Vote for Sara!

Remember my post about wine? Mad Housewife, one of my faves, is running a label contest starting tomorrow. I thought about entering and nearly decided not to. But then I figured what the heck – wouldn’t it be great for a mild mannered middle-aged woman with facial paralysis to win this contest? So I donned my vintage copper taffeta gown, pearls and high heels and set the camera on timer mode.

Sara Hartman, Mad Housewife

Starting tomorrow Mad Housewife will open voting for one week on their Facebook page. The photo with the most “likes” will win. I will post a direct link here and on my Facebook wall tomorrow. Please vote for me and ask all of your friends to do so as well.

Thank you for your support.

UPDATE: Voting is open at the Mad Housewife Facebook page through noon PST October 8. Please “like” my picture and share the link with your friends!

My Dry Eye Triumph

I discovered Dry Eye Talk forums when I was researching scleral lenses as a result of conversations at the ANA Eye Issues Forum. It’s part of the very helpful site Dry Eye Zone, which also hosts news items pertaining to dry eye, an encyclopedia of dry eye topics, a computer blink reminder, and a Dry Eye Shop.

I never knew there were so many causes of dry eye, or that LASIK was one of them. As a extremely nearsighted, middle-aged woman with large pupils, I am fortunate to be a LASIK success story. However, thanks to post-surgical facial paresis, I became all too familiar with the pain and misery of dry eye. Early on I got a platinum eyelid implant. It aided nighttime closure but still left an incomplete blink.

One of the forum categories at Dry Eye Talk is Our Dry Eye Triumphs. After more than five years, I feel that I have finally arrived at that point. The remainder of this post is a before and after comparison of my dry eye care routine.



I tried every type of eye drop, gel and ointment I could find. Eye drops and gels, no matter how thick, gave only a fleeting moment of relief. Standard eye ointments containing about 15% mineral oil and 85% white petrolatum offered 15-20 minutes of relief before I needed to reapply. Refresh PM, with a higher proportion of mineral oil (42.5%), gave me much longer relief. I always applied it before bedtime and first thing in the morning. During the summer that might be all I needed; during the winter I usually required a mid-afternoon application as well. Although some less expensive store brands, such as Walmart and Walgreens, contain the same proportion of ingredients, they did not work as well for me.

My eyes felt pretty good, but the vision on the left side was blurry, like looking through a lens smeared with vaseline. My brain learned to compensate, relying more on the clear vision in my right eye while utilizing the images from the left eye for depth perception. My overall vision was similar to this image, courtesy of

My vision fluctuated between 3 and 4 on this blurry vision scale.

My method of applying ointment was a bit unconventional. Instead of squeezing it onto my eye from the tube, I put a small amount on my ring finger and applied it to the sclera below the iris, then closed my eye to distribute it over the cornea. I’m sure ointment manufacturers and eye care professionals alike would be appalled, but it worked for me. For nearly five years, 24/7 application of Refresh PM ointment comprised my eye care routine.

For a while, the absence of dry eye pain compensated for the loss of crystal clear vision. But over time I began to experience mental fatigue from the continuous effort of concentrating on my right-side vision. That, with the nearly constant nuisance of extra ointment under my eye – which also made wearing eye makeup an impossibility – led me to begin researching scleral lenses in earnest.


The miraculous scleral lens.

A scleral lens is much larger than a standard gas permeable contact and vaults the cornea, allowing a pool of saline to remain between the lens and the surface of the eye to combat dryness. Scleral lenses are more expensive because they require a precision fitting process. In my case, the first lens turned out to be too loose, but the second one is just right.

Here is the rest of my new eye care routine. Yes, it costs more and takes more time.



