Category Archives: Health and Wellness

My Progressive Journey Toward Progressive Lenses

Eye GlassesAs someone who has been wearing glasses since grade 10, it was no shock to hear over the years that at some point in time, I might need progressives or bifocals.

What was more difficult was admitting when that point in time was here. I knew it was time when my arms were officially not long enough to hold something at the right distance to read it. And unfortunately, getting longer arms was not the answer.

Technically, I do not need glasses to see things at close range, but I do need them for distance. The smaller, rectangular framed glasses I wore for years allowed me to get the correction I needed for distances, as well as the freedom to look below the frame to see things at close range. From that perspective, everything was pretty sharp.

But as styles changed and I chose larger framed glasses, I couldn’t peek under the frame anymore. I was seeing things at close range through corrective lenses, which made close items blurry. The solution was to hold the item away from me.

At first it wasn’t so bad, but over time, that area became farther and farther until my arms weren’t long enough. The solution was to flip my glasses on top of my head to do things at close range like looking at my iPhone, signing documents, or reading fine print like the labels on vitamin and pain reliever bottles.

Again, at first it wasn’t so bad, but the coordination required to flip the glasses up and down, while comparing product labels, while balancing a grocery basket from hand to hand turned shopping into a choreographed routine. Plus the imprints that the nose pads left on my bald scalp started making me look like an angry supervillain.

Over the last decade, my optometrist had been writing two prescriptions for me, one for distance glasses and one for progressives and saying, “You’ll know when the time is right. You’ll know when flipping your glasses is more irritating than convenient.” I knew that the time for progressives was growing near.

Through the years, I had heard stories of friends’ challenging transitions to progressive lenses, but I also knew of many for whom it was quite easy. I hoped that when I decided to make the switch, my experience would be somewhere in the middle.

From what I understood, stairs and escalators could become a challenge when moving to progressive lenses. To me, they were a challenge at the best of times. Tripping on flat surfaces was not unfamiliar to me either. For those reasons, I delayed until I was in a calm and relaxed place, where I could allow myself the time and head space needed to adapt to the new frames.

Finding the right time almost seemed like procrastination, which isn’t usually my style, but when life kept throwing curve balls at me, I didn’t feel it was time to take on a big change like this.

But a few months later, the straw to break the camel’s back was at Cineplex movie theatres, before the movie started, when trying to play the TimePlay game on my phone. The combination of looking at the trivia questions on the big screen while trying to quickly refocus on the little screen of my phone to type in my response was next to impossible. I’m not a competitive person by nature, but it killed me to know the answer to a question and not be able to see my phone properly to enter the correct response.

It was time.

I showed up at my favourite glasses store with my prescription for progressive lenses in hand, ready to make the switch, only to have my bubble burst. They couldn’t refill prescriptions that were more than two years old. I had to go back to my optometrist. If the prescription was over two years old, chances are, I was due for an appointment anyway.

A couple of weeks later, I was back at the optometrist’s, getting my pupils dilated and getting retested for the big switch. This time it was different. Because I was so motivated to make the switch, our conversation was very focused on making a successful transition.

Plus, I asked a lot of questions as I drew upon the experiences of the friends who did encounter issues. With all of that information tucked into my back pocket, I felt reassured that I could do this.

The day that my glasses were ready, I admit I was really pumped to try them out and make the switch, while at the same time, I had thrown a wide safety net of contingencies for the transition.

When the optician put the new glasses on me and I looked around, looked up and looked down, it’s not like my universe had changed so significantly. The distance prescription barely changed.

The big test was when I pulled out the iPhone out of my back pocket. When I looked down and hit the home button, I could see my wallpaper and then each and every icon in crystal clear detail. That was the moment that rocked my world! Already, I thought it was a success.

The optician and I then reviewed the details of what to expect and more contingency planning, just in case. As I drove away, I marvelled at how I could see every detail of my car’s dashboard and all of its pretty lights.

When I got home, I started going about my regular Saturday chores. I had been at it for a couple of hours when I realized that my adjustment was going pretty well. I didn’t experience any headaches, I wasn’t overthinking the stairs, and I seemed to be quickly getting the hang of putting close items in the right spot to see them clearly through the bottom part of the lenses.

A few days later, I realized that my contingency planning was starting to collect dust as my transition to progressive lenses turned out to be an easy one.

