Dec 6, 2015: Ants and Eyes

Our week was full of merriment and love and joy for the Christmas season! Hot cocoa and caroling! Snuggles by the fire! Soft Christmas music playing on the radio while we roasted chestnuts over an open fire and baked homemade gingerbread men, which are always easy to roll out and cut out with cookie cutters without amputating a limb (or three). And of course, they were perfectly decorated by my angelic children, who were stellar listeners and did everything I asked!

Yeah, right. Actually, our week was filled with hundreds (thousands??) of unwanted visitors, a four-hour doctor visit, and an icky eyeball.

First it was the ants. Oh, the ants. Ants everywhere. On Thanksgiving, there were a few crumbs on the floor…as sometimes happens after a big holiday. And so, the ants came to visit. No problem, right? We put out a few traps, cleaned up all the crumbs, and made sure any food in the pantries was sealed. Usually, that solves the problem.

But oh no…these were persistent ants! They kept coming back. More and more and more! It was a total infestation of our kitchen. Little boogers were stubborn!

The ant traps take a few days to really work (the idea being that the ants take the bait back to their nest and kill all of their little ant pals who are hanging out back in the ant ’hood), so it wasn’t like I thought they’d be gone in one day, but they were relentless. I will spare you the pictures of the infestation, because it was just gross. After a couple of days, I called our exterminator (who comes out four times a year to spray) and scheduled an emergency visit. And so I’d like to tell you that the little jerks are finally gone, but no…they keep coming back. Though far fewer now, thank goodness. But two nights ago, there was literally one crumb on the counter that we missed when we were cleaning the kitchen, and the next morning there were dozens of ants on it.

I wonder if this is because our house had been neglected for so long before we bought it. I’ve dealt with ant problems pretty much everywhere I’ve lived, and they’ve never been anywhere near as relentless as we have in this house. Hmmm, who knows? They’re annoying little jerks, though.

On Wednesday morning, I got to escape our ant-infested house to do two charity gigs. One was in San Francisco and the other was in Oakland, so I rode BART into SF early in the morning, spoke at the U.S. Passport Agency (they’re a funny bunch! I had a good time at that one!), then rode BART back across the Bay to Oakland, where I spoke at the Social Security office (they were a nice bunch, too—and gave me a Starbucks card for my trouble!). The beautiful thing about this is that I had an hour to kill between the two gigs, after riding back to Oakland, so I got myself a coffee, sat outside in the sunny morning, and read a book on my phone for an hour. It was lovely! Even though I looked slightly nutty because it was a funny book and I kept laughing out loud while sitting all by myself.

In this nice little hour, I also called our medical group and made an appointment with an ophthalmologist for in the early afternoon. I figured I could wrap up my Oakland gig and then head to the eye doctor. My eye had suddenly become tender to the touch the night before, and I had woken Wednesday morning with it even more tender and also leaking nonstop. Having had an ulcer on my cornea twenty years before, I guessed it was the same thing. It didn’t hurt as bad, but it was painful, tearing everywhere, and progressively getting worse as the morning went on. By the time I rode BART back to my stop after my Oakland gig, I had to keep my head down and my eye shaded because the light outside the train was too painful.

I stopped and got a sandwich, then headed to the doctor. Only to find out that the medical group had changed my appointment time without telling me. Sigh…okay. I sat around for 90 minutes waiting for my new appointment. In the semi-dim waiting room, at least the light wasn’t as painful, and I could keep reading my book.

As it turns out, it wasn’t a corneal ulcer this time. Instead, it’s some weird inflammation of the white part of the eye called scleritis. I had never heard of it before, so of course I Googled it. That was not my smartest move, because it turns out that in more than half of the cases, scleritis is actually a symptom of an underlying connective-tissue disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus. And this is why one should not consult Dr. Google. And I know that, yet I do it anyway.

The ophthalmologist (the same one I waited 90 minutes for) was actually quite rude to me, so I didn’t ask him much about scleritis. Maybe I should have, as perhaps he would’ve been more positive than good old Dr. Google. Anyway, he sent me on my way with a prescription for steroid eye drops and prescription-strength anti-inflammatory painkillers.

By this point my eye was really hurting, so I headed over to the pharmacy where he had called in the prescription and waited 20 minutes in the very long line…only to find out that he had called in the prescription incorrectly, so I would need to take a seat and wait another 20-25 minutes while they redid it. Except that 20-25 minutes ended up being over an hour, at which point I finally just went up and said, “You haven’t called me yet, but this has got to be ready by now, and my eye really hurts! Can I please have my prescription?!” As it turns out, they had just finished filling the prescription, and I finally got to leave…four hours after getting to the darn medical offices.

