Notes from Under the Oaks

As Thanksgiving approaches I am pausing to celebrate things for which I am thankful. Among my fortunes is a pair of black-rimmed spectacles without which I couldn't function. My story with glasses goes back two decades, but it should go back even further.

“I’m just bad at math.”  I remember the first time I had that thought. I was in fourth grade and up until then I had done pretty well academically. Then fourth grade and long division rolled around and I was suddenly “bad at math.”

It wasn’t until four years later, after failing math in sixth and seventh grade, that I started getting headaches. I had always done just fine on the annual school vision exam, but the headaches prompted a visit to the optometrist. As it turned out, I have terrible vision.

Although I quickly learned I needed my glasses to keep up in class, it did not occur to me until years later that there might be a correlation between my slow vision diagnosis and my struggles in math. Now I sometimes wonder what if I am not actually “bad at math?” Would my life be any different if I had gotten my glasses earlier?

My story, while frustrating, is a testament to the importance of good optometric care. I’ve been thinking about this frequently as we’ve been promoting the infant eye care program, InfantSEE. (InfantSEE is a national program which provides all infants a free exam between six and 12 months of age and allowing for early diagnosis of many common eye problems.)

I recently asked alumni to recount their first pair of glasses via Facebook. The responses made me a tad emotional. Alumni shared stories of improving their sports stats as a result of their glasses and contacts and of being able to see details and colors like never before. They told of small children seeing things small and big for the first time. They told of the wonder at seeing the world anew.

One’s first pair of glasses is truly transformational. They have the power to make us better scholars, better athletes and better drivers. They allow us to see leaves on the trees, pebbles on the sidewalk, words on the menu and birds in the distant sky.

If you have great vision, count it as a blessing and never take it for granted.

If you find yourself struggling to see things near or far or your eyes or your head ache, don’t wait! Go see an optometrist and let your world be brightened and focused.

If you have tried to see a 3D movie and it gave you troubles, don’t wait! Go see an optometrist and see if she can’t help you see the next Hobbit movie in 3D by Christmas.

And most importantly if you are the parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle or friend of a kid of any age, do what you can to make sure they have an eye exam with an optometrist. Every kid deserves to be able to see the board in class, to know that trees have leaves, to see 3D movies with their family.

I’d love to hear your story. When did you first get classes or contacts? Or, are you an optometrist or a teacher who has seen a life changed with the ability to see? Send us your story!

In the mean time, I'd like to extend warm wishes Thanksgiving wishes to all 25,000 alumni. May you all be well this season.

Best wishes,

Martha Calus-McLain ’03
Director of Alumni Relations

Posted by Martha Calus-Mclain ( on Nov 19, 2013 at 9:26 AM

Edited by Rachael Burbank ( on Nov 19, 2013 at 3:23 PM

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