“An American Summer”, and What This Book Means to Me

An American Summer is one of the more recent books by Alex Kotlowitz, and to be honest, I am not sure whether it makes sense to anybody who did not read any of his books before, or didn’t see any of his documentaries. 

I first learned about Kotlowitz when the Interruptors documentary was released. At that time, I was already quite involved in homeless charities, and I knew quite a bit about Chicago schools and existing issues. It just happened that I got tickets for Igor and myself to “Chicago Live!” where the first episode was the meeting with the “Interrupters” team. After the show, we talked to Alex Kotlowitz, the film director Steve James, and with amazing Ameena Matthews. And then we went to see the screening of the movie in the Siskel center, and there was more conversation there. In shots, for me, there is a history behind that book.

This book is just a collection of episodes. No plot. No conclusions. No judgment. But still, it shows, very painfully, how difficult it is to get out of poverty and violence. And how easy it is to fall back. Story after story, different people, the same scenario.

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It Feels Better, When Things are Explained

On the topic of doctors’ orders for before/after surgery, I’ve realized that it is extremely difficult to follow the instructions when you have no idea what’s the underlying reason for these do’s and dont’s. I know that sometimes doctors are annoyed with all these questions, but not understanding the reasons produce even ore questions :).

For example, I was given the list of eye drops with a rather complex schedule of how many times a day they should be inserted, depending on what’s the week after surgery. Plus, there were instructions not to exceed the dose and what to do if you miss the dose.

Only when I got the second package from the pharmacy, each of them had a half-page of explanation in large print :), I knew which of them is antibiotic, with is anti-inflammatory, so you can at least get an idea of how important/not important is to keep the schedule. And it was only on Tuesday that my eye doctor explained to me why the anti-inflammation drops dosage has to be reduced gradually.

Or take this no-bend/no-lift over 10 pounds for a week. And what happens after one week? All of a sudden, you can lift as much as you want? What about the bodyweight exercises? How do they count? Or when I asked about yoga, they said – OK. But yoga poses may be so different! Some include mild bending, some – mode bending. What about a shoulder stand? Or a headstand? Also, you need to know what’s the average level of activity of this particular person, because each body would react differently to the same level of physical activity. You need to know what exactly is important for the operated eye to make a better judgment of what you can or can’t do. Otherwise, you would end up asking about each individual move. Or will do something crazy 🙂

So I like it when I can get explanations. My doctor explained to me that vision is changing after the surgery because the inflammation goes down. Which may be obvious, but I didn’t think about it!
Now I am more informed, but now, surgery number two is coming. And it will bring new challenges:)

One the Positive Side

Three people reminded me yesterday about the Fat Tuesday – and I’ve honestly forgotten about it! So made a run to the Eurofresh to get some paczkis (in case people doubt I eat paczkis – I do!)

One with custard, one with prunes

Also, I got to sleep without an eye shield for the first time after the surgery and was able to use the face mask and to apply a hydration cream on my eyelid – first time since the surgery.

Also, since my “no bending” ban is lifted, I could do all of my yoga poses, including a downward-facing dog (and I can tell, I didn’t do it for a whole week!) It is going to be a productive day today!

The State of Mind and Body

Not being able to see as normal people sucks. I thought that the cause of my current frustration (and of me doing everything slowly) is the fact that I can’t see well. But now I believe that the real problem is that each surgery makes me older. Even this short surgery. Even just local anesthesia. I feel that I am tired, I can’t do things fast enough, how I usually do, and I can’t do as many things as I need. And this drives me crazy. All this “you are going to work the next day” does not work for me.

I was at one-week after-surgery follow-up with my eye doctor and asked her a million stupid questions. She replied patiently. And she examined my eye and said everything is fine; the implant is on its place, and everything is healing. It’s always very reassuring when another person can see what you don’t see :)).

We talked for almost an hour; she always explains “why,” which helps tons. I understand how the healing process works, what each of the eye drops is doing, and all other “whys.”

But I am still so tired – it makes me miserable….

More on Summer 1963

I found more pictures form summer 1963, the same summer, the same place, the same people. Just wanted to keep all these old photos at one place. When I was a child, I didn’t think of them more than just “these are my baby pictures, ” but now I view them as historical documents, since they’ve captured so many signs of the epoch 🙂

With Aunt Kima. It strikes me, that she is only 39 years old on these pictures.
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Madeleine Albright. Fascism: A Warning. Book Review

Madeleine Albright was the first Secretary of State I saw in action after I immigrated to the US. From the first time I heard her speaking, I had the deepest admiration of her as a political leader and a person. Somehow I didn’t come across her books earlier, but now I’ve downloaded several, and I am going to listen to all of them.

