thejessence

The energy of the mind is the essence of life. – Aristotle


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Let there be sight

From a time I first remember in my life, both of my parents have worn glasses. Mom experimented with contacts a couple of times, but I always remember the frames on their faces.

I couldn’t wait to get some of my own. It was like a mile marker on the highway of life and I wanted to be just like my mom and dad.

In third grade I got the chance to be just like them. The optometrist recommended a light prescription not for daily wear, but more or less just to practice for what the rest of my life was going to look like.

I don’t remember ever wearing the gold metal frames often or for great lengths of time. But in fourth grade, I went into public school (home school adventures is for another time, but now you know why I’m socially awkward.) Around mid-year I made my way up to the teacher’s desk with a couple of other kids to take notes because I couldn’t see the board.

Interestingly enough, I don’t think I connected the dots on that one until my parents took me back to the optometrist. My prescription had greatly increased and new glasses were required and would be a permanent fixture upon my face.

I hated those pink speckled frames. Not because of the color, but they hurt my face at first. I had headaches. All of a sudden my dream of being just like my parents was set ablaze. Forever four eyes.

As I got older, I looked forward to the day I could get contacts. For sports, I used a purple band to tie them to my head. They became a necessity because I couldn’t function without them.

In eighth grade, I finally got a prescription for contacts. However, mine were different. With my prescription significantly high and my eyes changing every year, the optometrist prescribed me RGP (rigid, gas-permeable) lenses.

I was excited until I got them in my eyes.

Who in their right mind would tolerate the feeling of rocks in their eyes? Not an eye lash. Boulders. Constant blinking. Eyes watering. I thought it would never end. Two hours the first round, a gradually increasing until I was able to wear them for the day.

Don’t know what RGP contacts are? Back in the stone ages of contacts, these were the lenses that replaced non-gas permeable contacts. The plastic used is hard and unbendable. If placed between two fingers there is a slight give, but too much pressure cracks the lens.

You don’t pinch your eye to get them out. In fact, you’d probably end up with a piece of your eye ball under your nail if you tried that. You literally popped them out by pulling the side of your eye, forcing your eye lids to squeeze them and break the seal between the lens and your eye.

While all of my friends were sporting their soft lenses, I was trying to avoid the nightmare of getting a speck of dust in my eye. If I did, it was straight to the bathroom to rinse out the contact and wash off the rest of the make-up that didn’t smear off from the tears running down my face on my sprint to the sink. This was an almost every day occurrence.

In the time I wore them, I only met two other people around my age whose every day was the same.

For 15 years I suffered through RGPs in an effort to avoid glasses. Somewhere in there was a small glimmer of hope for the future.

We visited a family member who had a new eye surgery to correct their vision. It was new and very expensive, but maybe, just maybe I could emerge with good eyes.

Another pit stop was an experiment with soft lenses. That didn’t work at all. I liked the fact they didn’t feel like sand paper on a windy day, but I was squinting to see. The optometrist told me there was nothing they could do, so back to the RGPs I went.

20180714_091225Several years and eye doctors later, an optometrist prescribed me the night and day lenses. My vision wasn’t completely clear with them and I was told it would never be, but I was angry with the RGP lenses and needed a change.

I could sleep in these new lenses. I would take them out once-a-week, sleep and most of the time pop them back in the next day. Glasses weren’t an everyday thing. It was a drastic change, the closest thing to perfect vision, but so far from it. Prescription: OD -6.5 and OS -7.5.

Thank goodness thick plastic black frames were fashionable because that’s all I could wear. My prescription wouldn’t fit in a cute thin metal frame.

My horrible vision was part of my daily routine. Out of bed, glasses on, holding a shampoo bottle four inches from my face in the shower to read the ingredients, poke my eye with a contact, eye drops, solution, new contact cases, dirty glasses, dirt on my contact. All for over 20 years.

Then this past April I got brave. I guess I had an extra cup of coffee that morning. I asked about lasik. My optometrist thought I was a candidate and referred me out to a surgeon. I spent the next week researching the surgeon, making myself cringe by reading about what the surgery consists of (don’t worry, I won’t go into much detail) and learning about possible outcomes, worst and best cases.

My tight-wadness was relieved since my insurance assisted with the bill.

I was told to not expect 20/20. I mean, I didn’t see 20/20 with my soft lenses so I figured I’d still be good with that. Glasses for two weeks and then we’d get a more accurate assessment.

The surgeon took an extra look at my file to confirm he was comfortable with my surgery and the outcome because of my extra large prescription.

