Category Archives: self betterment

I Could Be a Sniper

I skipped through the front doors of the Cleveland Clinic’s Cole Eye Institute for my nine month post-LASIK follow-up appointment yesterday.

I’ve been skipping a lot since my eyesight was restored to its pre-pubescent acuity last June. I have also been playing a game called, “Who Can Read the Road Sign First, Suckers?” when driving around with the kids, and executing spontaneous cartwheels because I no longer have to worry about my glasses falling off in mid turn. Next up: target practice.

Despite shamelessly fabricating answers during the letter chart reading portion of the exam (they all looked the same), I passed with flying colors and my corrected vision was deemed “20/20.”

“Do you have any questions before you go?” Dr. D. asked me.

“As a matter of fact, I do,” I said, unfurling the scroll on which I had penned them. “First of all, I’ve developed an uncontrollable twitch under my left eyelid. It’s starting to get annoying because people think I’m making passes at them” I said, winking at the Doctor.

“I’m sorry, but I can’t claim responsibility for your ocular spasms” he responded amiably. “My wife has that, too. Could be due to stress.”

“Okay” I said, glancing at my list, “Can I go back to rubbing my eyes vigorously? I have been restraining from this practice for fear of dislodging my corneal flap, but since my eyes are completely healed now, I was wondering if I could really go to town up in there?”

“Well, we never recommend that anyone ‘go to town’ as you said, with the eye rubbing, but I will say that it would take a lot of pressure for you to actually dislodge your flap. In all my years of performing this surgery, I’ve only ever had one patient who damaged her flap, and that was because someone banged a car door into it.”

“Holy shit.”

“Don’t be too alarmed. She’s fine now – her vision is back to 20/20. The presence of the flap was actually helpful to us in repairing the damage.”

“Saved by the flap!”

“In a manner of speaking, yes.”

“OK, then, no rubbing. But what about makeup? Do I have your permission to go Tammy Faye Bakker on the eye shadow?”

“Just make sure you are using clean applicators and be careful.”

“Let’s say I was putting on mascara, and the wand slipped, stabbing me directly in the flap. What would happen to me?”

“You would probably scratch your cornea and it would be treated in the same way as a corneal scratch on any other eye patient would be.”

“But I wouldn’t go blind?”

“No. You would need to call us as soon as possible so that we could treat you, though.”

“How about racquetball? Can I play racquetball?”

“Just wear protective eye gear.”

“And swimming? Can I open my eyes underwater in the pool?”

“Sure. It might be a bit uncomfortable, as it is for the general population. I’d recommend wearing goggles if you plan to spend a lot of time with your eyes open in chlorinated water.”

“I probably won’t. I don’t like to get my head wet. But what about scuba diving? Is that something I could technically do?”

“Are you planning on going scuba diving?”

“No.”

“Okay, Mrs. Rama.” (rising to leave and extending his hand for a shake) “I think you’re all set!”

“When should I make my next appointment, Dr. D.?”

“You don’t need to come back here.”

Really?”

“Yes. Just call me if you have a problem.”

“Any problem at all? What if-”

“It’s been a pleasure treating you, Mrs. Rama!” (showing me the door) “Good day now.”

“OK, then! Goodbye! Thanks for the new eyeballs!”

And with that, I waltzed out of the eye clinic with a clean bill of health.

But I forgot to ask if it would be OK to get permanent makeup tattooed on my lids. It was the last item on my list.

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Fridays with Lorrie

In my violin teacher’s living room this morning, I was fumbling through a rhythm exercise I had executed perfectly just hours before in the privacy of my home.

“I want you to know” I said, “That I sound so much better when I’m practicing by myself and doing it backwards. But then I come over here, and by the time you’ve corrected my hand position and bow hold and reminded me to relax my neck, everything just goes to pot!” I said, by way of a joke.

My teacher considered this, but did not let it roll. “I will always be correcting you,” she said. “That is my job. You can’t come in here, no matter how hard you’ve been practicing, and expect to play perfectly. It’s not like one day you’ll show up and I’ll say, ‘That’s it! You’re done! On to the symphony with you!’ There is always room for improvement, and I would be doing you a disservice if I didn’t point that out.”

I was dying to explain myself further, to stress the fact that I wasn’t expecting perfection, I only wanted her to know that I play much better when she’s not breathing down my neck. But if I’m honest, in my heart of hearts I am always sort of hoping that one day she’ll say, “You know . . . you have real talent!

But she continued: “Being so hard on yourself is no way to live. When you expect perfection of yourself, it spills over into your relationships with others. You expect them to be perfect, too. And no one wants that.”

She had imparted this wisdom with no hint of malice or judgment, but still my jaw dropped to the floor. Was my violin teacher lecturing me about personal relationships? The last time anyone besides my mother had offered up unsolicited advice was in 1997, when a close friend counseled me to quit the job I hated or stop bitching about it, already.

And then my teacher brought up my old nemesis, the adorable eight-year-old violin student.

“I think I’ve mentioned him to you before” she said. “He can barely get through one measure without me adjusting something, but do you know what he does? He just laughs, shrugs, gives me the cutest little impish look, and keeps on going! He is totally unfazed! And SO JOYFUL! I wish we could all be more like him!” she said, sunbeams shooting out of her ears and reflecting off her dangly silver zen earrings.

And I was like, “Is he also writing you a weekly check for $25 directly out of his allowance?” but I kept that thought to myself. Because what she said had really struck a chord with me. Especially the part about perfectionists demanding that others be perfect, too.

I thought about my kids. And my husband. And everyone else who had let me down at any point in my life for coming up short in the Department of Excellence and Precision.

How could my teacher have read my personality so accurately?  Had she been at our breakfast table when I was yelling at the kids for smearing Nutella all over their white school shirts first thing this morning? Was she a fly on the wall when I was having an aneurysm because of the way my husband had loaded the dishwasher? Was she there when I fired that one tech writer who did sloppy work? Or when I told my study abroad housemate in France that no one could understand him because his accent was so bad?

My violin teacher has seen right through me, and I think she’s on to something. While I have to say that being neurotic has served me well in life in many ways, I don’t know that I would want to live with me, or have me for a mother.

So. I went in for a violin lesson today, but left with a sparkly nugget of zen wisdom.

And I think I’ll keep it.

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It’s Not Like I’m Garfield

Rimarama: “You know what? I am SO GLAD I signed up for this Erma Bombeck writers workshop! I think it will be really good for me.”

P-Dawg: “Oh?”

Rimarama: “Yeah! I mean, I’m sure that BlogHer would be fun, but I feel like I’ll get a lot more out of this from a writing standpoint, you know what I mean? I’ve always wanted to hone my humor writing skills. Plus, I get to meet KC.”

P-Dawg: “It’s funny, when I think of “humor writing,”, I never think of you.”

Rimarama: “What are you saying?”

P-Dawg: “I don’t know.”

Rimarama: “You don’t find me the least bit entertaining?”

P-Dawg:

Rimarama:

P-Dawg: “It’s just that when I think of a humor writer, I think of somebody like Lewis Black, you know? Someone whose all crass and crotchety.”

Rimarama: “Are you telling me you’ve never once laughed at anything I wrote?”

P-Dawg: “I -“

Rimarama: “Have you even chuckled inwardly?”

P-Dawg: “I’ve chuckled inwardly.”

Rimarama: “‘What about, “guffawed?’ Have you ever guffawed?”

P-Dawg: “Well . . . it’s not like you’re Garfield.”

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Fiddling Around

So far, the best part about taking violin lessons is waltzing around town carrying a violin case and looking vaguely musical. The actual “learning how to play” bit is proving to be quite a challenge.

Did I listen when the first potential teacher I called, chuckling slightly under her breath, suggested I try cello or piano instead? Was I paying attention when she confided that playing violin is actually hard physical work? That proper form must be mastered before any real music making can begin? Did I pay heed when she explained that the hands of children who start playing at a very young age actually grow differently to accommodate the various string positions? That few adults have the time and stamina to take on the commitment that is violin?

I did not. I arched my brow and did the Z-snap. “Bring it, sistah!”

And that’s how I ended up on a tree-lined street with ivy clad Tudor style houses last Friday, knocking on her door for my first ever lesson, a flimsy invisible fence separating me from the two pissed off attack dogs who were obviously trained to scare the crap out of housewives turned wanna be violinists.

The first thing I learned is that the violin is a high maintenance kind of gal – there’ s a lot of rosin polishing, string tightening, and chin rest adjusting before one can even begin to think about making music. And when your instrument is finally ready (*snort*), it’s time to get in play position.

But don’t think you can hold the bow any which way and drag it across the stings willy-nilly, readers. The violin is a demanding luv-ah, and there’s a special place in hell for players who don’t practice good bow hold. Of course, once your gnarled thirty-six year old digits are finally in position, you must go directly to the nearest fire station to make sure you’ve installed yourself correctly. Then and only then can you begin to play. One note – the “A.”

But you mustn’t flap your arms all over tarnation like some kind of freak show carnival fiddler. Instead, move your forearm back and forth, as though opening a door – your elbow should remain almost stationery. There! Just like that. Now make sure the horsehair hits the string at an angle, like so, otherwise it sounds like you’re skinning a cat. Pretty hard, eh? Try to do all this with a “light touch,” even though you’re concentrating so hard that your knuckles are turning bone white and it’s everything you can do to hold in that fart. Now you’re ready to play.

Despite not being especially supportive of my non-traditional student status, I think my teacher is pretty cool. She drinks tea, has a dry sense of humor and a little zen rock garden in her music room. She also makes you do yoga stretches before each lesson, which seems to run counter to the attack dogs, but who am I to question the mysterious violin subculture?

My only assignment for the next week is to practice holding the bow and striking the “A” string using proper form. If I get really good at playing the “A,” I’m allowed to try another note, but I must not go nuts with it. My lesson was only a few days ago, and already I’m having trouble re-enacting the bow hold and arm movements my teacher showed me. Despite watching countless instructional clips on Utube and poring over the diagrams in my Level One Suzuki book, I feel like I’m just now getting acquainted with my opposable thumb.

Readers, it looks as though I’ve met my match. She’s fifteen inches tall and weighs about a pound.

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