The only thing I noticed was that if I was watching TV from a horizontal position, I needed to go back to my old glasses because I couldn’t see distances sharply through the lower half of my lenses. But that certainly wasn’t a deal breaker.

All in all, I am really pleased with my new progressive lenses and very grateful that my transition was a pretty easy one.

Words cannot describe how giddy I got the first time I returned to the movies and played TimePlay and successfully placed in the top 3, thanks to my new progressive lenses… and my knowledge of movie trivia!

Did you enjoy this post? If you haven’t already, please check out the rest of my blog at andrebegin.blog. From there, you can click on the “Follow” button to receive future posts directly in your inbox. Also, don’t be shy, feel free to tell a friend or to share the link.
Sincere thanks for reading!
Have a great day,
André

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Food Allergies and Restaurants

It always puts a smile on my face when a restaurant menu contains a note saying something to the effect of “Please advise your server of any allergies or intolerance”.

To me, that means I’m in a restaurant that will likely take some extra precautions to do its best to ensure my food won’t cause me issues. This definitely takes some of the guesswork out of dining out.

Over the last 13 years, since the discovery of my intolerance to wheat products, the number of restaurants that have adjusted their menus to accommodate wheat-free/gluten-free diets has been impressive and heartwarming. And over that span of time, the improvement in the ingredients, recipes and dishes that have been offered has been spectacular.

I hear the same from friends and colleagues with sensitivities to nuts, eggs, dairy and shellfish. It is getting easier to make informed choices.

When it comes to dining, it is certainly a competitive market. I genuinely respect those establishments that have gone the extra mile to retain and attract clients by helping them navigate their options whether through little icons next to menu items, menus that specifically address dietary concerns, or in extremely well-informed service staff.

I admit that I have to contain my shrieks of delight when the server or the chef says, “Tell us what you’d like and we’ll see how we can modify it.”

Being the over-apologetic Canadian that I am, on a few occasions, I have apologized for asking so many questions about the menu, but I have been met with much reassurance. One chef even went so far as to say that it helps keep things interesting and challenging in the kitchen, in finding clever ways to make the menu work for the client. That completely made my day!

But what happens when a restaurant makes no such accommodations? Continue reading

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A Calm Mind

There are no words to describe the feeling of waking up in the morning with no worries. At first, it started to worry me… how can my mind be without worry… I must be forgetting something. But I caught myself falling into the old habit, and actively decided to just let it go, and enjoy the moment.

Waking up to a calm mind that is not racing, ruminating or over-processing things is new to me. What a wonderful feeling it is!

It’s not because I won the lottery. It’s not because stress has magically disappeared from my life. It’s not because certain people have suddenly found the exit door from my life.

Do I have things to worry about? Yes I do, but I don’t let them linger like they used to.

I remember being taken to the doctor’s office when I was 12 because I frequently suffered from stomach aches. After an abdominal exam and not finding anything, the doctor’s advice was to stop worrying so much otherwise I’d develop an ulcer.

But there was so much to worry about: Getting good grades, pleasing my parents, getting my homework done on time, fitting in at my new school, being the “husky” kid, being the shortest boy in my class.

And as the years went on, my worries changed, but worry was a constant: maintaining a good average in high school to get into university, choosing a major in university, completing university to get a good job, the first work assignment, the first apartment, money management, the first car, paying my dues at work, health, relationships, the second apartment, noisy neighbours, the third apartment, car repairs, illness in the family, the first house purchase, home renovations, dog poo in my yard (and I don’t own a dog)… you get the picture.

At any point, I had a stack of worries circulating through my mind, but that seemed normal to me.

Along the way, I had read several self-help books and taken stress management courses to develop a tool kit to help keep my cool and to keep me grounded. Things seemed to be in check, but worry still followed me around even in the quietest, most relaxed moments. Continue reading

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Winter: Not Enough Moisturizer in the World

On a snowy, blustery day, to me there is no greater feeling than to look out the window, to stick out my tongue at Old Man Winter, and then to curl up with a good book to enjoy a good story, to catch up on some of my binge watching, or to grab my laptop and work on some stories of my own. When my cat joins in and purrs contentedly by my side, everything seems right with the universe.

But nothing turns this Norman Rockwell moment upside down faster than to glance down and to notice blood trickling from my knuckles. Welcome to my nightmare of wintertime dry skin.

The combination of bone dry air outside with heated houses, heated cars and heated offices lends itself to there being very little moisture in the air. Without proper protection and hydration, these factors can quickly conspire and take their toll on skin.