  • Scleral lenses must be filled with preservative-free saline prior to insertion. Large bottles of saline contain preservatives, which leaves the more expensive option of individual vials. There are many brands with varying levels of lubricating agents added. Individual vials contain 2-3ml of fluid, which is just enough to fill a scleral lens. I found a much more cost-effective option to be sterile saline vials manufactured for nebulizer use. They are available in 3ml, 5ml and 15ml sizes. They contain no lubricating ingredients, and the lid can’t be snapped back on once opened. I prefer the 5ml size because it contains enough to both rinse and fill the lens. Beginners often need more than one attempt at insertion, so there is extra to allow for that. Any extra saline can either be discarded or used at the end of the day to rinse the lens after removal, but should not be kept for use the next day. I’m fairly sure 5ml would still be sufficient for two scleral lenses. has the lowest prices I’ve found for nebulizer saline. I usually buy 100 vials for around $15, but they are also available in quantities of 1000 for about $125.
  • At the end of the day when I remove my lens. I use a daily cleaner called Lobob ESC to remove surface dirt and oils.
  • I prefer UniquePH multipurpose solution for soaking and disinfecting. It is not available locally (at least here) and is sometimes hard to find online, in which case I use Lobob CDS but I don’t like it as well.



  • DMV Lens Insertion Tool – there is a great YouTube video that shows techniques for manual insertion and removal of scleral lenses, but I don’t like the thought of it, plus there is the possibility of getting skin oil or soap/lotion residue on the lens. I prefer to use an insertion tool, like the one pictured at left.
  • DMV Removal Tool – the thought of breaking the suction between the lens and my eye using my fingers just gives me the creeps. I very very very very much prefer to use a removal plunger, pictured at right. There is also a plain suction cup without a hollow, but I prefer the way this one allows suction to be started and stopped by squeezing the bulb.
  • Mirror – I place a hand mirror on the bathroom counter during lens insertion. The insertion tool is hollow all the way through, so I line up the reflection. When I can see the excess fluid spilling out, I know the lens is in the right place. I use the regular bathroom mirror during removal to find the right spot to apply the suction cup.


  • During insertion, tuck your chin toward your chest until your eye has to look slightly up toward the mirror. That keeps the lens level and the fluid in the cup through the insertion process.
  • Blink hard a few times after insertion to help center the lens. You will notice your vision getting appreciably clearer with each blink.
  • If you see ghosted images after insertion, too much fluid was displaced and there is an air bubble in the lens. Take it out right away to refill and reinsert, because in just a few seconds it will begin to smart like crazy.
  • During removal, apply the suction cup to the outer edge of the lens. If the suction cup is in the middle of the lens, it will increase rather than break the suction. Placing a drop of saline on both the contact and the removal tool helps a lot. If the suction is still hard to break, try gently moving the edge of the lens slightly back and forth with the suction cup before trying again.
  • If your vision starts to blur during the day, apply a drop of saline over the lens and blink a couple of times. If this doesn’t help, remove the lens, refill with fresh sterile and reinsert. Blink hard a few times to recenter the lens.

nightNighttime care: At first, I continued using Refresh PM whenever I was not wearing the scleral lens. My optometrist recommended using lubricating eye drops with a silicon eye shield at night, but I needed the security of my old method for a few weeks. I was extremely happy once I made the switch. The lens stays cleaner and my eyes feel even better in the morning. Often I can wait two or three hours before having to put in my scleral.

  • TheraTears Liquid Gel drops – I’ve tried a lot of different lubricating eye drops and this one is my favorite. It’s a thick solution and my eyes feel better in the morning than with any other drop I have tried. The top of these vials can be snapped shut, and although it is not recommended, I generally use a vial for two nights. Bonus: there is a $2 coupon good through 2013 available here and a $1 coupon good through 2014 available here.
  • Quartz silicon eye shield – also available in a dark version called Onyix. It was originally developed to combat dry eye among  CPAP users, and is made by the same manufacturer as another nighttime dry eye product, TranquilEyes. I have found a couple of drawbacks with the Quartz shield. First, it tends to leave marks on my cheeks that take up to an hour to fade. Also, the adjustable fabric band tends to slip so I use hair clips or bobby pins to keep it in place. Fortunately, that way it does not have to be as tight so the morning marks aren’t quite so bad. TranquilEyes are supposedly less likely to leave marks, but they are not available in a clear version so I will probably stick with the Quartz shield.