On the bright side, my eye felt a good deal better after the first dose of the medications, and now, four days later, it feels back to normal. I guess I shall just wait and see whether it recurs. If it recurs, I guess I’ll talk to my regular (non-jerk) doctor to see whether I need to look into the possible “underlying causes.” If it doesn’t recur, then I shall just bury my head in the sand and hope it was a one-off thing. One thing’s for sure—if I need to go back to the ophthalmologist, it will not be that one. He actually did email me a half-assed apology, which ought to tell you that he was indeed rude—I’m not accustomed to getting apology emails from doctors. But there are plenty of other eye doctors with our group, and I’ll certainly request a different one next time. I was all prepared to like him because he’s an Eagle Scout, like Chris, but I assume he didn’t earn any merit badges for being a nice person. Harrumph.

So anyway, the week wasn’t filled with Christmas festivities—it was filled with ants and me walking around wincing for five minutes after every dose of eyedrops (which hurt for the first several days—and I had to put them in four times a day!). But, we did have a nice, semi-festive weekend. On Saturday we just took the boys for a pizza lunch and to the Nut Tree, which has a little train and a carousel and a couple of teeter-totters and a merry-go-round, but on Sunday we did something Christmas-y—we attended Down Syndrome Connection’s annual holiday party! It is always a lot of fun, and this year Sam even participated in the bell choir! He loved ringing his bell, although of course he didn’t know to ring it at the appropriate cued time—he just rang it all the time, with great gusto. (He wasn’t alone on that!) And as usual, he did not enjoy his moments with Santa. That’s three years and counting! Sam is not a fan of the man in the red suit.

Also, a little tip for you all, before I sign off for the week: If you are like me, and you have years of digital photos stored but not printed, Snapfish has a solution! (Sheesh, I sound like an advertisement. I promise, Snapfish did not sponsor this post.) Every year I say that I’m going to take the best photos of the year and compile them into a printed album. Because every year I worry that my hard drives will be corrupted and I’ll lose those thousands of digital images I take. (And yes, I take a couple of thousand a year—and that’s just the usable ones!) But every year, I run out of time.

This year, I made time. I have spent the past couple of weeks uploading eight years of photos to Snapfish. Now they’re all uploaded, and I went back through and deleted the ones I did not want in printed albums. (Like the ones of a suspicious mole that I sent to my dermatologist a couple of years ago. I don’t know how those ended up uploaded, but they definitely do not need to be in our family albums!)

And then here’s the great part: Snapfish has this “autofill” option where you can select an album of your digital photos, and they will auto-compile it into a printed photo book for you. You can then preview the book and change the layout as you like, but you don’t have to spend hours sequencing and dragging every image onto every page. They do it all for you, and then you just tweak it as you like! So easy!!

I was surprised to see that even though I hadn’t uploaded the photos sequentially (in fact, for some years I had uploaded them in reverse sequential order), Snapfish automatically sequenced them correctly and grouped like pictures together. So I created an album for each year, and each year’s album automatically started with photos taken early in the year and progressed to, at the end, pictures taken around Christmas. And when there was a group of photos that had been taken the same day, Snapfish automatically clustered them on a particular page, with surprising accuracy! I don’t know what sort of algorithm they use on their photo book–creation site, but I was impressed! There were a few places where I had to tweak things, but for the most part it was very accurate. I’m guessing my digital images actually have the dates they were taken embedded in the file’s metadata, and that’s how Snapfish was able to automatically sequence them correctly. Whatever the case, it’s very cool.

Right now, Snapfish is doing 50% off photo books plus 70% off orders of more than $200…which means I got more than $500 worth of photo books for less than $100. Wahoo! Unfortunately, I think that 70% off sale ends tonight, so alas you probably can’t take advantage of it. But perhaps they’ll run it again!

I can’t yet speak to the quality of the books, since I’ve just finished the project today, but hopefully it will be reasonable. Mostly, I just want to make sure I have a hard copy of all those pictures I’ve been posting on the blog for the past eight years! (Well, the best ones, anyway. I had about 1,400 from each year, and I tried to whittle it down to the best 200–400 for each year.)

Anyway, there’s your tip for the week! We have nothing planned for next week, but hopefully whatever we do will not involve ants and/or inflamed eyeballs!

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