Posted in eyes

Smiling with my eyes

Over the past eighteen months, I’ve learned how to smile with my eyes. Even though we’re not wearing masks as often as we used to, there’s a few places where it’s still required. I’ve most recently had to wear one visiting someone at the hospital, checking into the local dolphin attraction, going to the eye doctor and a convenience store in South Carolina. Some places make sense, some are kind of random. But along the way I and others have discovered a skill. We can smile with our eyes.

I find this fascinating because smiles are generated by our mouths. What a joy it is to watch a new born slowly but surely respond to your smile with a little smile of their own! Lots of facial muscles work together to make that smile happen, which changes the shape of our eyes. I just never really noticed that until we all had our faces covered by masks.

Once I noticed this, I made sure my own eyes reflected the smile on my face. This meant smiling a little harder beneath my mask to ensure that my eyes were engaged. For many but not all in our family, this is not a tough skill. Squinty eyes accompany the grins on our faces. But those who don’t squint do have a certain sparkle that gives away their smile.

Our eyes convey other emotions, too. Furrowed eyebrows indicate concern. A little moistness is visible when someone is sad. Wide open eyes express surprise. A squint can communicate anger or concern. We all know what eye roll means. Crossed eyes? I’m going nuts. Pupils dilated? Something’s going on. See someone with a perfectly straight face? Check out their eyes.

Masks or not, I find myself looking at eyes a lot more. Colors, makeup, shape, motion. Overgrown bushy eyebrows, extra long lashes, and tired bags beneath the eyes.

And then when they catch me looking at them, I make sure they see me smiling with my eyes.

Posted in eyes

The tears no one sees

Photo by Luis Galvez on Unsplash

A church worship service can be an emotional setting. I’ve had dozens of people say to me, “I cried through the whole service.”

Sometimes a song or hymn brings to mind a sad time, like a funeral service for a loved one. Some cry when they feel alone, even though they’re sitting in a room full of people, because one particular person isn’t there anymore. Or may soon not be there anymore. Or a phrase in a reading or sermon touches an especially tender spot in your heart. Some people don’t know why they need to bring tissues to church. The tears just flow.

I always tell folks that it’s OK to cry in church. After all, God created you with the ability to produce tears. And I also assure them that we all cry in church at one time or another. They might not know that because many times, no one sees the tears.

Sometimes the tears are on the inside. They don’t run down our face and drip onto a hymnal or bible. Instead they flow from our minds to our hearts and into our soul. Memories, guilt, fear, the unknown, anger, jealousy and hatred may not make our eyes well up. But we feel powerful emotions within. We weep within. We put on our best Vulcan expression and everyone thinks we’re just fine. But the tears within are very real.

Whether on the outside or the inside, there’s nothing wrong with tears. They make us remember that we’re looking forward to a new place, where God will wipe every tear from our eyes and our souls.

Posted in eyes

I am once again giving thanks for the gift of sight

Photo by Daniil Kuželev on Unsplash

Yesterday I had my first cataract surgery. I woke up this seeing clearly from my right eye with out glasses or contact lenses for the first morning in many, many years. I am again giving thanks for the gift of sight.

I got my first pair of glasses when I was ten years old. My observant fourth grade teacher Mrs. Dimico saw me squinting to read the chalkboard and tipped off my parents. They took me to Cleary Optical which I think was in the neighboring town of Prospect Park, PA to get me examined and fitted for glasses. The lenses were ground from glass fifty years ago and I remember having the choice of two frames: black or tortoise shell. I chose black. Two weeks later we went to pick them up and Dr. Cleary spent nearly thirty minutes making sure they fit me correctly, an agent of the gift of sight. At first I only wore them when I needed them. But as time went on and I got progressively more nearsighted, I pretty much wore them all the time.

When I graduated college and had my first job, I got my first pair of soft contact lenses. Forty years ago, you purchased a pair which would last about a year. Not only did they require daily cleaning, but also weekly disinfecting in a little cooker thing made for that purpose. I was really thankful for that gift of sight, because now I could see when I was out running! The doctor also told me that contact lenses would slow the progression of my nearsightedness.

Eventually, I began to have a little trouble focusing on reading material as well as distance. I’m thankful for Dr. King in St. Augustine, who turned me on to monovision contact lenses. My left eye was corrected for distance, my right for reading. Worked like a charm, plus I now opened up a new pair every month.

When Dr. King moved out of his office, I began going to a local eye doctor who took my vision insurance plan. I’m thankful for Dr. Nunez who suggested I try multifocal lenses. Each lens was made with alterating concentric circles for distance and close up correction. After I wore them for a few days, my brain figured out which to use, and both my eyes could see near and far.

I am also thankful to Dr. Nunez who quickly got me into a retina specialist when one day without warning, I noticed a little dark patch of vision in the corner of my right eye. I not only had a tear in my retina, but it had also separated. I thankful that Dr. Nunn was able to laser my retina back into place and preserved the sight in that eye. Why did it happen? He explained that when you are nearsighted, your eye isn’t spherical, but more football-shaped, lending itself to separation. A tear with no separation happened a few years later in my left eye, too, and I am thankful that Dr. Jaroudi was able to laser that in place, too. I am extremely grateful for the technology which restored and preserved my eyesight!

All that lasering accelerated the growth of cataracts in both of my eyes, so I am having both lenses replaced with implants. My right eye has been adjusted for reading and my left eye will be for distance. The whole procedure for replacing my lens yesterday took less than fifteen minutes. The longest part of the morning was putting lots of drops in my eyes. Plus I didn’t feel a thing. I’m very thankful for Dr. Myer’s training, skills and work on my eye.

I know how complex the eye and the sense of sight is. It’s a wonder of God’s creation, as are all the colors, contrasts and textures he created for us to see. Some days I take those things for granted. But not today. Today, I’m once again grateful for the gift of sight!

Posted in Life

Eye doc

100922-N-5821P-032I went in for my annual eye exam today. I’ve been doing this since I was ten years old, when I first discovered I was near-sighted and got my first pair of glasses. Today I was again impressed at the expertise of my optometrist, who from my vague comments was able to tweak my vision correction and improve my eyesight.

My visits are a lot more complex nowadays, having gotten much more near-sighted, requiring reading glasses wearing contact lenses, and having been through repairs for a torn retina. With correction, my left eye is cool: 20-20 or better. Right eye (the one frozen and lasered) is fuzzy, cloudy, and out of alignment. That eye isn’t going to improve, will quickly develop a cataract, and will need a procedure for that in the near future.

But for now, it needs some assistance, and the doctor gets to work. Holding a card in my hand, I read the smallest line I can. Not too bad. Looking at the wall, though, I can only see the largest and next-to-largest letters. I used to laugh at the chart. Who wouldn’t be able to see those monster-sized letters? Looking through holes in a mask-like device, the doctor changes lenses and asks, “Which is better — number 1 or number 2?” In a few minutes he has determined the correction for near and far, astigmatism, and the prism to align the images from each eye. All from my comment, “Well, it’s a little fuzzy and not lined up.” To me, it’s a miracle.

After he checks the pressure in my eyes (I aced that test!) he steps out of the room for a minute and returns with a new pair of contact lenses. He pops them in and immediately I can see better. Those little, fragile, kind of pricey pieces of hydrophilic whatever bring my world back into sharp focus. I never cease to be amazed. After I test drive them for a few days, I’ll order a few boxes of multi-focal (like bifocals) lenses. That technology boggles my mind. Additional amazement.

I only wear glasses first thing in the morning and at night, so I haven’t gotten a new pair for a while. Insurance pays for part of new ones each two years, so a nice young lady helped me pick out a new pair. When you wear glasses or contacts getting a new pair is exhilarating!

I’m giving God thanks tonight for a really great optometrist, contact lenses, glasses and the gift of sight,