The vision in my right eye has slightly diminished to -1.0 since my LASIK surgery thirteen years ago. I am not currently wearing a contact on that eye. I wear a pair of prescription glasses with clip-on sunglasses to drive and sometimes at the movie theater or to watch TV. Since I ended up with classic monovision, I rarely need to wear readers to read or work on the computer. I will decide by my next scleral appointment, currently scheduled for July 2014, whether I want another lens for the right side or if I am content to continue this way.

I keep a a few necessities in my purse in case of emergency – a spare set of insertion and removal tools, contact case, saline and Thera Tears Gel vials, alcohol wipes, a compact mirror and a tube of Refresh PM. My new eye routine definitely requires more money, time and stuff. But is it worth it? Well, the optometrist tells me that my eye is healthier. I am less fatigued at the end of the day. I no longer have to worry about wiping extra eye ointment off my cheek. I can wear eye makeup when I choose to. And best of all, I now see like this:

Hooray! A return to super sharp vision.

I am still waiting for the outcome of an appeal to my insurance company to cover the scleral lens as a prosthetic device for a nonfunctional eyelid. My argument is that it will decrease the possibility of corneal disease and accident. Whatever their decision, there is no question that the lens enhances my quality of life.



Read my next post on scleral lenses.

Good Riddance, ToM!

My apologies in advance to male readers. This post is rated XX, chromosomally-speaking.

I discovered this gem over the weekend:

Hahaha Hello Flo! What a brilliant idea!

Which gave me another brilliant idea – a companion line for the menopausal set. I don’t want to step on any toes, trademark-wise, so instead of Goodbye Flo I thought I’d call it Good Riddance ToM (a euphemism for “time of month” in case any XYs are still reading).

Good Riddance ToM kits would include such necessities as:

  • a fan for hot flashes. (I’m thinking the old Sunday-go-to-meeting style because it is environmentally friendly.)
  • Spanx for weight gain.
  • melatonin for insomnia. (This might also help with fatigue, another pesky menopause symptom.)
  • a puzzle book for keeping mentally sharp.
  • personal lubricant for well, you know.

The number of potential subscribers is fewer for Good Riddance ToM than for Hello Flo, but hopefully has more disposable income. The demand for recurring shipments might also be improved by adding:

  • a sample adult diaper and/or incontinence pad.

It may be time for a Kickstarter campaign. Remember you saw it here first!


Seriously? 5 Wonderfully Bizarre Products

Time once again for another Top 5 List, this time of wonderfully bizarre products. The criterion for making the list is quite simple: it must make me wonder, “Do they really make that?” Laughing out loud is optional but highly preferable.

Number 5: Anti-Procrastination Course. Haha, right. Like I’ll ever get around to ordering this, even if it is on sale for a limited time. Or loading it on my computer if I order it. Or using it if by some miracle I get around to both ordering it and loading it on my computer.

procrastination-boxNumber 4: Retro handsets for cell phones. Are you ever nostalgic for the good old days of party lines and rotary-dial phones? Regain that old school feeling whilst still enjoying the benefits of cutting edge smart phone communication. Black is the retro-est, but it is also available in princess phone pink, Kremlin hotline red, white, and not-quite-so-60s blue, purple, and green.

handsetNumber 3: Bacon flavored and scented stuff. Thankfully, bacon is in once again, but I didn’t realize to what extent. Now you can get more than $40 worth of bacon stuff for just $39.95. What a bargain! That’s right – bacon flavored dental floss and toothpaste, lip balm, soap, bandaids, mints and lollipop, bendable figure and more!

bacon_collectionNumber 2: The CitiKitty Automatic Toilet Flusher. I knew that cats could be trained to go in the toilet, but what happens afterward? Never fear – there is a product that will flush once Kitty is finished with business, just like the toilets at the airport. Now to go figure out the payback period for a toilet-training kit ($25) plus a flusher kit ($189).

