Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Laser Eye Center of Northern Colorado.

This review is long overdue, but the week after I had surgery, I got very ill, which kept me down and out for over 40 days. I am finally feeling better, and catching up on things, so here is my story.

I have hated wearing glasses for a very long time. I got my first pair in the 5th grade (1985), and over the years I had plastic frames, wire frames, lenses that changed to sunglasses outdoors, and then contacts towards the end of high school as my eyes finally stopped changing drastically every year.  I did not have much problem with my contacts over the years, but they were a hassle. I couldn't go swimming unless I took them out, and I couldn't see ANYTHING without them, not even my friends in the pool. I never knew when one would fall out or get dirty, so I always had to carry a kit with me with extra lenses and solution. Traveling involved even more extra pairs, because I'd be lost if I needed to replace more than one of each on a trip. All in all, I hated it.

In 2008, I had decided that I would have Lasik surgery. I went through all of the preliminary testing and even had my surgery date selected, but then as life does, things happened and it got put on the back burner indefinitely. I'm not even sure why I forgot about it so long, probably only that I then had a family to spend money on and not just me, so it was not a priority. I continued to wear contacts until I moved to Wyoming in 2013, and then I discovered the never ending wind that was really hard on my eyes. They were always dry and uncomfortable, so I stopped wearing contacts and went back to glasses. This was good financially, but had its own problems, because the sun is almost always glaring down on you here, I had to start wearing hats or squint all the time, which was not ideal.

I decided that the second my house in Virginia sold I would schedule an appointment for Lasik surgery. On December 1, 2016 the house sold, and I had an appointment for my first evaluation and testing before Christmas. Everything looked healthy, I really liked the facility and their staff, and my surgery was scheduled for January 26, 2017. The Eye Center of Northern Colorado in Loveland was fantastic. They went over the procedure, what to expect, costs and what was included. They made me appointments here in Laramie for some of my pre and post exams so that I did not have to drive two hours each way more than necessary.

On January 26th I drove to Fort Collins, Colorado and checked Georgia into her boarding facility, and then continued on to the Fairfield Inn and Suites in Loveland, which offered a discount to Laser Eye Center patients, and was quite close to both food and the surgery center. I had a quick lunch nearby, and then I got an Uber from the hotel to the surgery center, arriving quite early, but I didn't want to risk being late. I checked in and paid my fee, and they asked what kind of music I liked. I requested country, and if an artist pick was possible, Keith Urban. The ladies were so calm and comforting while I waited, and they keep a nice selection of drinks and snacks for you while you wait. They were constantly checking on me to make sure I was comfortable, and answer any questions.

As the patient before me went in, I was instructed to take my Valium and then they took me back to a massage chair in a dark and quiet room. When it was my turn, Dr Foster met me in the surgery suite, where I was quite pleased that Keith was practically blaring from the sound system. After I had my eyes examined, I got on the bed. They went over everything as it was happening, and I would say that I was done in less than ten minutes. Each eye's procedure takes only seconds, but it felt longer. One eye was more uncomfortable than the other, but nothing was ever actually painful. When it was done they helped me sit up, and I could see! It was a bit foggy, but I could see the faces of everyone, and I had not been able to do that in so very long. Dr Foster checked my eyes again and then I went to another room where Peggy went over my instructions and put my eye shields on for me. At that point I was ready to go, but since I had to get my Uber, she helped me with my phone and then had me sit  and wait the six minutes until it arrived. I could see so much, and it was a big overwhelming, but with the eye shields on it was a little hard to focus on my phone, so they walked me out to the car and sent me on my way.

Riding back to the hotel was sort of like an out of body experience. The driver was really nice and asked what I'd had done, because clearly I looked like a bug monster at this point, with my eye shields taped on and sunglasses over them. Even with my required sunglasses over my shields, it was very bright, and a bit overwhelming that I could see so much. The driver kept asking me if I could read this or read that as we drove, and that really helped distract me, which was good. I got checked into the hotel and went up to sleep, which is what the doctor ordered. I woke up several hours later, and was famished. I was not allowed to drive the rest of the day, so I walked across the parking lot to the IHOP for a sandwich. I got a few stares when people saw me in my eye shields, but I did not care.

