cold

It’s a tricky balance to wear something outside that will be suitable for the office. I tried wearing pants because I thought they’d be more suitable for snowy weather, but they required a belt and were generally uncomfortable. I have been a no-pants person for many years now and I can’t go back.

What’s your winter uniform?

Convergence Insufficiency

Self portrait of Kristen squinting in the sun

After several months of unexplained eye pain and a gazillion eye exams, I finally got a diagnosis: Convergence Insufficiency. My eyes diverge a little and I get pain and headaches when I try to focus on a computer or anything close up. I must have looked up a million articles about “pain on reading” or “it hurts to read”. I’m pretty confident all those people are having binocular vision problems just like me.

I went to another optometrist to sign up for “vision therapy” to train my eyes to focus up close, and he prescribed me prism glasses. The prism glasses shift the images I see so that they line up correctly without forcing my eyes to do so much work. The pain I was experiencing was muscle pain from eyes trying really hard to line themselves up.

The glasses do the trick! It’s magical!

This is all really good news. I’m incredibly glad to have a diagnosis and solution for my problem, because let me tell you, “avoid computers” was bumming me out, big time. I thought my days of computering were over. I had just started writing a novel and it killed me to not be able to work on it.

The lesson I learned is: Doctors grasp at answers and are often ignorant outside of their specialty. A headache specialist will assume you have headaches.

Still, someone should have done a binocular workup. My problem was easily diagnosed with a short, non-invasive, inexpensive test. I had had thousands of dollars worth of tests, including a CT scan and a neuro-opthalmology exam, before anyone thought to do the binocular test. I’m a little peeved at that, but, there’s no point in hanging onto irritation. I’m grateful for good health insurance. Onward and upward, with a life filled with reading.

In conclusion: Get your eyes examined yearly. Get a binocular workup if you have mysterious unexplained eye strain. If you work on a computer, follow the 20–20–20 rule: Look away, every minutes or so, at something in the distance, for about 20 seconds. I am going to get software to remind me to do this. Don’t forget to blink!

Vacations and happiness

I have spent a lot of time thinking about happiness. A few years ago I visited Kauai, Hawaii on a vacation with a boyfriend. I was pleased with life: happy to be in a relationship, happy to travel with someone, and happy to be away from the office. The photo below shows my vacation strategy.

  • Take photos of every rainbow
  • Smile like a goof
  • Wear tacky, comfortable Hawaiian shirts
  • Let my hair fly in every direction

Kristen on vacation in Hawaii.

Can happiness ever be a constant, or is it just one of those things that comes and goes? Can I be happy in the office, working, under a deadline? Can I be happy when I’m old and gray? Do I need a vacation, with rainbows and balmy weather, to be happy? Do I need the wind in my hair and the sun in my eyes?

I have more questions than answers, but I found this book on the subject by Alex Korb to be fascinating and insightful:
https://www.amazon.com/Upward-Spiral-Neuroscience-Reverse-Depression/dp/1626251207

This shorter (and free) article does a mostly good job of summarizing:
http://time.com/4042834/neuroscience-happy-rituals/

According to the Time article, there are four habits that will improve happiness: be thankful; label emotions; make decisions; and optimize touch.

Being thankful and expressing gratitude seems both the easiest, and the most surprising. I’m enthusiastic to do this; you may seem posts expressing what I’m grateful for in my blog.

Labelling emotions also seems easy. Hangry. Done! If I had a dollar for every time hunger ruined my mood, I’d be a millionaire. I recently started carrying around Clif bars. Oatmeal raisin walnut is my jam.

Decisions are a little harder. I have decided I want to publish a novel. I even have 46,000 words written. But getting it published is something else entirely. That task is not 100% within my control. I’m working on breaking it down into achievable steps that are within my control.

Touch also seems a bit out of one’s control, but okay sure, I’ll make sure to get it where I can. Firm handshakes, enthusiastic hugs, massages, the works.

The article seems to overlook two key ideas that were prominent in Alex Korb’s book: get good sleep, and exercise. Why didn’t the article highlight these two items? Is it because sleeping well and exercising are notoriously pesky habits to achieve? Speaking as an insomniac who avoids the gym, I think it’s harder to sell sleep and exercise. Regardless, I am going to try all the ideas from the book, including the hard ones.

Happiness takes work. Though we can’t be happy all the time, and circumstances are what they are, I think choices have a large influence. Happiness is not an island vacation. It’s a journey of an entirely different sort.

Extra-kick mushroom asparagus curry soup

The hexadecimal color of today’s mushroom asparagus curry soup is #5e2300.

Spicy, but you can handle it.

Ingredients:

  1. Maybe 1 cup of water
  2. Maybe 1/3 cup of soy sauce
  3. Maybe 1/2 cup of veggie broth
  4. Maybe 1/2 cup of chicken broth
  5. About 2/3 a container of white button mushrooms
  6. Green onion bunch – I could’ve used two bunches
  7. A handful of bean sprouts
  8. Two tablespoons of red curry paste
  9. One teaspoon of chili oil
  10. Two tablespoons of crushed garlic
  11. Asparagus bunch
  12. 2 baby bok choy, 3 if you feel like it
  13. A tablespoon of salt

Steps to reproduce:

  1. Start a medium heat on the water.
  2. Add broth parts.
  3. Shake in some soy sauce. Soup’s a little brown at this point.
  4. Toss in the bean sprouts.
  5. Toss in the mushrooms (I buy them pre-sliced, but slice ’em if you prefer).
  6. Slice up the green onions and toss them in. I probably could’ve used two bunches.
  7. I use crushed garlic from a jar. Add two tablespoons from a jar, or 4 crushed cloves.
  8. Add two tablespoons of red curry paste and one teaspoon of chili oil.
  9. Soup’s reddish brown at this point! And nearly to a boil.
  10. While that’s working its way to a boil, chop the asparagus bunch in three parts. Toss in all the pieces *except* for the heads.
  11. Quickly chop the bok choy. Toss the white parts in, save the leaves for last.
  12. TASTE SOUP RIGOROUSLY! But be careful, it has kick. Add more soy sauce & water if it’s too spicy; add more chili oil if you want more kick.
  13. Add about a tablespoon of salt (or skip this step – YMMV).
  14. I prefer a balance with more curry and only a tiny bit of chili oil.
  15. At the very last minute, throw in the bok choy leaves and the heads of the asparagus.
  16. Boil it for maybe two more minutes.

TAH DAH!

This will serve two fairly hungry people. Or one insane lady.

The secret to feet happiness

So lately I’ve been running more and more frequently, most often with a coworker (Edwina) but also with a friend (@shoutingboy) who runs with Team in Training. In order to get past three miles without blisters, I needed a better set of socks/shoes/inserts.

Here’s the new formula:

  • WrightSock Anti Blister Double Layer Coolmesh Quarter Sock
  • Tuli’s Heavy Duty Heel Cup (great if you have flat feet or fallen arches)
  • New Balance 587B sneakers (designed for flat feet/pronating feet)
  • Russel Athletic sweatpants (this doesn’t help the feet, but they do make good jogging pants)

So far so good!

Last Saturday I ran 3.6 miles with no issues, 3 again on Monday, 3 again on Tuesday.