When I was much younger and my skin could bounce back like an elastic, I didn’t have to worry too much about it. But once I passed 50, there have been days I thought that there was not enough moisturizer in the world to stay on top of it.

We are told that one way to hydrate properly is from the inside out. That has never been a problem, as I always seem to have a cup of water or green tea on the go, refilled frequently throughout the day. When my tummy makes that sloshing sound when I walk, I believe I’ve done my part. But my skin still gets dry.

So the next tactic is to work from the outside in. In my 20’s it started out easily enough, with a special face soap that didn’t dry out my skin, a little daily dab of moisturizer on the face and an application of hand cream on the driest days and I was good to go. Continue reading

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Farewell, My Shovel

It was 7:30 a.m. last Friday morning when Ivy the Wonder Cat and I were playing chess on the coffee table or at least Ivy’s version of chess, knocking the chess pieces off the table and meowing with joy.

Then I heard it!

You’d think it was the sound of “a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer” with the speed at which I flew to the window, but no. It was the snow plow… The snow plow I hired to clear my driveway, making its very first visit!

For those who might not be familiar with an Ottawa winter, let’s just put things into perspective. While different sources offer different statistics, I’d say that on average, Ottawa receives about 200 cm (roughly 78 inches) of snow through the fall, winter and spring months.

Of course it doesn’t fall at once. Sometimes it falls as light fluffy flakes, sometimes it comes with ice pellets and sometimes it is wet and heavy. As an added bonus, after the plow (or plough, if you prefer) comes to clear the street, there is always a heavy (and sometimes mountainous) snow bank at the end of the driveway that needs to be cleared as well.

Plus, when you have a winter like 2008 with more than 300 cm of snow, and all of the snowbanks start getting taller than you, where do you put the snow?

For the longest time, I thought that hiring a plowing service might have been frivolous or extravagant, especially since my driveway is barely over one car length. But I had to accept the sad reality that the degenerating disc in my back will continue to degenerate, and that the shoveling is probably not helping it in the long run.

I tried to convince myself that it was good exercise and that it was one of the joys (and responsibilities) of home ownership. But 17 winters later, my positive spin on shoveling is spiraling downward. I’m over it. Continue reading

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50 Reasons Why I Enjoy Running

1. It gets me out to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine.
2. It’s a versatile activity: when running with friends it can be a very social activity, but when running alone, it can offer great moments of introspection.
3. There are several great programs and clinics offering information and instruction on how to run injury-free. Checking one out can be the difference between hating the sport and loving the sport.
4. Running helps me to clear my head.
5. Running can be a good activity for stress management.
6. Running puts a smile on my face.
7. Running is a great conversation starter with other runners.
8. The subtle changes I see and feel in my body, when a belt can tighten a notch or when something from the back of the closet suddenly fits again.
9. Overall, I feel more confident when I have been running.
10. Running only seems to require discipline in the beginning. Over time, the sense of progress, achievement and well-being seems to help discipline take care of itself.
11. When I am running regularly, the sense of progress and achievement seems to motivate me to make better, healthier choices overall.
12. The feeling of “ugh, I need to work out” disappears as soon as I am done, which means less guilt for the rest of the day.
13. There is a wonderful sense of community among runners.
14. I sometimes get my best writing ideas while running.
15. I sometimes solve problems while running. Continue reading

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Why Am I Walking So Fast?

I was walking down the street one evening after work, when I caught myself. I was walking at a brisk pace.

What’s wrong with walking at a brisk pace? Nothing if you are running late or have a long list of things to do and only a little time to accomplish them.

But I wasn’t late nor did I have a long list of things to do. But I was still on autopilot, at a pace more typical of “The Busy People’s Walk”. The brisk pace seems to be the norm these days, even when there’s no reason for it.

While it might be great for my cardio, it’s not exactly conducive to stopping and smelling the roses along the way.

I laughed to myself and thought, “Slow down! Enjoy the moment!” At the same time, it evoked childhood memories from when my Dad used to tell me (in French) “T’es pas au feu”, meaning “You’re not on fire”, whenever I was unnecessarily rushing through something.

Funny enough, even after consciously slowing myself down, somehow my walking speed started creeping up again and I had to remind myself that I am, in fact, not on fire and could enjoy a more leisurely pace. I slowed myself down again.

The question is… why? Has my auto-pilot always been stuck in rush mode? Continue reading

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