Friday morning I got up early and drove back to the surgery center for my 7:30am appointment. When it was my turn, Dr Foster did his exam, and I said everything looked great. I had 20/15 vision. Amazing. I went from about 20/400 to 20/15 in seconds.

For the first week I had to sleep in my eye shields to make sure that I didn't accidentally rub my eyes, which was a big no no until they'd healed. I had eye drops to use four times a day and moisturizing drops to use as often as I needed, which was about once an hour while I was awake. At home I was fine, but the first few days at work I wore my sunglasses inside, as the fluorescent lighting was harsh and dazzled me quite a bit. On day seven I had a check up with Dr Poteet here in Laramie and everything looked goo. I also had a 30 day check up, and this week I go to Dr Foster for my two month check up.

My eyes have continued to do well, and I only occasionally have to use the moisturizing drops. Sometimes at the end of the day I think to myself "I really need to take out my contacts" because they are feeling a little dry, and then I remember that I don't have contacts, and I put in some drops and everything is alright again.

A big part of me wishes that I'd had this surgery years ago, but another part of me is glad that I waited until now, because the technology has come so far, and I have benefited from that. The end result has been incredible, and I am just thankful that I was able to have the procedure done. To anyone that is scared or worried, just do it. I look forward to my trips this year where I only need to take my moisturizing drops, not the myriad bottles and supplies I had before. I look forward to going to Hawaii next year and being able to snorkel and swim. I look forward to not having my glasses fog up in the cold or have rain completely obscure my vision when caught in a storm. I am so happy for having had this surgery, and I am so grateful for the wonderful care I got from the team, especially Peggy, who was assigned to me at my first introductory meeting and was there with me before and after my procedure.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

A Dog's Purpose: A Review.

I had been wanting to see A Dog's Purpose since I first saw the trailer before Christmas. I have not read the book, because I have a hard time reading sad animal books. The movies are easier because I can just sit and cry if I need to. Reading is hard when you're crying, which is why I have yet to get past page one of The Art of Racing in the Rain.

Anyway, I decided today that I would see A Dog's Purpose. The theatre had more people in it than I usually have in the movies I've gone to here in town, and I was surprised by the number of children, considering this was a movie with a dog that dies over and over.

There are no spoilers, this detailed description is in the first five minutes, so that doesn't count as spoilers.

So, the film starts with a puppy being born. Cute, right? Until it gets picked up by animal control and euthanized (you don't actually see that part). Then his spirit goes into a puppy at a puppy mill. The puppy is overlooked, but escapes and is picked up by two guys that decide to sell it. They take him, but leave him in their truck where he starts to die of heat stroke. This is where the main character finds him, and his heroic mother opens breaks the window and they take him home, NOT THE VET, and lay him on the ground until he comes around. At this point I'm not loving the movie, to be honest.

After this, the movie improves greatly. It alternates between heartwarming, heartbreaking, and laugh out loud funny. Each different version of the dog's life is touching, but sad at times, because not all of his lives are as happy as his life with his boy was. I cried each time he died, which was four times in total. The ending was not a surprise, because the trailer gave it away, but it was touching how it happened.

While it was a decent film, and poignant, it's not one that I will ever feel the need to watch again, most likely. I would probably recommend it animal lovers. I overheard several little girls say how much they liked it when it was over as they were leaving the theatre, which surprised me a little as it was a slow mosey of a drama, and not what I would imagine kids would enjoy. 

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Twenty One.

My daughter turned 21 on February 1st.

We Skyped the weekend before, and we Facebook messaged on the day of. We have a Skype date in a few weeks. But it's not the same. Due to our circumstances we'll always be apart. Even if money were no issue, we will never be able to be in the same country for more than six months at a time. It's a heartbreaking fact, as one never knows the future, or how long we'll have together.

Today was a pretty crappy day. There was no one specific thing, just a bunch of little things that added up to a crappy day. By the time I got home from work I was ready for a beer (or three). I changed into jammies and drank my dinner while writing it all out for Briony to read when she got up. The act of writing out what happened today and how I feel made me feel better. Knowing that she will get it and support me no matter what helps. The amazing thing about my relationship with my daughter is that she is my best friend.

We struggled over the years.
I started as a stranger that moved into her house and made a bunch of rules, but enriched her life.
We moved to Virginia and I fully became head of the household, but there were growing pains.
She moved to Wyoming and we had an amazing long distance relationship with twice a year visits.
I moved to Wyoming and we became roommates and we struggled. 90% of the time we were great, but teenagers are not easy, and we teetered on the edge of good and bad for a while.
She moved away and I thought she might be lost forever, but things weren't really easier away from me, and we became close again.
Over the last three years that she's been gone, we've gone from mother and daughter to best friend and confidant. We've shared some of the most intimate details of our lives. We've shared our feelings and our dreams. We really can (and do) tell each other everything, and I am so grateful for that relationship.

Even though we'll never be able to live in the same town (or country), we don't need to. We are family and distance doesn't change that. I have been so blessed to have become her (and Cale's) mom. I am a better person for this different kind of love that I have been lucky enough to experience.

Happy Birthday, again, my dear daughter. I hope that this year is your best yet, and each one after is subsequently better. I love you.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Eight Years Ago Today.

Eight years ago today, I met a girl who would become my best friend. 
Eight years ago today, I walked into the dining room of her house and awkwardly (though faking confidence), shook her hand. 
Eight years ago today, I had no idea how my life would change, or even that four months later I would become her mom. 
Eight years ago today was a good day. 

We have shared a lot of good times and not so good times over the last eight years. 
We have celebrated moments that I will remember forever, and that forever changed who I am.
Those moments got us where we are, and they made us the family that we are now. 
My life would be perfect, if only Cale was still in it. 

I love you Briony, please share this with Cale. 
I love you both more than anything in this world. 

These photos were taken in August of 2008.  
It has been such an honor to be their mom all of these years, and to see how they've grown and become adults.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Labor Day Weekend Geocaching Adventure.

I had a mission this weekend, to finish my DeLorme Map Book Challenge, which would also complete the Wyoming County Challenge. I knew that I wanted to finish both challenges by the end of this year, and with winter quickly approaching, this might be one of my last opportunities.

I set off Friday morning along the bottom edge of Wyoming, heading West. I needed to find one cache in each of the seven pages I had not yet completed. I had been studying the map and Geocaching.com for weeks, because on some of the pages, there were only a few caches total, so I pre-planned ones that were good bets. Several had not been found in years, or the last few attempts logged they were not able to be found. I wasn't going to waste my time on those.

I headed off with my map book, print outs of my route blown up to show side roads that I had to take, and estimated times of travel for each section. There were a few caches that I did not find, but I got one in each of the three sections on my way to my hotel in Rock Springs. I checked in, and then drove a loop to Fort Bridger, up to Kemmerer, and back to Rock Springs, finding a cache in each of those four pages. I was exhausted when I hit the bed for the night, and Georgia and I slept well.

Saturday morning we got up and headed up to Pinedale. There is a physical cache associated with the Wyoming DeLorme Map Book Challenge, and of course when I drove through Pinedale in November on my way back from Jackson, I completely forgot to get it until I was almost all the way back to Laramie. Today I went and found it. There was nothing else that I needed to do up this way, so I backtracked to Farson, where I got the largest scoop of ice cream I've ever gotten, and it was the "baby" scoop. I ate on that for about 20 minutes before giving the rest to Georgia, and she struggled with it, so I had to throw the last of it away. If you're ever in the area, stop here for sure.

I continued up to Lander and to the Sinks Canyon State Park. The Park itself is quite small, though lovely, and I sat for a while at The Sinks and then I fed the fish at The Rise. The trout are huge there! It's a protected area, with no fishing, and they don't stock the fish. I was talking with a guy there and he thinks the biggest ones could have been 24-36 inches long. It was hard to tell from the height we had to view them from. Georgia got petted by three different groups of little kids, and this was definitely the highlight of the trip for her.

I have always loved mammoths.
I made the unfortunate decision to drive the 24 mile loop out of Sinks Canyon State Park. Instead of being a scenic drive, it was a frustrating one lane track of bumps and near head on collisions by the other vehicles, four wheelers, and motorbikes coming at me from the other direction at speeds way to fast for the curvy road. I did, however, see my first wild moose in the US. I had seen some in Sweden, but I still had them on my list in the US, and this one was quite close.

After finally emerging back on the main road, I headed to South Pass City. For a tourist destination, it sure is hard to find, in my opinion. And the gravel roads, though there is no option to turn off, is long enough that you start doubting you're going the correct way. I finally got there in time to walk around and see the buildings, and do a little gold mining. There was a young boy there with his family, that walked me through what to do. I had just started to get the hang of it, when it was closing time, but the lady in the shop let me stay after they locked up the buildings and she left. I found some gold flecks, and while they are difficult to see, it's cool that it's actual gold, and I discovered it myself.

I didn't us a filter on this, it just turned out old timey looking.

My gold flecks in a jar, and a rock. I apparently collect rocks now. Rocks are cool.
I left South Pass City as a storm brewed up, and headed back to Rock Springs.

Sunday morning I was up early, checking out of my hotel at 6am. I headed straight up to see Boar's Tusk. Due to the rain storm the night before, I only got a short ways in on the dirt road turn off to the Boar's Tusk. I have taken my vehicle many places that it's not designed to go, however I was not willing to try it on this particular road. If it had been dry, and not soft sand/mud filled tracks, I would have gone for it. I could see it, but had really wanted to stand at the base and look up.

I continued on to the Killpecker Sand Dunes. Reading about them, they were supposed to be very impressive. Compared to the dunes I saw in Idaho, I was disappointed that I'd driven nearly an hour down a gravel road to see them.

I stopped at the Petroglyphs on the way back to the main road. Unfortunately, another disappointment. There was more graffiti than there were petroglyphs, though I did get a geocache while I was there.

Due to the slow going on the first half of my adventures, I was later getting started on my Wild Horse Loop drive, where my goal was also to get all 55 geocaches in the Run Wild Horses Run power trail. I was taking my time getting the first 10 or so, I saw three different groups of horses, and sat and watched them as they meandered past me.

If you've never heard of the film Unbranded, you should check it out. Four men take 16 wild caught mustangs from the Mexican border to the Canadian border. It is an epic film, and well worth the watch. These horses are pretty amazing.

At one of the caches, I found these memorial grave sites for two beloved canines.
 I had started at cache 55, and at about 40, a storm started brewing. There was massive thunder, and cloud to ground lightening, and I was on top of a mountain ridge, with nothing but sagebrush and me. I sped up for the next 20 caches, anticipating getting drenched at any moment, but thankfully the storm dissipated and I was free to take on the last 20 or so caches at a more relaxed pace.

You don't want to see this coming up behind you.

Are we done yet?
At this point, I could tell that Georgia was over this trip. She normally loves to sleep in the car, but for the better part of six hours, we'd been bumping along one dirt or gravel road or another, and she was done. We finished up the last cache, 02 Run Wild Horses  (there was no 01!), got gas, and headed home. As soon as we were on paved road Georgia fell asleep.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

International Geocaching Day.

Today is International Geocaching Day. I attended my first International Geocaching Day Event on this day in 2011. Heather had just introduced me to Geocaching a few months previously, as a way to get me out of the house after Nid and the children moved out here to Wyoming. I have come a long way since that day in Harrisonburg, in so many aspects of my life.

Today I needed to find one cache in order to get the souvenior badge. I found 13, and did not find 4. Two of them were missing, and two of them I chickened out on trying because the rock climbing was above my abilities to try, especially alone.
This was my first did not try. I'm pretty sure I know which crevice the cache is in, but I could not reach a hand hold that I was confident enough to pull myself up with. It was disappointing on several levels, because it was a strenuous walk just to get to the rocks, so not finding it was even more hard on my heart.
I was thankful that this "bridge" was actually sturdy.
This is my second did not try. I walked up to it. I looked up. I walked around it. I got back in the car. It's on the top. I wasn't going to try to get on the top by myself.
At one of my caches, there was the tiniest of pull offs 50 feet from the cache. It actually wasn't a pull off, it was just the first part of that particular road that had more than one lane. But it was so close to the cache, I parked there anyway. I had just sat down to open the cache and sign the log when a car pulls in behind me. Now, it really wasn't a pull over. so I thought that they must have been cachers. I was only 50 feet away, but pretty straight up the tree covered hillside, so I continued to do what I needed to do. I closed it up, and then got my camera and snapped this photo. As far as I can tell, neither of them ever looked up. I was hoping that when I climbed back down they'd roll the window down and introduce themselves, but they just seemed surprised when I appeared on the road, so I got in my car and left.
Today did have two technology problems that I'm having to deal with. My iPod froze near the beginning of my journey, and a hard reset isn't working. The good news is, at the elevation of the Medicine Bow forest I was at, I could pick up the Fort Collins country station perfectly. Not as good as my pre-loaded soundtrack, but better than nothing. Half way through my journey I got an error on my phone that my sim card was INVALID. I'd never heard of this problem, and so I turned the phone off an on several times. That didn't fix it, but my c:/geo app was working fine, so I continued on. When I got home I rebooted and took out the sim card. That didn't fix it either, so I called Straight Talk. I had already googled that this happened sometimes with Straight Talk phones (this is my first Android with a sim card, none of my others had them). I just got this phone in June when my other one crapped out on me, and I was already not impressed with this particular phone, and wishing I'd chosen a different one. The customer service lady told me that sometimes when you go into areas with no service, it basically breaks the sim card. She's going to mail me another one. Now, it's great that she's going to do that for free, however it takes 2-3 business days, and it's a Saturday. Which means it'll ship out on Monday, and get to me maybe Wednesday. So that's five days without a working phone. That's not cool. I told her than half of Wyoming doesn't have service, and her solution was that when I know I'm going into an area without service I should put my phone into airplane mode. That would be great if I knew where I was going to lose service. I was caching right where I was today last weekend and this didn't happen. In two weeks I'm going on a two-three day caching trip, most of which will be where there is no service. What if I turn it off, but then actually need help, and turn it on, but it breaks again and I can't call for help? I'm pretty disappointed in this new development.

When I got home, Georgia was so excited to see me. It was nice out, so I set up her kennel so she could lay in the sun. I left her there while I showered and made my call, and started logging my caches. I got up for something and looked in the bedroom.
She had abandoned her sunny outdoor spot, and gotten into bed. Crazy girl...

Sunday, August 14, 2016

A Little Hike... Straight up.

Yesterday morning after work, I set off to the Summit to get a Geocache that I needed to complete part two of the August Challenges. I had solved the puzzle earlier in the week that told me that I needed a multi, and after searching for the ones within an easy drive of Laramie, I chose one that looked the easiest, and was placed by one of my local caching friends, so I knew that it would be a quality cache as well.

A multi cache involves one where the original coordinates take you to a location that tells you the next coordinates, and so on until you get to the final coordinates where the cache is actually hidden. I had just found the first stage when I was stopped by a law enforcement officer and questioned about what I was doing. Officer Wick initially seemed skeptical of my telling her that I was Geocaching, and asked me to take her to the coordinates to show her. Apparently, there are artifacts out in the area where I was, and it's illegal to take them. She then went on to warn me about the dangers of hiking in the state/national parks. Apparently a Geocacher south of Denver was out searching and walked into a field of 16,000 marijuana plants. He didn't turn back and ended up face to face with two armed drug cartel members. She said that I was only likely to stumble on an occasional one out past where I was, and I assured her that I am very safe, especially since I generally cache alone, and I didn't think I'd be going down into the area where she thought there might be illegal drugs growing. She then seemed satisfied, and thanked me for chatting with her and went on her way. After saying, oh Geocaching is like the original Pokemon Go. Well, maybe, but I have to say I doubt that Pokemon Go will still be going in 16 years, which is how long Geocaching has been around.

My plan was to just get this one cache, and then go home. I looked at my GPSr, and there were a number of caches that were short to no hike at all, so I decided to get a couple before I headed home. My first one was near an old bunker.
I of course had to explore.

The floor was made of metal, and I could tell there was an open space underneath of it, making it a rather more creepy than it already was.  It was pretty cool, though.

I was lucky to be able to find the cache nearby quickly and discretely, as there were quite a few hikers in the area, due to the Wyoming Equality Rendezvous which was set up nearby. It looked like they were having a good time, and I'd never seen so many campers/motorhomes not on an actual campground. In hindsight, I wish I'd stopped in and asked if I could purchase a meal from their food tent, as I made an interesting decision to climb a mountain spur of the moment, and while I did it safely and successfully, I had only had a protein shake for breakfast, and had not packed nearly enough water for my journey.

0.3 miles from the cache at the bunker was another cache. It was rated a level 4 terrain, and I usually avoid anything over a 3, because I like to keep my caching casual. This one was calling my name, however, and I really wanted to find it. It had only been found twice before, back in 2014, shortly after it had been placed. One cacher had posted photos, and she wasn't young, so I thought, if she can do it, I can do it, so I started off. My destination was the little tree you see on top of the rocks in the center of the photograph.
Standing at my car, I was at an elevation of 8280ft above sea level. I had to go down before going up, and that elevation was right around 8200ft, maybe a little lower. The climb to the base of the rocks was about an hour, which included many breaks to rest. It was all bush-whacking, which makes it so much harder. I definitely need to invest in some hiking boots that cover my ankles, because my sneakers collected many pine and sagebrush nettles that poked my feet uncomfortably. Once I got to the bottom of the rocks, it took about twenty minutes to find the safest way up to where I thought the cache might be. I knew that it wasn't at the very top, but close to it, and it was. The top was an easy 30 foot walk up from where the cache was.
This is the tree that was visible from my car.
My car is right in the center of the photo, and is barely visible, so I circled it in this photo:

I got a little frustrated searching for the geocache, because I was hot and tired and dehydrated. When I did find the cache I was impressed that after two years, there was not a bit of moisture in it, and everything was in perfect shape.

I'm the third person to find this cache. I traded items for a 1946 Lincoln Penny. I have collected a number of unique coins from caches over the years, and will be adding this one to my collection.  I had thought that the trip down would be just as hard as the trip up, and while it did have it's challenging moments, mostly because I was exhausted and kept tripping as I bush-whacked my way through heavy under brush, I made it back to the car in pretty good time. I finished my water, and this is when I should have headed straight home (or stopped and asked the Equality folks for some food and drink), because I soon got quite sick from dehydration and sun exposure, that I am pretty sure more water and some calories would have prevented, or at least kept the symptoms bearable.

I found several more caches on my way home, and was very proud of myself for making a healthy lunch (at 3:00pm) choice instead of the greasy burger that I was craving. As I got into Laramie I called in an order to Sweet Melissa and picked up this healthy and filling meal of black bean burger with cheddar and sweet potatoes, and drank my Arbonne after workout drink.
This perked me up a bit, but it took Tylenol, Ibuprofen, a nap, and three more liters of water to make the headache go away.

All in all, it was a great day. And today, I am sore but not miserable, and already planning a trip to the top of these rocks, where there is a cache on the edge/under a cliff somewhere. I am thinking next Saturday would be the perfect time for that. It's got to be easier than what I did yesterday.

 After a short nap, I had to get up and go do a petsitting job. I was rewarded with these two different views on my way back home.