My husband will tell you I was a spaz the day of and few days before, which is far from the truth. I was a complete mess.

They were taking measurements the morning of my surgery, trying to get the exact map for the best possible outcome. Then I was taken back, placed in a massage chair, given a dissolvable anxiety pill and told to relax. Fat chance.

The surgical room was cold. I crawled onto the small table blind. Eye lid holder, drops and gel drops. I was under the laser for approximately one minute each eye. To give you a frame of reference, most people are under the laser a few seconds to 30 seconds per eye. I wouldn’t describe the experience as painful, mainly uncomfortable. If you’re very interested in the details, contact me. I’m all for sharing, but some people get squeamish.

I was probably in the procedure room for 10-15 minutes max. I felt like I was underwater coming out of the room. Imagine yourself submerged in a bottle of clear aloe vera gel opening your eyes or as the baby in the new 3D sonograms.

Then it was home to sleep for at least four hours. I wasn’t sure that was going to be possible, but I felt I would rather have my eyes closed with the underwater feeling than have them open, which helped immensely.

I ate one or two bites of my dinner. I couldn’t see it clearly, so I didn’t feel like eating. My husband even pried my eyes open to make sure I got my eye drops in. What a trooper considering he refuses to use eye drops or touch his own eye.

Hot tears welled into my clear plastic sleep mask that evening. Again, not painful, just strange.

I awoke the next morning able to see. It was unbelievable. My depth perception was slightly off, but it was like a new day.

A month later, it is still weird to wake up outside of my vision routine for the majority of my life. I find myself sliding my finger around imaginary glasses to scratch an itch on my inner nose. On occasion I reach for my glasses when I wake up. Most of the time my brain alerts me that I haven’t taken out my contacts in awhile.

A couple more follow-up appointments are left, but I’m completely satisfied despite the consistent use of eye drops and sunglasses right now. The bright side is I no longer have to wear the goggles to sleep.

 

 

 

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Same Ol’ Rerun

It’s predictable and consistently reoccurring. Precisely measured so the rotation is perfectly timed every few months.

I go up the hill of success, only to slide down the other side. Up, down, repeat.

I have been fighting the battle for my hair for six years now. Since I sought treatment I have seen growth and further loss.

One day I’m reaching for the scissors and the next I have hope this saga will come to a close.

A trip to the dermatologist these days is every three months and typically results in a steroid injected just under the skin. Sounds painless, but the ones where I have to flip over my head and take a shot to the hairline at the base of my skull release uncontrollable tears down my face.

We’re at a total of three problem areas right now. The usual culprit at the left temple, one that would like to make an appearance at the initial geographic location on top of my head and the ever growing third at the back.

I’m still able to function daily with the comb over and low pony tail, and only pull out the headbands when I need to pull my hair to the top of my head. Some days are a little thin, but I’ve worked with worse. Sadly, the headbands are less and less able to cover the spot at the back of my head. Mostly, I just pray few people notice because the back of my head is ridiculous.

The spot at the top of my head fills in and thins out. It’s not completely bare, but only a few hairs grow.

We skipped the injections in May because I was a week out from Lasik surgery. Don’t worry, we’ll get to that story eventually. Injections highly likely in August.

Until then, it’s the typical routine. Take my pill daily and monitor any loss. A schedule. Not necessarily progress. Not necessarily deterioration. Not necessarily stagnation. Just a rotating cycle of frustration.

On a particular day, I went to the National Alopecia Areata Foundation website looking for a glimmer of hope. A chance the balding could eventually cease. A shot at therapy that would work. A step towards a cure.

Some clinical trials. Some I don’t qualify for. A lot of surveys about the state of our mental health. A lot more research to do.

I completed every survey available. It didn’t necessarily make me feel better. If nothing else, filling them out might have just further discouraged me.

The splotchy state of my condition places me in a holding pattern. I could still have a large amount of hair that might consistently grow and have to be shaved off. If I could just grow a few extra hairs, maybe this whole nightmare could end. Instead, we’re one step forward, one step back. Continuing. Then a couple rounds of one step forward, two steps back. One strand lost, one strand gained.


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Cheers, slainte, salut

If I had access to unlimited funds, you would not be able to pin me down because I would tie up any loose strings and travel the world.

The world is an exciting adventure. Right now, I have a total of 13 countries under my belt (that doesn’t include airport only stops) and have many more to go.

A few months ago, I got the chance to revisit a few of my favorites and add a new one to the list. It was a quick trip, with a little taste of each, but a savoring of previous visits and new craving for more.

Tower Bridge

(Photo by: Jessica McBride) It’s not London Bridge, it’s Tower Bridge.

London was my first big city experience. I went there before I went to NYC or LA. It will always be a favorite on the list and the place I’ve visited the most.

The highlights of London are hole in the wall pubs and the Tower. Make sure you get the house-made cask beer and take the tour with the Beefeaters. After your tour, go see the Crown Jewels.

Then you can awe at how Jim Moriarty in the BBC series Sherlock, electronically broke in to the Tower. “In a world of locked rooms, the man with the key is king. And honey you should see me in a crown.”

Eat some fish and chips. Word of warning, the fish may have the skin still on it. Fearful of British dishes? McDonalds is 100 percent better than the traditional American establishment. Drink an orange Fanta. It’s not fake orange, it’s more of Orangina without the pulp. You’ll be Googling ways to ship it to your house.

St. Paul's Cathedral, London

(Photo by: Jessica McBride) Grab some tuppence and feed the birds at St. Paul’s.

I’m also a big fan of going to the cathedrals. If you only have time to go to one, go to Westminster Abbey. It is the burial place of many, many renowned Brits, as well as monarchs and other royals.

You’ll feel creepy stepping on the cracks in the floor to avoid stepping on someone’s burial place.

St. Paul’s is great too. Mary Poppins fan? This is the church described in her song, “Feed the Birds.”

My favorite place on earth is Scotland. Well, as a native-born Texan, I’m required to say Texas is my favorite place, with Scotland a close second.

Bagpiper

(Photo by: Jessica McBride) As you walk down the Royal Mile, the sounds of bagpipes fill the air.

Whether it’s Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness or the Isle of Skye, I love it all. It feels like home. Someday I will live there. #LifeGoals

This round I went to Edinburgh and was there during the 2017 Fringe Festival. Get you a good Scottish ale and walk the Royal Mile. The lad who sold me a coffee and oat white stout said you’re free to walk the street, drink in hand as long as you’re not being a ****. Might check to make sure that’s true outside of the festival though.

Edinburgh Castle is mandatory. It’s on a volcano. You’ll feel like royalty. If you’re into history, it’s a phenomenal artifact and great stories. Mary, Queen of Scots. No, she’s different than Bloody Mary.

Not into history? The views from the top of the mount are fantastic. You’ll see all of Edinburgh.

Edinburgh Castle

(Photo by: Jessica McBride) Edinburgh Castle is a lot of walking, but well worth exploring in the cool, damp air.

I know there are a ton of Outlander fans out there. The story book comes to life in Edinburgh. Sure, you need to go to Inverness too. But the winding streets and closes that pull you back to older times make it all real. You’ll be singing “Skye Boat Song” the entire time.

This round I added Ireland to my list. But to be honest, I don’t remember anything aside from Guinness.

The beverage was always just ok. Not bad, not great. A foreign beer that everyone knew the name of.

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(Photo by: Jessica McBride) In Dublin? Go to Guinness.

But since I enjoy tasting new beers, especially those dark and malty, I think you naturally have to pay a visit.

After the experience, I will tell you that if you’re in Dublin, skip everything else and go to the Guinness brewery. You’ll spend almost an entire day there learning about it. It’s not just a history lesson where you read boards of information about how it’s made. It’s an experience.

The standard ticket comes with the small tasting. During the session, instructors will walk you through how to drink the beverage and the subtle notes you’ll notice as you take your gulp.

If you’re lucky, you’ll be in the room with women who don’t like beer. Make friends around you and offer to take their shot glass sized beverage off of their hands.

Pay the extra money to take the pouring class. It’s well worth it. You’ll learn how to properly pour the beverage and get to drink your pint.

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(Photo by: Jessica McBride) My husband also like the Guinness brewery. Slainte!

The brewery even has food such as beef stew made with the brew and potato and leek soup. All foods that pair magnificently with Guinness.

Needless to say I have a new appreciation for Guinness and get it more often here in the States.

The brewery even has some different options at the bar at the top if darkness isn’t your thing. If I remember correctly, there was an IPA and lighter options.

Ranking Ireland, honestly, I don’t have it in my top three. Now, I was in Dublin. For a day-and-a-half. I saw Guinness and ate some wine gummies. It’s green and the buses tell you the stops in Gaeilge. Don’t worry, they shout at you in English too.

Maybe I go back to see the country side and castles and eat some potatoes. Until then, I’ll remind myself with Guinness. Slainte!

Eiffel Tower

(Photo by: Jessica McBride) Word of warning when visiting the Eiffel Tower. Be wary of pick pockets.

The first time I went to France, I experienced a filthy, smelly Paris at the beginning of the Iraq War when freedom fries were a thing. Literally, people threw trash in the street gutters and water rushed through them twice-per-day to sweep the trash away. I saw people peeing in the streets.

Very few people attempted to speak English and would get frustrated when you would butcher their language to order food.

I did remember the food being wonderful, so I knew it would not disappoint entirely the second round.

French bread > American bread. There’s just something that makes it better. Maybe because it’s actually real food? Maybe because it doesn’t have preservatives?

Paris also has such a thing as pastry shops. I have yet to find somewhere comparable in Texas or Oklahoma. I’m not saying they don’t exist, just I’m unaware of their locations.

French Pastries

(Photo by: Jessica McBride) Patisserie is your new French word of the day.

We’re talking real pastries. Wonderful pastries. This round I made sure I got my fill. Get you a crepe too. There’s all kind of fruit and chocolate varieties.

The lady at the patisserie shop was very friendly. Her voice so musical.

The pasta and Asian cuisine did not disappoint. It was some of the best I’ve had (well outside of Italy for the pasta).

Everyone we met were wonderful people, even if the communication barriers were limited. France moved up on my list after this trip, and on some days it breaks the top three.

It could be because Paris was bidding to host the Olympics. I guess we’ll find out after the next visit.

Of course, everyone goes to the Eiffel Tower. You can purchase a ticket to go up to the top. I think the experience is just to be around it.The lines can be long and the foot traffic around the exhibit can be intense.

When in Paris, one must visit the Louvre. Put on your walking shoes and stroll around. You’ll see everything from art to history. Just knowing the facility was once a palace is cool enough for me.

Les Mis fan? You could very well pass the Saint Michel subway stop on your way to the Louvre to see artwork depicting the revolution in all of its glory. You might even hear the people sing.

There’s more than enough entertainment to spend a week in each of these places, not even including the rest of the museums, historical monuments and cultural exhibits in their respective countries. More importantly, there’s something for everyone, regardless of what you enjoy to do on your travels.

All in all, I encourage everyone to hop on a plane or cruise ship and get outside of the U.S. Take an adventure and get a glimpse inside the lives of people that are not your own. If nothing else, traveling will give you a different perspective of your life here in America.

 


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Carlos Danger (Photo by: Jessica McBride)

In March I got a puppy – a cute, playful little boy.

Carlos loves Caramel, she hates him. He runs, squeaks toys, finds baby bunnies (the subject of another blog) and I swear is constantly eating (and pooping).

I took him in for his first vet visit to have puppy bliss destroyed. 

His fecal test came back for a protozoa, which was treatable. Then the vet sadly told me he had demodex. A type of mange, he would lose his little baby hairs on his tiny baby head… and there was nothing I could do.

We would hope he would grow out of it as he got older.

Um, flashback?

Of course God would give me a puppy that was suffering from alopecia.

So, for a month I watched my baby puppy transform into an old man. Helpless.

Carlos didn’t know any different. He was excited about life. Caramel still didn’t care for him, but it wasn’t because of looks.

At the next appointment, an older vet suggested a treatment… so we went with it. 

He grew a lot in six months. (Photo by: Jessica McBride)

In three months I no longer had a balding pup.

It’s been nine months since I took a picture of my head. I don’t typically wear a headband unless I have my hair pulled up.

I have one spot near my temple, but otherwise it’s filling in nicely. 

A couple of weeks ago I noticed a thinning spot on top and the spot on the back of my head growing.

Twelve shots to the head last appointment. We’ll see where we’re at in two months. 


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Silent Symphony and Magic

Have you ever sat in silence and just listened to the noise? The ticking of the clock, the deep breath of a puppy fast asleep, the wind as it winds through rows of houses, the creeks and pops of a shifting structure, the blood pumping through your ears, all creating the symphony that literally is the sound of silence.

I doubt many of us experience silence any more between our smartphone addiction and the constant compulsion to be entertained.

For almost a year now, I’ve been preoccupied with the ‘Outlander’ book series by Diana Gabaldon, which mostly takes place in the 1700s and leaves me endlessly wondering how I would function in a time outside of my own.

The necessity of entertainment is replaced with the essential function of living. Binge watching Netflix is replaced with making sure there is food for dinner. Everyone has a job to do, and time is not to be wasted.

Luckily, I don’t have to worry about churning butter, boiling water to wash the clothes I’ve been wearing for the last week or even spending 30 minutes trying to light a fire.

I do have to be concerned with not eating or wearing the same thing two days in a row, and keeping up with everyone else’s daily “struggles” on social media. #FirstWorldProbs

Even my dogs’ purpose would shift from serving as household enjoyment to hunting and aiding in the home’s survival. However, it’s difficult for me to picture two miniature dachshunds doing anything except squeaking a fuzzy toy and snuggling on a pile of blankets.

It’s almost terrifying to imagine a world of silence without the technology and bustling lifestyle we’re used to today. How does one survive without contacts to correct your vision, a microwave to heat up a bite to eat or a television to sustain a level of noise to mute the silence?

I wouldn’t know the first thing about baking bread from scratch, butchering a chicken, gathering edible plants or building a fire without a match or lighter.

I can tell you how to turn on the XBox with voice commands, flicking the light switch to the ‘on’ direction, which button to press on the microwave based upon the food you want to eat and how to update your status on Facebook. I can’t tell you how any of this stuff actually works.

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” -Arthur C. Clarke

 


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With A Suitcase and One Foot On the Train

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Outside of my hotel window, looking out on the Mississippi River in New Orleans. Photo by: Jessica McBride

I sat on the carpet surrounded in darkness in my hotel room in New Orleans, in front of my floor to ceiling window, listening to House of the Rising Sun and eating peanut butter M&Ms.

Luckily I had come back with something other than the putrid pee smell of Bourbon Street and peddlers selling their various wares.

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My fried fish po’ boy, chicken and sausage gumbo and tabasco infused mayo. Photo by: Jessica McBride

I guess there’s a reason gambling men went to New Orleans. The first moments into the French Quarter made me want to run back to the shelter of my hotel and not venture out until it was time to fly home.

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Nothing more French than a fleur. Photo by: Jessica McBride

But, the street performances were beautiful, and my French connection to the city was enough to take hold. OK, and the beignets.

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By the way, Cafe Du Monde is open 24 hours. Photo by: Jessica McBride

In the picturesque ideal of southern charm and big city vices, I also visited the World War II museum. Highly recommended by the way. Spend the extra money and see the 4D presentation of the war narrated by Tom Hanks. After 30 minutes, you’ll come out head high, chest out, bleeding red, white, and blue with tears running down your face and a new perspective of the stars and stripes.

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Photo by: Jessica McBride

As in all my other travels, there is too much to see and so little time. I think that’s a good thing. It’s a draw to a place where the experience pulls you back for the long lasting memories.

Once you catch the travel bug there’s no cure for the syndrome other than a regular dose of adventure, sight-seeing, and voyages. It’s also extremely contagious, just ask a few of us sufferers.

Seeing how others live and view the world and life gives you an appreciation and understanding that is indescribable. It also makes you value and miss the home that you have built with those you love. I think that’s the most potent component of seeing the world.

Sometimes we need a reminder to appreciate the ranch dressing and Dr. Pepper back home.

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A canon, a Scot, a Catholic church, in a historic French city that only a beautiful American sunset can bring together. Photo by: Jessica McBride

 

 


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Thirty Going On Eight

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Photo by: Jessica McBride

Inspiration is all around us, and yet we fail to recognize it with all of the distractions of our daily life. Our minds are struck with life’s subtle sparkling nuggets and in a moments notice vanish as if they never existed.

Every day I’ve taken a mental note of rarely noticed details that move me to inspiration, and when the finger tips hit the keys the panic pulsates within my veins. I close the laptop and end the idea that captured me.

Recently, I find myself frustrated at life’s possibilities. Not regret, just a childlike desire to do, go and be. Interesting how hitting the big 3-0 leaves you at a point of reflection, adventure and pursuit.

Every door and window is open to you as a child. It’s almost as if living under a canopy with the sides unhindered to view. Today you’re a cowboy. Tomorrow you’re an astronaut. Possibilities never cease and are never out of reach.

I think as an adult we build walls and are pushed to close doors and windows, leaving two or three open as careers and escapes. Why?

Is it a societal push? Is it an internal mental push so the mind can deal with the pains of being an adult?

Puzzling. I think I prefer the child’s view.

I was asked the other day what the next 10 years hold. I smiled, and said something amazing! Though I’m no where near ready for 40, I do know that I want the next ten years to be full of adventure, happiness and inspiration.