Finishing out the school year

It is Memorial Day here in the United States. This typically signals the end of school and the start of summer. As it is, the kids just have 8 more days of school – and they are busy as usual.

This week, Lexie has field day on Tuesday. This is 3 hours of outdoor (and a few indoor) activities to promote health and teamwork.

On Wednesday, the school is doing a panoramic picture of the whole fifth grade (about 100 students). When I was in elementary school, they didn’t do this. It was saved for graduating seniors of the high school. We will go ahead an order one even though the one we bought her brother is still in the cardboard roll it came in.

The day all fifth graders here wait for is Friday. It is the end of the school year pool party. The kids get to walk to the neighborhood pool (about 1/2 mile away) and swim and eat for 3 hours before walking back to school. I threw the one when Jase was in fifth grade.. This time I am attending but not running the show. It will be a nice change.

Jase at his Come Alive theatre (with Lexie) – May 2017

Next week, Lexie has her Come Alive theatre on Tuesday morning. Every fifth grader researches a historic figure. They prepare a speech and dress as that person. When someone comes by and presses the red button in front of them, the student “comes alive” and gives their spiel about their historic person’s life. Lexie is Sandra Day O’Connor – the first woman U.S. Supreme Court Justice. When Jase did this two years ago, he was author F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Wednesday of next week brings Jase’s only end of the year activity. He will have his own field day at the middle school. Sixth graders go out in the morning and seventh grade participates in the afternoon. The eighth graders are off at their own end of the school year pool party on that same day.

Image result for school is out

And then we come to the day every student (and teacher) has been counting down to – the last day of school. For Lexie this means a graduation ceremony as she leaves the elementary school. We will take her out of school that day after the ceremony.

After that it is just 10 weeks of Summer vacation before they will both be going to the same school again. I am sure the summer will fly by as will these last two weeks – or should I say 8 days – of school. It always does.

Dealing with chronic dry eyes

I’ve been wearing contacts or glasses for over 30 years. At each yearly checkup, there is little change to my prescription. But I am getting older, and last year finally started needing reading glasses in addition to using my contacts to sharpen things in the distance.

When I went to my last eye appointment in October, the doctor suggested trying progressive lenses for my glasses and trying monovision for my contacts so that I would not need the reading glasses. Monovision is where they correct one eye for distance and the other eye for reading. As strange as it sounds, it does work though the viewing of things in a distance is not as perfectly clear as it would be with regular contacts.

I adjusted to the new contacts and glasses, and everything was fine until in late February, I noticed a slight change in my vision. Sometime in the morning or evening, focusing with my contacts seemed harder when looking at the computer screen, but the problem wasn’t there for the rest of the day.

Over the next month, I noticed a slight change in my vision when looking at things in a distance. At first is wrote it off to still not being used to the not-as-crisp vision of monovision. But then I noticed that I had the same problem with my progressive-lensed glasses.

Finally, in April, I decided I needed to go to the eye doctor and talk to them about the change in vision. It seems that as many aging people (I am in my mid-forties), I have developed chronic dry eyes. I had not noticed them feeling dry. They weren’t scratchy or irritated. Sometimes they felt tired but certainly not dry. Now looking back at it that tired feeling may be them being dry.

But this isn’t the case of just having to put drops in my eyes regularly and everything is fine. My dry eyes have created corrosive patches on my cornea. The swelling from this is what had changed my vision and needed to be repaired so as not to get an infection in those open areas. (My vision had decreased so much by the time I went in that I could not see the computer screen with my glasses on. It was blurry but readable with my contacts in. I pretty much rarely wore my glasses in the weeks before my appointment.)

I went home from that appointment with a prescription for some drops that had antibiotics (for any possible infections), steroids (to reduce swelling) and a lubricant (for the dry eyes). I was also to put on a special warm mask to help produce lipids (the oily substance that moistens the eye). It was also suggested for me to not wear my contacts as to not introduce possible bacteria to my eyes.

Within a day or so of treatment, I noticed an improvement in my eyesight. After a week, I went back to the eye doctor having noticed about a 50-60% increase in improvement. Imagine my surprise when the doctor said that he saw no change in my eyes. Yes, my vision had improved but a close look with his instruments still showed swelling and dry patches – including one on my iris.

He discontinued the first set of eye drops and recommended another one to help with the swelling associated with dry eye disease. There are only 2 prescription eye drops for the long term that address my condition. Both are expensive – especially if not covered by insurance. He recommended Xiidra which works faster than Restasis. There is no generic of either medication.

Well, wouldn’t you know it, my health insurance doesn’t cover either one. And he wasn’t kidding when he said they were expensive. At my pharmacy, Xiidra was $609 without insurance. Yikes! And that is for a month’s supply. Dang.

After looking online and downloading several specials and coupons, I went to a different pharmacy where I thought I might be able to get the medication cheaper. Unfortunately, they were not able to combine all my coupons, but I was able to get the medicine for $290. (I figured I didn’t want to mess with my vision and eye health so I couldn’t let cost be a factor here.)

In addition to the new drops, I researched online things I could do to help with the chronic dry eye condition. They mentioned the warm compress/mask which I now try to do twice a day. Another suggestion was to drink more water. Done. And then there was the suggestion to blink more often. As we stare at the computer screen or our phones, we tend to not blink as often. I’ve been working on this too (as I look away from the computer screen and blink several times). And the last suggestion was to increase fatty acid intake, so I pulled out the fish oil capsules I had bought in the past but never faithfully taken and started taking those.

I have been with the regiment for a week and a half. My vision is better, but I won’t know if the dry spots have cleared up/improved until I go to the doctor later this week. I hope so but if not, he has a list of other treatments to try.

Unexpected events: Suicide and suicidal thoughts

Saturday afternoon, I found myself sitting in a church in downtown San Antonio. My husband and I were attending a memorial service for Mike – a fellow attorney my husband had known for the past fifteen years. As I sat on the pew, I was surprised that the family had the minister address the circumstances around his death.

Last Tuesday, Mike committed suicide. My husband who talked to Mike usually weekly was shocked. He knew Mike has been diagnosed with stage four prostate cancer last year but had no idea that he had recently gone off his medication. What no one knew was Mike – who was a 75-year-old grandfather – was also fighting depression. On the days before he committed suicide, he was planning a vacation with his wife. That day, she spoke to him on the phone, and he said he was leaving right then to come home. But he never did.

Instead of shying away from the facts, his family let everyone know how he died. And as I said, it was addressed at the memorial service. The minister addressed depression. Mike always seemed so happy and upbeat that many were shocked that he was depressed. He kept it well hidden from church friends, his clients and even his family.

Our neighbor’s father committed suicide two years ago. Again, it was unexpected. His wife spoke to him just moments before he took his life. Again, he had medical issues, but no one knew if his action was related to medication, or if he too was hiding his depression.

You just never know what is going on in someone else’s life – even when they always seem happy. Take my 11-year-old daughter Lexie, for example. She is most of the time very happy and outgoing. As with every pre-teen girl, there is always some issue with friends, but it all seemed typical to me. It was definitely a surprise when I received a call from the school counselor. Lexie had written a note to a friend that indicated she might harm herself. I needed to come pick her up.

In the note, twice Lexie mentioned she wanted to die. Now she may have been being over dramatic, but the school must take these things seriously. They recommended we get Lexie counseling and had Lexie sign an agreement not to harm herself. They gave me a list of counselors and sent us on her way.

At home Lexie denied that she wanted to harm herself. But because she has some self-esteem issues and some anxiety, we still felt it would be worth it for her to see a counselor. The problem with the school list of counselors is that they covered every range of problem from child abuse and rape to a host of other specialties that didn’t apply to Lexie. And many of the counselors were not located near us. So instead of using their list, I called Lexie’s pediatrician and got recommendations from them.

I’ll write more about Lexie and counseling in the upcoming weeks. But my point is that you never know what someone is thinking or how someone truly feels. People often say they are “fine” when they are not.

May is Short Story Month – #excerpt of THE SEARCH

It is a rainy May here in Texas. May is also Short Story Month so if you have to stay inside, check out some short stories this month.

Short story month began back in 2007 to showcase books that could be read in one sitting. Now there isn’t an official number of words that constitutes a short story but the general consensus online is that a short story is between 1000 and 7,500 words.

Hmmm…that makes my “short” story, The Search, which is a prequel to my The Elemental trilogy, not technically a “short” story. However, I call it a short story because 12,000 words is much less than my full length novels that have 80,000+ words.

So in honor of Short Story Month, let me share with you an excerpt of my “short” story The Search.

You can get The Search for FREE from Barnes & Noble, the Kobo StoreiTunes or Smashwords where it is available in all e-book formats.

You can also purchase it for 99 cents on Amazon.

The Search: Book Description

For over a thousand years, telepathic cats known as STACs have faithfully searched for those with power over the elements looking for the one foretold to save the Land. None have questioned their duty to fulfill this ancient task.

But when Tosh’s latest charge is murdered because of his Elemental powers, Tosh considers abandoning The Search. Will a glimpse of the future destruction be enough to change his mind?

The Search: Excerpt

The horse’s hooves thundered across the ground. Tosh dug his claws into the saddle as his back legs threatened to slip off. A firm hand pressed against his side, pulling him closer toward the young man behind him. Feeling safer, Tosh leaned out to see the terrain up ahead. He blinked his eyes in disbelief at what he saw.

You can’t be serious.

“We can make it,” Nolan said, speaking directly into his mind.

Tosh looked up at him, but Nolan wasn’t looking at the ravine. He was looking over his shoulder at the three men on horseback chasing them. Tosh caught a glimpse of a hefty man with a red beard leaning forward, urging his mount to run faster. He clearly was gaining on them. Tosh looked at the ravine before them.

It is too far for her to jump.

“Ah come on, Tosh. She’ll do just fine.”

Tosh sighed. Nolan rarely listened to any advice he gave him unless it coincided with something that Nolan already wanted to do. Knowing there was no way and no time to change the young man’s mind, Tosh curled up against him. He dug his claws deeper into the saddle and wrapped his tail protectively around his body. He felt Nolan lean forward as the mare’s hooves left the ground. He closed his eyes, counting the seconds until he felt the mare land on the other side. She stumbled slightly, and Tosh opened his eyes to see a small section of ground at the ravine’s edge fall.

Nolan reined in the mare and turned to look back at the ravine and the approaching men. Tosh glanced up and saw the look of concentration on his face. Suddenly, the ground shook. The edge of the ravine crumbled. Rocks and dirt fell until the gorge was three feet wider than it had been moments earlier. The men pursuing them pulled their mounts to a halt at the edge of the gorge.

“You won’t get away from us,” the redhead yelled.

Nolan raised his hand and waved before urging the mare toward the forest. Tosh glanced back to see the men swearing as they eyed the ravine which now was clearly too wide for them to jump. As they entered the forest, Nolan slowed the mare to a walk.

“That was amazing,” he said with a chuckle.

You’re lucky the mare made it.

“Oh, Tosh, you worry too much,” he said ruffling Tosh’s fur.

Tosh turned to glare at him and then proceeded to lick the fur back into the correct direction. We wouldn’t have had to find out if she could make it if you just learn to control your temper.  

Tosh didn’t really expect Nolan ever to learn to do that. He had been trying to drill that lesso

“I know. I know. And stop using my Elemental power in front of others,” Nolan said with a sigh. “Why shouldn’t I use it?”

I have never said you shouldn’t use it. You just need to decide when it is wise to do so.

“So using it to defend myself isn’t wise?”n into him since he was a headstrong teenager but to no avail.

Defending yourself is one thing. Picking fights is another. Tosh sighed. I guess this means we are moving again.

“But first we have to go pick up our belongings.”

They circled back toward the town. When they entered it an hour later, Tosh kept an eye out for the men, but the streets were nearly empty. No one paid them any attention as Nolan stopped before the boarding house where they had been staying. Tosh remained on the mare as Nolan ran upstairs to gather their things. Within minutes, the young man had returned, and they were on their way out of town.