On the topic of the book “Fascism,” I think Albright has a unique perspective as a person who experienced the fascist’s regimes as a child and later had to interact (or oppose) them as a political leader. Her attitude is personal, and it could not be any other way.

I read a number of good reviews of this book (as always, only after I finished reading), and I am not going to repeat them, just a couple of additional notes. First, I found it very important that Albright speaks of many countries, which demonstrate the signs of fascism in their domestic policies. We often think that the potential threats are the same old North Korea/China/Russia, we might think of Venezuela; we remember the Rwanda genocide, and that’s pretty much it. Albright gives her audience a broader perspective, taking about Chile, Ethiopia, Hungary, and even Poland.

Second, in her definition, “fascism is not an ideology, it’s a method.” And from that perspective, she talks about the governments, which can potentially become fascists, but do not employ any of the fascist’s methods, maybe just yet. This is where I might disagree with her, I think that this approach might open counterproductive arguments.

Overall – I learned a lot of new facts from that book, and it definitely prompted me to think more deeply on the topic.

After-Eye Surgery Development

On Friday, I worked from home, and my neighbor R. took me to my eye doctor. Turned out that the situation is not as bad as I thought. The doctor measured my best correction to be – 2.75, and then started to look for a place where they would make my glasses within 24 hours.  

It turned out that such places are almost non-existent these days, everybody sends their orders to the labs. The staff of the doctor’s office was calling all the places around and finally found Lenz Crafters, where they had such an option – looks like the only one in the Northwest Suburbs:). The staff asked whether they had a lens I needed, and they said – yes, but the technician is not in; he will be there on Saturday. But we could come in and leave the order. 

When we arrived, the store associate started to show us different frames. I said that I need the cheapest one since these glasses are going to be for less than a week. For that, she replied that they have a sale of 50% off designer frames, and then they will also give me 40% off lenses. I was still trying to stay on the cheaper side, and finally picked up the frame, which was originally priced at $173. 

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Summer 1963

The first summer of my life. Since I remember myself from a very early age, and since I liked looking at my pictures even when I was a very small child (and that’s why, perhaps, I still remember it so well!), I could not believe I didn’t remember that summer! It felt unfair that I was in Estonia, looking at these beautiful flowers, and all of it was gone from my memories!

My aunt Kima is holding me here; I am six months old
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Eye Surgery Details – Part Two

Once again, way too many details, mostly for my real-life friends.

I forgot to mention that right after the surgery, I was allowed to put my right contact lens in, so after I came home, I was able to put the old lens on. After three weeks of glasses, it felt great. The left eye was still foggy, and also there were random dark “bloody” spots floating around, but for those, I knew they would go away.

I also knew that my operated eye might still change, but not significantly. So when I woke up Wednesday morning and took my eye shield off, I knew right away that that was not -2 or -2.5
My appointment was st 8-45 AM, and again in a distant location. Vlad came to me in the morning and drove me there.

When the doctor’s assistant was trying to measure my vision, I told her that I see nothing on the screen, no matter how big it is, that the screen and the wall are blurry. So She stepped closer and measured the max distance fro which I could see things clearly.

After a while, the surgeon came in, and I told him it must be -6 or so. He checked it, and it turned to be -4. I said: doctor, let’s discuss what can be done now. He started again about Lasic, and I told him: forget about Lasic for a moment, I need to understand how I am going to function in the next four weeks.

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Eye Surgery Details

For my real-life and/or long term friend, more detail about surgery and the aftermath.

Until the week before surgery, I was sure that I am getting the multifocal lenses, which should correct every issue I have, except for maybe some minor close vision problems. Last time I was at the doctor’s office for final measurement, a surgery coordinator reassured me once again that any multifocal will correct my distant vision 100%.

I didn’t believe that statement from the very beginning. But the staff was repeating it over and over again. They were saying that I might still need readers from time to time, but that’s it.
The surgeon called me five days before saying, that “with the type of lenses I’ve chosen, he can’t give me 20/20 vision, I will remain nearsighted.

As you can imagine, I started to interrogate him about what type will do the correction, and he said – monofocal, but they won’t give you anything else, no astigmatism correction. Just go with our original plan, you will have – 2 – 2.5 left, and in three months I will do Lasic on you. I said that I do not care about Lasic; my concern is how I will function in between. He said that I could wear glasses in between. And he strongly recommends fo me to go that way, “as I would advise my relative.” And I said – OK.

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