toiletflusherAnd Number 1: NoseFrida the Snot SuckerI have three children, so I spent my share of time wrestling to clear their stuffy little noses with a bulb syringe. Babies can put up quite a fight when they don’t want to do something. Nothing against the FridaBaby company or anything, but I have to wonder whether they would have pitched any less a fight against the NoseFrida. Then there’s the ick factor. Filter or not, I cannot imagine myself sucking my baby’s snot. nosefridaBonus! FridaBaby has two more products for your consideration: the Windi, for relieving blockages at the other end, from colic or constipation, and the environment friendly, recyclable, easy to clean, non–toxic foam FridaBaby Mat (be sure to keep an organic cider vinegar wash at hand for easy cleaning).




Do You Like My Hat?

Go Do, Go! is one of my all-time favorite children’s books. What’s not to love? Big dogs, little dogs, black and white dogs, dogs at work and dogs at play, driving dogs, sleeping dogs, and big dog parties. Plus a little pink poodle who rocks her hat collection and keeps hoping that a certain beagle will notice.


Maybe that early influence has something to do with my penchant for knitting, or rather looming, hats. Looming is a similar concept to knitting in the round, but a lot faster and much less complicated. I got hooked (literally!) on it several years ago. Quick, impressive results – what’s not to love?

You don’t need much to start:

  • First, a loom. There are long looms and round looms. The long ones are more versatile for flat panels, afghans, socks and the like, and there are little clips to adjust their size. I think the round ones are easier for hats. Knifty Knitter and Boye are brand names, but most craft stores carry generic loom sets in various sizes from baby through adult. You shouldn’t need to pay retail – buy them on sale or use a coupon.
  • Second, a loom hook or pick. These come with the looms, but can be bought individually in case they are misplaced.
  • Third, a large eye needle for finishing the project. A plastic one comes with looms, but tapestry needles work great as well.
  • Fourth, yarn. Any color and just about any type that has a little stretch. Chenille is the only yarn I’ve found that absolutely won’t work on a loom. Plain yarn is best for beginners.
  • Fifth, directions. Loom sets come with basic instructions and there are all kinds of YouTube videos. The Purling Sprite weblog has a series of great tutorials.
  • Finally, a smidge of patience. It doesn’t take long to pick up the basics. Casting on, a basic stitch and casting off are all that are necessary for a basic hat. Later on stitch variations, multiple colors, and different yarn textures will exponentially expand hat potential.

Several years ago I went on a hand-crafted Christmas gift binge featuring all kinds of loomed hats.


Many of my nieces and nephews were of college age, so I made hats in their school colors. Four of them – New York University, Kansas State, Winona State (MN) and Truman (MO) – were purple and white. Black and gold for Mizzou, maroon for Arizona State. One of my nephews was still deciding between six colleges, so I decided to make him a hat featuring all of their school colors. I learned that Bennington University does not have athletic teams or school colors, so I opted to represent it with black. Ben’s is the multicolor hat second from the left. (He ended up at the University of Oregon, green and yellow.)

Most of the adult men in my life requested a Fair Isle hat (far left) in a color combo of their choosing. Some of the ladies favored that pattern too, with a soft roll instead of a structured brim. I had a lot of fun with hats for younger kids. I found instructions for a snowman hat, bumblebee hat, and long toboggan hat and worked out patterns for a floppy beret and ear warmer bands.

Here are a few of my faves:

• Matt in a NYU ear warmer and Madison in her ASU weave top hat, Sara in her beaded KSU beanie and Julia in her Mizzou Fair Isle.
• Baby Bumblebee hat, Ethel in her floppy beret.
• Warm fuzzy hats, toboggan hat and snowman hat for the Minnesota cousins; John in a reversible camo/hunter orange stocking hat.

Looming is a hobby that can be done almost anywhere, anytime. I recently made another bumblebee hat during a car trip to visit the newborn son of a friend. Variations in yarns, brims and patterns make every project different.

Now if you will excuse me, I am going to go figure out a pattern for one of these: