Friday, December 18, 2009

Breaking Up is So Hard to Do.....

I'm tired of him.... really I don't care if we ever meet again... My life would be less complicated if I didn't have to hear his voice like... umm... ever! ...Yet... something tells me that he'll be back challenging me and taunting me... exhausting me and infuriating me.... I'm. so. over. that. dude. Seriously. He can go away, and I'll never look back.

...and thus begins the next installment of the Twitchy Face Chronicles...


Mapping #10 with all electrodes turned on and firing this time was really short and sweet. I met with my sub audiologist since Michelle is still on maternity leave, and as she tested my tolerance for sound with each one, the twitching started. I decided to not say anything at first because I wanted those electrodes firing on all cylinders, but once I felt my nose doing the Tabitha twitch I felt obligated to mention it. (If you really don't know who Tabitha is just google "Bewitched" instead of making me feel really ancient by asking me who she is. :) At another point she noticed my eye twitching when I didn't really feel it much. Pretty.

I was tired. The pipsqueak was awake at 4:30 a.m. demanding snacks and books. (Growth spurts that only require food and little sleep seem to be a weekly thing lately.) Bless his heart... it was a long night for his mother... and I totally did not feel very perky or chatty or like I wanted to get overly involved with the mapping process like I usually do.

Once we found something that seemed okay... no real twitching... I was sent to play in traffic..(a.k.a. going to the parking lot to see if everything "sounds okay.") The elevator dings were especially clear and sharp as the doors opened on the ride down. Those high pitched sounds still amaze me that I can actually hear them. No matter how loud I would turn up something before, I could never hear anything in that range because I just don't have any hearing in those frequencies. When I amplify sound with a hearing aid, it only amplifies the lower frequencies, so the one thing that I don't think will ever feel normal is hearing an especially crisp ding. It is really silly how awesome it is. In the mapping when we got to each isolated higher pitched sound that we tested my tolerance for I just wanted to sit there and play with them and make them louder and louder. We had to keep moving, but maybe when Michelle gets back I'll have to ask her to play with those sounds. I can just imagine her face dropping now because she'll be so afraid my head will explode.

When I went back upstairs my audiologist asked me to pop in the booth for a quick test, and she really just wanted to see how my relationship with "him" was. Oh yes... the guy from my recent post who likes to say, "ready..." and then some random one syllable word in rapid fire progression for what seems like forever, but is really just a few minutes or maybe just two or three minutes at that. I especially disliked hearing his voice this go-round, and she put in a tape with different words than I'd been tested with before... or at least that's what I understood she was doing, not that it should make all that much difference. I was conflicted several times about what he said and would still be thinking about it while he was saying "ready" and moving on to the next word, and I just hate to miss a word. A couple of times, I'd change my answer forcing the audiologist to stop the tape and scribble madly before restarting the tape. Once she asked me which word I meant, and I figured out from her face the second one I blurted out must be the wrong one, and of course that's the one I told her I meant... *sigh* Gnashing of teeth and hand-wringing aside, I managed to finish the test but on the last word I couldn't even come up with an answer... not a fake word or guess... nada. Just silence as I sat there staring at nothing. Pathetic.

The audiologist then told me my scores were 58%...down from 78% the last time Michelle tested me on that same test two mappings ago. I told her the guy made me anxious, but she was having none of that because she doesn't think anxiety would have anything to do with that much of a drop. Maybe so. She seemed almost unhappy with me for the fact that several of my electrodes were out of compliance because of what I told her I could tolerate when we did my mapping. She thinks perhaps my CI is too loud to the point of distortion, but honestly, it doesn't seem too loud to me during the day when I'm wearing it. As another blogger puts it... I'm a power junkie... I just like it loud! I do know that from what I saw her do on the computer I'm barely, barely, barely out of compliance at some points, but I can work with what I've got right now with little complaint because my day to day life with it is much more comfortable and easy-going than it was nine months ago when I was adjusting to all the noise and commotion that made very little sense. My hearing is never going to be perfect, but what I was able to do with hearing aids have been tremendously enhanced with the CI so even when I don't seem to be hearing or comprehending as well as I did 3 months ago, it's still nothing to sneeze at... that's for sure!

However, that said... I just don't like that man. He's such a trouble maker. My understanding is we'll be meeting again in two months before my mapping this time so a comparison can be done of my hearing before and after the next mapping. Smart, but I'm assuming I have to hear him smirking just slightly "out of compliance" twice that day. Lovely. She also did a quick hearing test that showed that I was hearing at 20 dB pretty much straight across... which is weird since I've been testing consistently at 15 dB, but even she said that was not a lot of hearing and the drop wasn't a big deal... comprehension is really her only concern.

On the plus side, my surgeon, Dr. McReynolds, was in the building visiting a new patient being activated, and he gave me a hug. It was so great to see him. Last time I saw him he would talk a little loud just especially for me, which never failed to make me smile a bit. Sometimes people can be over the top with the extra loudness and over enunciating, but there are two kinds of people that do this... one does this in a manner as if they are talking to an *insert eyeroll* extra special population they know nothing about (ever seen a parody on television of someone yelling at a blind person???) and then there's those that are so kind and mean so well and you just want to hug them for making sure you know what's going on. My doctor is the latter of course.

This time he talked in a soft spoken voice as if he were speaking to my husband and not me. I almost looked around the room to make sure he was talking to me, but I checked myself! :) He asked how I was doing, and I was happy to tell him that I've had some success with the cell phone, am enjoying real estate classes, and how my audiogram scores had been 15-20 dB for a while and he looked a little choked up. It must never get old. This man has done literally hundreds of cochlear implant surgeries since the 1980's, and yet he still gets emotional. Such a nice man. Wish I could say the same about the other one.

Until next year, dear readers... Have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
xoxo~Michelle

Monday, November 23, 2009

Mapping #9... Twitchy Face

A few weeks ago I had my ninth mapping. My audiologist is on maternity leave so I had the pleasure of meeting one of the audiologist legends at the HEAR Foundation whose name I've heard for years. Mary Lynn had a completely different style from Michelle from personality to technique. I still really miss Michelle though, and I can't wait to work with her again when she's back in January.

Mary Lynn got right to the point and had me listen to a lot of different sounds that I could see on the computer. She said they were like keys on the piano, and I told her what was comfortable and what was tolerable and what was barely discernible until she had a program mapped out.... just like that! She flipped it on, and I was dazzled. I could clearly make out the little nuances in Mary Lynn's voice. I told her the sound of this mapping was the most fabulous yet from what I could tell! It seemed so crystal clear and on the money, but then something funny happened. Yeah... my eye twitched. In fact the right side of my face twitched with each sharp, crisp syllable that Mary Lynn spoke. The lower rim of my eye was vibrating like a chain saw. Real attractive, mate, eh?

Reluctantly I told her that I was twitching. Very reluctantly. Blah. I offered to "live with it", but she was having none of that nonsense. Before I left I had three electrodes turned off in order to quell the twitch. She said the other electrodes would kick in. *sigh* She sent me down to the parking lot to listen to the traffic on the freeway to see if I could tolerate my new program. I could. Easily. Instead of playing in traffic, I went to give her the good news. (...totally kidding about that traffic thing... :)

I left my appointment and talked to my friend, Melissa, on the phone for a while to road test the new program. It wasn't pretty. I found myself faking more of the conversation or talking more than listening... an old habit to squeak by. My car produced a lot of static feedback with the telecoil on making it even harder to hear. By the time I parked the car and turned it off though, I was able to follow more of what she was saying, but since then I've gone back to using my videophone for some of my more important calls, but I still call up all the besties (except Dannette who gets to see my mug on the videophone) to give them my love and use them for auditory practice. They have all been patient with me so far when I know it can be a little tedious talking to me lately.

The game plan is to turn the electrodes back on at the next mapping and see if my face can adjust to all the excitement. It's kind of funny that on one hand, there's really no new breakthroughs for me since that mapping, and I feel like I'm struggling more now (just a little...) ....but.... oh the sheer massive power of that thing when it hasn't been on in a while!!! I had a splitting headache over the weekend and just couldn't tolerate the sound of the CI. I wore my HA in my other ear and just relaxed in the familiar lull, but it was so frustrating to realize I could understand hardly a word my son said this weekend until I finally put on my CI yesterday. (It also made me realize that I hadn't been putting in as much time signing with my son lately, because he only signs when I prompt him to, not when he wants to say something.... sure came back to bite me when I needed it!) Putting it back on though... whew.... so much power I thought it was going to blow me out the window. Even the silence will come blasting in, especially after a long break without wearing it. Loud silence is probably the hardest thing to explain to both(non-CI wearing)deaf and hearing people because it seems like such an oxymoron... How can there be such a thing?

Anyway, stay tuned for Twitchy Face Chronicles (a.k.a. Mapping #10) in the near future.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving everyone! :-)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

What's Next for Nashville? You Can Help! (an update on that bridge that hears, tap dances and sings...)

This is an update to my last post regarding the recent name change of League of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing who merged with the EAR Foundation in Nashville, Tennessee to the lovely (please continue noting slight sarcasm) Hearing Bridges. I have more details this time around. There were 15 members voting on the name, while one member, who is hearing was absent for the vote. Just for the record there is only one person on this entire board who is deaf, Nancy Yater, and while she may feel out numbered, she isn't going anywhere! Her plan is to have an advocate committee of deaf and hard of hearing to bring their concerns to the board. (*ahem* One small concern comes to mind at the moment... but moving on....) There is also one hard of hearing member and one CODA (child of deaf adult). Just to clarify, 13 members who voted are hearing, one is hard of hearing, and one is deaf.

The decision to change the name from League of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing after 80 years due to the merge with the EAR Foundation was approved by a vote of 11-4 (with one member absent and not voting) in favor of Hearing Bridges as the new name. Nancy Yater, the lone deaf member of the board, and 3 others on this board were the only ones to dissent.

What’s really astounding to me is that, neither the CODA member nor the hard of hearing member voting, dissented. I think I’m more disappointed that a CODA was a consenting vote, because personally speaking most CODAs I’ve known have a special bond, not only with their parents, but with the deaf community as well.

On the other hand, I probably should not expect most hard of hearing people who have had no or very little connection with the deaf community to fully understand the dynamics behind this name, and to that particular group it might symbol hope to be more (as usual please note slightly more sarcasm here) “normal” one day, and to those who lost their hearing gradually or later in life, it really should be understandable to want to attain what they consider a normal hearing status quo… BUT that ladies and gentlemen of the jury, is exactly why this name is offensive to a large percentage of the population that this organization serves. To force that facade on all clients who don’t strive to be hearing…. will never be hearing… and live full lives in spite of not hearing...it's kind of like saying you're incomplete without hearing. The name doesn't exude an aura of support for those receiving services but instead gives a subtle (like...oh you know... a ton of bricks type subtle) air of superiority.

Look at it this way, it’s quite patronizing to name a place many profoundly deaf people go to for services HEARING Bridges. Seriously, would you send a man in a wheelchair to Walking Bridges? Or a blind woman to Seeing Bridges? Or how about that brunette girl to Blonde Bridges (okay that might happen..) ....but what about your dog to Cat Bridges? Seriously... no matter what that little mutt thinks...or what you want....he's just not ever going to be a cat! ....or how about we take a detour from Grandma's wild and crazy Bunco night and expect her to go be-bopping at Teen Bridges because if she tries hard enough she can be 16 again, right? Trust me, Grandma doesn't need to be 16 to have a good time, and I'm sure she'd find it maybe a little patronizing if you thought she needed to be in order to have a fabulous life. *SIGH* Not only is the name Hearing Bridges patronizing, thoughtless, and demeaning to the deaf community… it’s an OXYMORON. It just doesn’t have any rhyme or reason for the majority of the clients serviced by that agency.

My old friend from way back when, Kim Dance, is now the president of Tennessee Association of the Deaf, and she sent me a copy of an email that the board chair, Ron McCoy, has been sending out to various members of the deaf community in regards to this sticky situation. I have permission from Kim to share it here and all I’m doing is copying and pasting as is. If you are anywhere near Nashville the day of this meeting please go give this group some moral support and spread the word. The address for the meeting is 415 Fourth Avenue South, Nashville, TN 37201. You can also join the group “People opposing the new name HEARING BRIDGES instead of LDHH” on Facebook by simply clicking on the title of this post . Numbers speak volumes. Personally, I hope the board opens their eyes and invites the deaf to join them... no....make that encourages them and welcomes them with open arms, willing spirits, and GENUINE smiles on their faces.... who better to learn about the deaf community than from say... the deaf community perhaps? Just a parting thought.... and now for the email from Mr. McCoy...


From: McCoy, Ron R

Sent: Monday, November 16, 2009 2:49 PM
Subject: IMPORTANT - Town Hall Meeting - Thursday December 3rd at 7:00pm at Hearing Bridges

Hello all:
Hearing Bridges formerly known as the League for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing and the EAR Foundation will be hosting a town hall meeting with the community on Thursday December 3rd at 7:00pm at Hearing Bridges.

The Board of Hearing Bridges will be the host of the meeting.

It has been brought to this Board's attention that many of you would like an opportunity to communicate with the Board directly regarding the name change, and the Board would like to collect more information. Please understand that there will not be a direct resolution that will come from the meeting that evening, and it will allow the Board the opportunity to listen to your responses both in support and against the name change.

There will be some simple ground rules for the meeting to facilitate o! rder:
1) Each person present will be given 3 minutes with a 1 minute warning to air their grievances, ask questions, or present to the board their opinions.
2) There will a platform for each person to present. In courtesy of each presenter we ask that all other persons remain seated.
3) The Board would like the opportunity to ask questions of each person that speaks in order to collect more information with a 2 minute time limit.
4) The process of recognizing each person will be announced that evening, and it will be fair and orderly. The goal is to give everyone the opportunity to speak.
5) Please no personal attacks and/or slanderous remarks and profanity.
6) This meeting will begin promptly at 7:00pm and end promptly at 9:00pm.

There will be interpreters present at this meeting.

We would love to have each and every one of you come to this meeting, so please do. This meeting will mean nothing without YOUR direct involvement. Pleas! e come, regardless of your stance it will be a great opportunity for the community and the Board to get to know each other.
Thanks,
Ron McCoy
Board Chair

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Seriously Board Members.... HEARING Bridges?

Tennessee is my home state. I'll always feel grateful for the opportunity given to me to represent my home at the Miss Deaf America Pageant years ago when I was still so new to the Deaf community. I was completely accepted and treated with respect. I received so much help during that time, whether to carry out my state duties or to prepare for pageants. They didn't care what kind of school I went to or what my first language was, but they were very patient with me and helped me learn to communicate in my new world. All they wanted to do was welcome me to a group they said I belonged to as well, and although I felt different at times as I was still learning the language and the culture, I never felt out of place.

Even though I've since moved to Texas I've never forgotten the kindness I received during those years or the friendships I made. That's why I was so disappointed for the people of Nashville and Tennessee when a situation came to light this past week that seemed to strip them of any dignity or pride they might have in an organization they'd come to rely on and believe in over the years.

The League for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (
LDHH) a non-profit in Nashville recently merged with the EAR Foundation in Nashville. I honestly do not have all the details myself yet, but I am doing my best to find out along with the rest of the deaf community in Tennessee. However, since the two merged LDHH and EAR Foundation has now been renamed by the board as HEARING BRIDGES. Tsk. Not Deaf Bridges... Not even Deaf & Hearing Bridges... Just HEARING Bridges. Personally, I'm stunned. Someone dropped the ball. What did they think? This was catchy? No one would miss the word "Deaf"? What a slap in the face to those this organization has spent decades serving.... and to add insult to injury this name was revealed with great show at an event in front of many deaf and family members who waited expectantly after having read this exciting tidbit on the LDHH blog... "Since our merger with the EAR Foundation last September, the board of directors decided to change the agency’s name to reflect more accurately the folks we serve and the programs we offer." (See for yourself at http://hearingbridges.org/blog/ ) This is an organization that claims to bridge the deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing communities by mostly providing services to the deaf, and this is the name the board felt BEST described the wonderful work done there? Ugh. This is like taking a Martha Stewart cake out of the oven and letting Oscar the Grouch pick out icing from the bottom of his trash can to top it off. Lovely.

I hope the deaf community in Tennessee is heard loud and clear and with eyes wide open by this wonderful organization of EIGHTY years. I hope the media responds to their requests to be heard and seen and understands why this name is so demeaning and runs with it. I also hope everyone remembers this was a decision made by the board members and not the staff, and that is where grievances should be placed. People on
Facebook can show their support or participate in discussions by joining the group "People opposing the new name HEARING BRIDGES instead of LDHH".

Sunday, October 4, 2009

That thing I want to do when I grow up......

Wow, the summer months have just whirled and twirled by leaving me in a cloud of dust facing fall wondering where all the time went. To back up a little, back in June my husband had just come home from the hospital, and we were trying to decide how we were going to get up on our feet again. Owning a construction company doesn't allow for too many sick days, much less a complete halt to business for weeks at a time, but that's exactly what happened to us not just once but twice this summer when James became extremely ill. It certainly did make us examine our priorities more closely and lit a fire under me to "do something".

I had been playing with different ideas of contributing more directly to our family business than just behind the scenes on the clerical and advertising side, and one day I made a definite decision. James came home, and I told him I had enrolled that day for six hours of classes starting in July for online real estate classes at the local community college, and in a short six week session I not only knocked those first six hours out, I added three more hours at the same time on campus! That was just the beginning of a crazy load I've been carrying since then, and for once in my life I love the classes enough to not care that I'll do as much in six weeks now as I used to do in four months the first time around in college. Ah, youth.

A few of the classes I've had so far are real estate law, contracts, agency, and marketing. Next week I'm going to the courthouse with my co-op class to watch foreclosure auctions. Later this month I'm going with my co-op class to a real estate expo that I'm really looking forward to attending.... and to think the last time I was attending an expo at the same place with maybe a *little* more excitement was for the Bridal Extravaganza in 2005. My professor is really cool and has invited James to come along for field trips and to visit the co-op class anytime, and he came with me to class last week. He's going on both field trips which will be a great chance for him to network himself with Realtors.

Getting into real estate has been an idea forming for several years. We've met and worked with many Realtors through my husband's business, and James has occasionally mentioned I should consider it myself. I've always held back though because frankly the field intimidated me for several reasons, and my deafness was right smack dab at the top of the list. It was one of those careers I put nearly up there auditory-wise with singing on American Idol, flying a commercial aircraft, or waiting tables at Hooters (intimidating for more reasons than nerve damage!) Houston is quite a diverse city. I do well enough to read lips in person of accents I'm not familiar with, but to imagine taking calls from anyone I didn't know terrified me. Impossible. Ummm. No. Just no. Am I okay with it now? It's a work in progress, but it's not a firm no anymore... it's not a hopping up and down enthusiastic yes either. It's one of those things that is just tricky right now. I don't have all the answers yet, but I know there will be answers, and that somehow this is all do-able.

So there we were in June pondering what we were going to be when we grew up, or at least I was. I thought about going back to school for a masters in counseling, but in the back of my mind was this dream of selling houses or finding houses for a happy buyer, and there was the thought that maybe with my improving auditory skills I might be able to do this... maybe. I just could not let the thought go for anything. Yes, as people like to remind me, this housing market is lousy at the moment, but it's a great market for investors...and the market is not going to be bad forever. By the time the market bounces back, all the new kids will be jumping on the bandwagon and signing up for real estate classes. I'd rather learn the business now when times are tough and be ahead of the game by the time the new competition comes along.

Something else that all these classes have helped me realize is that Houston is just enormous with so many possible angles of real estate to explore in the future, and I don't have to decide right now. I'm just happy that I have these ideas to mull over. Just last week in class we talked more in depth about real estate mediation, and I must admit that grabbed my attention for down the road... maybe a way I can tie in counseling and real estate together one day? Who knows? I also have a great teacher that reminds me how much I once loved teaching for the sake of teaching.... She has so much joy. Maybe when I have a few years of experience I might want to teach again? So thinking along those lines I decided to shoot for the associate degree in real estate to be more well-rounded and *hopefully* I will be able to finish the classes for it by this spring, but I'll be taking the state licensing test most likely next month because I will have the required classes for the license done very soon. I also have a great husband who just wants me to get my feet wet the first year and just network for our company through contacts I make in the real estate field. The ideas are endless.

I'm so busy with the ridiculous amount of classes I've piled on myself that I have barely had time to stop and think how I'm going to pull this off or worry about my confidence level. I know I need more tools to succeed in this business. I have a new cell phone (my first!!!), but that particular phone is not strong enough for me to have a detailed conversation with someone I don't know regarding business. I have a lot of research to do to figure out how to use technology to my advantage to make up for some of my weaker areas. Just the idea that I'm doing something now that I've wanted to do for a long time but never thought I'd have the confidence to do is really exhilarating.

I'm grateful that having a cochlear implant has opened the door to this idea, but I know that deep down I probably had the ability to pull it off all along and could have found a way to do it. The cochlear implant makes it easier though to work with the hearing public. Of course, I especially hope I can work with the deaf community. From my research there doesn't seem to be any other deaf real estate agents in Houston. I'm also grateful that I grew up watching my aunt, Pam, work her way to the top in Chattanooga as a top Realtor. She is a great role model. I remember years ago when she just started taking classes and now when I drive home I see her on billboards! She's really awesome and a great inspiration!

So... stay tuned... more to come soon. :)

Friday, September 11, 2009

Mapping #8---A Great Visit!

What a whirlwind the last few weeks have been! I can't believe my last post was my last mapping, and here I am with my newest results of my eighth mapping from last week. Short and sweet.... my impedence test came back normal so that means the internal equipment is given the all clear and doing its job! *WHEW!* I'm so excited about the test scores.... 96% on the sentence test (same as last month, and I only missed two words :) and 78% on the words (HINT) test... up from 64% from the month before!

My husband had another round at the hospital this past month with a case of pancreatis and a staph infection that evidently didn't clear up that he got while he was in the hospital in May from an IV! He is slowly building his strength back and getting back to work. Thank God for his health. Things could have turned out much differently if we didn't get the diagnosis(es) and treatment when we did.

Needless to say between my two guys, I've been on the run lately without a lot of time to blog. Stay tuned though.... I'll be back very soon with a real update on my life (not just stats and numbers on hearing beeps and words ;) and a real decision on what I'm going to be when I grow up. I'm so excited about what's in the works!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Mapping #7---Waiter, there's a fly in my ear.....buzzzzzzzz.....

To preface this post.... yes, it is about a mapping. Yes, it's my seventh. Yes, I realize some people *ahem* in the blogosphere world are overinundated with the newbies to the mapping experience blogging on every last single technical detail. Please feel free to note that not all of my posts are related to my cochlear implant experience and include quite a bit of my exciting life as a mom to a two year old. Oh yes, even from here I feel the deaf peeps out there dropping like flies from the sheer boredom of.... oh.... another mapping? and oh... mommy to a two year old? *smile* This is simply my record of my journey with a cochlear implant and the mappings are important benchmarks in this experience, although they may not read as the most exciting blog posts.


There really aren't too many of us that grew up with a severe to profound loss that are blogging on the experience of receiving a cochlear implant as an adult. From casual observation, most adults with implants seem to be the ones that are deafened later in life. I'm surely not the success story on the take home box of Nucleus Freedom accessories or the DVD passed out before surgery. No one is asking me to talk to new "recruits" and share my heartwarming experience. I didn't go to my first mapping and cry tears of joy. No, I cried tears of absolute horrid misery. For what it's worth, I do have video of my first mapping that I'll likely never share publicly, and I'm absolutely snarling in it (plus the one year old in the background climbing furniture is absolutely priceless.) :-P So, in the spirit of my journal, I'm recording ANOTHER. FLIPPING. MAPPING. SESSION!!!! ....and if someone else wants to think about doing this and reads my blog, they'll get as always... the good... the bad... and the ugly from my point of view. So... that said... on with the show.


Today's mapping was actually an emergency session for me... not necessarily of the most dire kind, but I was fairly frustrated. I've been experiencing so much static popping and background noise that it was really disrupting my listening pleasure. To compound matters, while I could still hear fairly well with the CI, I wasn't having any new break-throughs and sound clarity, especially with voices, was regressing. I started asking my husband, James to repeat things several times or opted out of conversations with him because it seemed like too much energy to comprehend. Talking to him on the phone has been short and quick because his words started sounding slightly muffled. I could almost catch what he was saying, but I missed more than I was getting, and that wasn't without serious concentration on my part. My video phone needs to be re-routed with someone from the company and is down, so I haven't even had that as a back up lately.


My audiologist fit me in on a day's notice by seeing me yesterday morning (and not for lack of not having too much on her plate already... She's just cool like that... but I've established that already in previous "ode to the cool audiologist" posts. :-) None of the maps were working that we were trying out, so she went ahead with both tests to check the electrodes (listening to the beeps and the neural test... and if someone wants to give me the official name to each to refer to once and for all, I'd appreciate it.) The gist of it was my old map was out of compliance and causing distortion, but something about my electrodes has changed slightly and is now being "monitored". My audiologist consulted with another audiologist, and she assured me that my electrode test was within normal range, but yet... big yet.... it was different enough to need to be tested again in 3 weeks to make sure all is well. *IF* there is a problem it's with the internal equipment... yep... I said I would share the good, bad, and ugly, didn't I? I'm being monitored to make sure the equipment locked and loaded and sealed inside my head is functioning fine. Nucleus has great reliability, and my testing isn't cause for alarm, but it's never fun to have to wait and make sure everything is actually okay.


Meanwhile, my audiologist finally gave me a mapping that clicked and made me go "ahhhhhhhh". Two hours after I arrived we were just starting to get somewhere. I felt so bad for her because she is a perfectionist, and I knew my situation being tossed at her yesterday was a handful and not fun. She said she gave me a map that most people would hate. She says it's pretty unique. It's in compliance with my electrodes so that distortion shouldn't be a problem like it was when I arrived. She basically said she did it by changing the parameters and beyond that I have no idea what she did... just that it worked at the time.


She wanted to do some tests before I left. I sat in the booth and could swear there was electrical buzzing. She came in there and listened and said there was something so I assumed it wasn't static. So much for soundproof booths, right? She actually told me that's a falsehood anyway and that these were just more sound resistant, not sound proof, not something my little deaf self ever noticed. The test scores were ridiculously great. In June I had 79% on my sentence test (HINT test). Today? 96%! Sur-stinkin'-real! :)



Right when I thought the guy on the recording and I had a blossoming relationship, he trampled it with his horrible one word test. This is the first time I've had this test post-CI, and I was blown away by how fast the guy went.... He would say "ready...*quick pause*... boat" one second pause "ready *quick pause* make"... Jeeeeeeeeeeez Louise!... I couldn't hear myself think because half the time I was saying what I thought he just said as he was saying "ready" before the next word, which would make me lose my thought, panic, and ...then... rinse and repeat! I could never just relax and catch up with that guy... He definitely was NOT from the south... and that test was LOOOOOOOONG. I do. not. like. that. test. I scored 64%. I liked my other much score better. :-P



For the last test, we did the usual bells and whistles to plot the lines on the audiogram. Seriously... not bad.... 15-20 decibels straight across the board. Last time it was 20-25 decibels... so it was about the same... but a little better. One example of how much my audiogram is changing... at 6000 Hz, I have a 120 db hearing loss (and that is with or without the hearing aid on)... We are talking... deaf as a doorknob... flat out.... not a peep to be heard...completely deaf.... but pop on the CI on it's 15 db. Boggles my mind still. Technology is pretty amazing. Needless to say, my brain hears sound at that level.... it doesn't necessarily mean it's processing information at the level, but it's all uncharted territory for my noggin anyway.



So fast forward to this evening.... and the static is back somewhat, and it is annoying me to a degree. I can still hear well in spite of it, but right now I'm relaxing without it on because I need a break from the buzzing in the air. I had it off earlier when I was getting Aidan ready for bed, and I couldn't understand anything he was saying. I didn't realize just how much I have come to rely on it for understanding my son, and that was extremely frustrating to pretend to go along with what he said just so I could finish getting him ready for bed at the time. I put it back on while we read books because we do like to talk as we read. I am glad that I've started teaching Aidan some basic signs, and this just reinforces my desire to continue that so we don't ever have a reason for not being able to understand each other. The static's not too bad, but I'm concerned of course. Most likely this will work itself out in time. I'm not sure my audiologist is going to be really thrilled to open my email in the morning and read tonight's news, but she did say she will be seeing a company rep this week so she can go over my case with her.



....and that is the bare naked truth.... the good, the bad, the ugly visited yet again....





Wednesday, July 22, 2009

I Lub You!

When Aidan was a baby, I thought briefly about teaching baby sign language classes. I should be a natural, right? I am deaf... I am a teacher (okay...currently on a 4 year "break" at the moment from that particular profession but 12 years in combat counts for something)... and I had a beautiful, dimply, sweet, and non-complying little wild bambino. *sigh* It's the non-complying part that killed the deal for me. Bless his heart.

Here I am... Deaf mom extraordinaire with the little wonder child she can hold up to demonstrate to her classes and say... "Look! This is what your baby can do!" Only problem? The child. would. sign. nada. *pulling hair* Worse yet? All the hearing moms I talked to that claimed their two week old could sign the alphabet, even count to 100, AND sign every animal at the zoo. Yes, they were just two week old babies, I'm sure. Yes, these moms were all online so they might have exaggerated a bit. No matter. I couldn't lie. I said... he can sign "up". Yes... he could point up. It's a sign. It counts.

I threw in the towel. I said to myself, when he can talk, I'll start teaching him signs! He'll learn! He may learn at the age when it's not so hip anymore, and the other moms have moved on to compare how colorful their children's SPOKEN language is... and how long their sentences are, but maybe we were meant to march to our own drummer because sentences in this household for the two and under crowd are pretty. darn. short.

So... one of my child's biggest hobbies is raiding the refrigerator. Fortunately his dad and I are getting much better about locking it since the egg episode (don't ask!) He will come to me and point and yell for "cheese, cheese, cheese!" So in the name of food, my child has finally begun to learn a few signs willingly. He can sign "Mommy please", "Daddy please", and "thank you" which are much more pleasant ways of being directed to food. He is a little sponge and tries to copy every sign I teach him. He finds it fun! Yay! This is much easier than trying to demonstrate anything visual to a hyper busy baby that is much too busy looking at anything and anyone but his mother when she is actively standing in front of him squeezing her hand and exclaiming, "baby... look! look at Mommy! Milk! Milk! Can you say milk?" Ah, those were the days!

He loves to sign "dog" and his attempt to sign "duck" is priceless. He will usually just scratch his head behind his ear when he is attempting to sign "cat" but he will verbalize "Sassy" after the cat in Homeward Bound, so I have to give him points in originality. My favorite signs to do with him? "I love you!" Aidan says something along the lines of "I lub you!" which is really cute. I lub him too.

video

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Happy Father's Day, Pops!

May 2007 - Pops visiting newborn Aidan and big sister, Skylar in Texas.

Happy Father's Day, Pops!
I have a second dad. He's always encouraged me, and sometimes he even nags me just a bit, but he usually does it with a sense of humor. He's always walked the walk when he told me to go to school, buckle down and finish my degree. During the time I've known him he did just that himself and is now a vice president of a large company with enormous responsibilities and the respect of his peers.

I met him when I was sixteen and dating his stepson. My mom was his stepson's English teacher. My mom and his stepson both passed away unexpectedly within three weeks of each other when I was only seventeen. My mom had been sick. His stepson had not, but both losses left me empty.

They adopted me....Pops and his wife....in every way but legally when they could have just easily and understandably turned inwardly to focus on their own grief. My father was extremely grateful for the parenting back up since he was grieving himself and feeling quite lost.
Pops and his wife wanted me to move in with their family and made sure my head was on straight when they kicked me out next year (sending me straight to the dorms and my freshman year of college at the local university.) When senior year rolled around and I was living beyond my means, I moved back in for a year. Of course then I got a job and my first apartment and moved out (but not without a little parental prodding to send me on my way and make sure I was okay.)

Pops and his wife (she's my second mom, but today is about Pops, although I'll definitely tell her story one day) have always been there for the heartaches and the triumphs. When my grandparents died, when my father died.... they were there.... When I was crowned Miss Deaf Tennessee they were cheering loudly, and I'm pretty sure they had their hands in the air along with the rest of the crowd. Graduation day? Their relief and pride were beyond words.

I eventually moved to Texas to "see the world". I became quite independent. A few years later when I told them I was getting married, Pops first question...."Who's giving you away?" They gave me the wedding of my dreams, and Pops did just what he wanted to do for years and years... He gave me away. Of course I've always found my way back home to Pop's house over the years. Now I just take a husband, a stepdaughter, and son with me. The kids call him Poppy, and they adore him too.

Happy Father's Day, Pops!
I love you!
Michelle









Thursday, June 18, 2009

Tennessee-Going Home

My cousin, Abby, got married at Laurelwood on Signal Mountain in Tennessee last Saturday. We parked at a location on top of the mountain and took school buses to the wedding location passing farms, mountain scenery, horses and cows, and just the most beautiful natural Tennessee country God has created on the drive there.

The wedding was held outdoors overlooking a lake and surrounded by trees, and my brother's family was already sitting in the last row waiting for us. My uncle, aunt, and I joined them. I had no idea why Dean, who is totally in denial about how much hearing he is losing from his Air Force days at the shooting range, did not elect to sit a little closer to the front.

The wedding began and I was completely prepared to be lost throughout the ceremony. I have to say I was stunned to understand nearly every single word of the ceremony from where I sat. Seriously. To be fair, I slid the magnet off my head to do the hearing aid alone comparison and found that the acoustics were so excellent that I could have understood a lot of it with some intense concentration from where I sat without using my cochlear implant, but I would have been mentally drained. However, once I slid the magnet back on I didn't struggle. It helped to see the faces of the speakers even though I was quite a distance from them. It helped to see the rate at which they moved their mouths and the expressions on their faces even though I couldn't read their lips. I actually prefer the term "speech reading" to "lip reading" because comprehension has much more to with the whole face than just the lips. I don't even like talking to someone with sunglasses on for that reason. Odd, I know. :)

At the end of the ceremony there was a prayer. I always look at the speaker during prayer, even though I can usually see what's going on around the speaker as well. What usually amuses me is seeing which hearing people are peeping around during prayer because they just can't be still long enough to close their eyes and bow their heads, and of course then they see the deaf person and instantly have the oops...busted "deer in headlights" expression. No judgement from me because God knows I've no room to talk.... just amusement, I promise. So anyway, I closed my eyes since I couldn't even see who was praying, and I darned near fell out of my chair. I easily understood every word of the prayer, except for the first names of the groom's parents who were mentioned. Amazing. I would love to have that sound system with me everywhere I go, and I'd be set for life.

After the ceremony my family and I grabbed a round table outside, and my uncle told stories of days gone by. I was so grateful that I could understand what he was saying because, first of all, he told me I was a really good kid, and that my brother was the punk I remember him to be. My mother, who passed away when I was seventeen, had left a journal stating what a joy my older brother was, and Uncle Moe clarified that Dean had her snowed. Mom also frequently mentioned how intense life was with a hearing impaired child with a flair for drama, so it was nice to hear Dean called on some of his shenanigans since I wasn't as clever as he was at looking angelic. I also very much enjoyed hearing Dean call Uncle Moe's son, Jeff, after this conversation and leave a message apologizing for bullying him as a child. Did I mention my brother is a youth minister now, and I've always been considered the wild child of our family?

Uncle Moe also told some stories about his life growing up and running a bait shop with Papaw. We also discussed some tragedy our grandmother experienced as a young child. I'm glad I didn't miss out on our conversation that afternoon. We've lost too much and too many in our family, and I treasure moments like those because they don't come often.

My friend, Dani, was supposed to come visit from Atlanta the next day, but due to a flare-up with lupus, she couldn't make the drive. She is the most amazing person and appreciates the beauty of every single day, as only someone who has nearly not made it to see another day, can. Not only does she have lupus, but she barely survived heart failure immediately after delivering her son, Ronnie, five years ago.

Dani and I lived in the same dorm during our freshman year of college, and our lives went separate ways for a while and then brought us back together again. We had to settle for a phone conversation on Sunday afternoon, but I didn't have my video phone, so I didn't think I'd be able to talk to her long. We talked and we talked and we talked. I couldn't believe it. My brain was definitely processing my new mapping. I had to concentrate and felt a little frustrated at times, but my confidence had definitely increased by the time we hung up. Dani seemed impressed I'd hung in there as long as I did, but she was worth it!

I had several more phone calls while I was there with other friends and family members and did quite well considering. At one point, my friend, Crissie, called me on her video phone with an interpreter for herself, while I understood everything she said. She's not hard to understand though, as she speaks slowly and clearly with a definite southern accent. I think if I understood no one else on the phone, I'd probably understand Crissie, but I don't think the irony of the moment was lost on either of us.

Crissie is actually mulling over the idea of a cochlear implant herself one day. Having video phones has given her a unique look into my life in the last few months. She saw me five minutes after I walked in the door from my cochlear implant surgery, groggy and wrapped in a Princess Leia styled bandage. She talked to me when I had all those crazy bells and sirens going off in my head and thought I was losing my sanity during the first week or so. She saw me holding my head in pain, frustrated and depressed, hoping I'd done the right thing. She's been on the phone with me when I've paused to listen for Aidan in the next room to see whether he was sleeping or awake. I've also been able to report to her what's been going on across the house with Aidan and his dad while I was talking to her on the phone, so she's been a spectator of sorts on my journey and isn't deluded about being an insta-Jaime Sommers (a.k.a. the bionic woman from the 70's with super hearing for you kids out there going "huh?")

Another "break-through" on my trip was a lot more mind-boggling. The family television was turned on one night for the first time since I'd arrived. No one was watching though, and the captions hadn't been turned on. Family Guy was on, and I've never watched the show. On a whim, I decided to sit in front of the TV and see if I could get anything out of it. For about ten minutes I sat there, maybe three or four feet away, staring intently and concentrating and.... understanding.... color me dumbfounded. The show was beyond stupid. Really stupid. So stupid it was almost funny, but I won't give it that much credit. If I closed my eyes, it became gibberish again. When I opened my eyes I could follow by watching the pattern of speech as the characters' mouths opened and closed. I think it was also a matter of not having enough confidence to close my eyes and focus. After a few minutes, I was tired. It didn't come easily, but I understood nearly everything being said. Wow.

The last little success of my trip that stands out to me is when I arrived back home at the airport in Houston. I was supposed to meet my husband outside the baggage area, but before I took the escalator down I heard him calling my name clearly. I knew he was far away, but I knew it was James, and I knew it was my name! I couldn't locate him though. I turned around, and finally saw James holding Aidan waving at me all the way across the escalator! It was so good to see my guys and so great to be home.

So, where does the credit go for my latest successes? Is it all the cochlear implant? Of course not. It is one amazing tool though. I credit the amount of time I've spent wearing it, even when my head hurt, and it sounded horrible. I would wear it for hours and hours and work my way through those rough first weeks. That wasn't the cochlear implant. That was me. I also worked my way through the mappings my audiologist gave me as quickly as I could, even though it was almost overload on my brain at times processing so much data. As soon as I could, I'd schedule another appointment for another mapping and get more ambitious mappings and continue working my way through them as quickly as possible. This was my way, and that's how I did it and continue to do it. Everyone that gets a cochlear implant has to do this in their own time and their own way.

There are questions on these blogs as to whether the CIs and mappings deserve all the credit for successes. Umm.. no. Heck, no. Some people want to know more about the deaf person's real experience with the implant. I'm trying to be real. It's hard, but it's extremely rewarding. It's so much work, but there was a point I reached about a month into wearing the implant where it became very tolerable. I don't like to complain about it because I waited so long to get this, and I want to appreciate the gift of having it. At the same time I don't want to be a fraudulent ad for cochlear implants and make someone think that it was a matter of a little surgery and slapping on a magnet and processor and "ta-da"!

I'm still out of my comfort zone on the phone, but my audiologist wants me to try to use it more often for the auditory practice. I would use an interpreter on the phone for anything important. I still can't tell you what someone is singing in a song unless I know the song already. I still get occasional static when my brain hasn't processed some mechanical, electrical sounds. Most of the time I get nice quality sound with my implant, but other times it's like being tuned into an AM station, and it's not as pretty, but it usually works itself out in time. When we rent a movie, the subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing are on, or we are are starting the movie over (and *sigh* it seems like we start over a lot since *I* don't usually hold the remote! :-) ....and every night, I still take it all out and sleep like a baby.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Mapping #6,

Last Wednesday I had my sixth mapping. I spent two hours with my audiologist, and I realized something that truly makes a great audiologist is one who can also play the role of therapist once in a while as well. Not many audiologists seem to spend as much time paying attention to the client's psyche as much as the numbers and data and gadgetry and knick knacks.

My afternoon with Michelle reminded me of a lesson that my state director for the Miss Deaf Tennessee Pageant, Marty Dunnagan, taught me years ago: "The only person you are competing with is yourself." She drilled that in my head that it was all about me doing my personal best and not sitting around getting eaten up by what talents or skills someone else might possess.

Having a new cochlear implant is life changing and stressful, although it's a good kind of stress. It still involves dealing with personal expectations, excitement, disappointment, frustration, and anxiety. I can read other experiences and blogs until the cows come home, but Michelle is concerned I'm going to (or *ahem* already have) become impatient with myself when I, unwittingly, compare myself to others and their experiences.

Usually I find other blogs EXTREMELY inspiring and enlightening on the real experience as opposed to the advertised experience of being a cochlear implant user, but once in a while there might be something said on another blog post that makes me second guess myself or feel like I'm not up to par with where I should be. Usually though, I feel a kindred of spirit with a small group of people that are right now going through this journey as newbies too, and I look to the more experienced posters for encouragement and an idea of what to expect down the road. However, if I find that one thing that makes me doubt myself, it might take me some time to find perspective, and that's when I'll ask Michelle questions..."well, what about this... or what about that??? Was this the right choice? Should I be able to do this?" I'm not bad about bothering her (I don't think anyway), but I do think she is just insightful and pays close attention to what her clients are thinking and saying.

Michelle likes to remind me of what I've accomplished in a short time, what I've had to overcome, what limitations I might have started with that someone else might not have had, and she also reminds me how much I want this to work. Above everything else, she truly believes it's the time, training, and desire to do well that makes successful CI users. She explained why brand name is a factor but in the end, if someone is going to succeed with Nucleus Freedom, they probably would succeed with the Med-el or Advanced Bionics. Likewise, if someone wasn't successful with one, they probably wouldn't have been successful with any. Food for thought. At least I'd never thought of it that way.

I guess a good analogy for Michelle's theory would be that it's like driving a car. Hondas and Toyotas are great, but there's a difference between a 16 year old driver and a 30 year old driver (or should be!) It doesn't matter which one either drives which brand. The 30 year old will most likely adapt most easily due to previous experience driving, while the 16 year old will not have the years of experience of driving in either brand and will have to gain experience one day at a time. The 16 year old shouldn't feel compelled to be as talented a driver as a more experienced one. No type of car is going to put that 16 year old on the same playing field as the 30 year old.

I love my audiologist. She spends more time pepping and educating me than she does testing in booths or plotting points on paper, but her positivity and practical advice is what I take with me and use to keep my goals realistic (or to celebrate when the phenomenal happens!) She also takes her time with the mappings and never rushes. It's great because I will leave there wondering if it's tweaked just right, and then bam, the little things just start rolling and I have to take notes (or blog) to keep up with what happens every time I get a new tune-up after visiting her. I also like to email her little things here and there like "I heard crickets last night!!!" I know she can appreciate it more than anyone.

Even though I left there feeling like I didn't have much more oomph to my CI this time, she did a HINT sentence test just before I left and I scored 79%! I was very nervous for some reason, my own personal expectations, I think. This was just wearing the CI and no hearing aid sitting in a sound proof booth listening to the recorded sentences from the speakers. Before I had the CI surgery, I had scored 43% on the same test. She also re-tested my hearing and it was similar to my first test after activation. All frequencies between 250-6000 were either 20 or 25 dB. Last time there was actually a 15dB in the higher frequencies, but she accuses me of being "trigger happy" (can I help it if my ears ring after one pitch???) and says the most recent test is going to be more accurate. I'm still dumbfounded that it is MY test that has that line right going across the top of the paper instead of curving off the right side of the paper into a dead man's ski drop and fading off into oblivion to never be seen again. Amazing.

Like I said, I didn't feel much power or oomph... mostly it seemed the same but with slightly more static (of sounds I guess I need to process?) However, I've been hearing some really cool stuff in the last few days (plus Michelle also says that's just a life time hearing aid user thing wanting to max out the volume on their new CIs while later deafened people tend to go much easier on that... interesting, yes?) That same night, I heard my VRS (video phone) ringing when my friend, Crissie, called. I've never heard that. I was looking at the ceiling trying to figure out what the ringing sound was when I realized that...holy torpedo...my bat signal was going off in the computer room.

The next day, I noticed that in EVERY room of the house I could hear the birds singing loudly. all. day. long. At one point, I was about to fling open the door (at least in my head) and scream "don't you chicks have some worms to dig???" I had to grin knowing that I was kinda, sorta whining to myself about hearing birds take over the house. I wasn't really that annoyed, but I was amused and in awe of this new mapping that seemed so subtle yet was still hitting like a ton of bricks... this sucker had some serious power.

I left my son and husband at the airport to fly to a wedding in Tennessee on Friday afternoon, two days after my mapping. On the plane I thought I'd relax a bit being child-free (and missing him already) and very tired. However five year old, Giovanni, sitting in front of me begged to differ and talked to me the entire flight peeking over his armrest back at me about his summer plans (five weeks in Chicago) and his Gravedigger monster truck (Aidan has the same one, but Giovanni has FOUR trucks!) he was playing with on armrest or passing back to me to "play" with too and all about the monster truck show we both had the uh... joy?... of attending a few months ago in Houston. :-P He offered me candy and wasn't going to take no for an answer. We looked out our windows at the clouds, and when we landed he pointed out the tractors and trucks on the runway. Of course his dad slept through all of this. My seatmate was of no help either. Since I was already missing my son I was a sucker for this thoroughly exhausting conversation anyway.

Just before we landed this child had tapped me for the umpteenth time. I looked up.... "yes????" Giovanni (who also goes by G-man) says most precociously, "I'm not allowed to talk to strangers." Say what, buddy? Oh no you didn't.... Me *shaking head* and maybe ever so slightly impatient after over 2 hours of ongoing conversation with the little guy.... "well, why are you talking to me?" G-man replies, "you aren't a stranger." *SHAKING HEAD AGAIN* "...you don't know me!" G-man says??? (do I even need to say it?) "Yes, I do!!!"

Who can argue with the wisdom of a five year old missing most of his top front teeth? Certainly not the lady blessed enough to understand almost every word he spoke even though he was half hidden by his seat in front of her on a very loud airplane ride from Houston to Chicago. I hope the little G-man is having a fabulous summer vacation!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Technology (Phone, Text, Music) Suggestions Needed! :-)

This one is for the implanted or aided techies slash just knowledge modern people of the world out there using a reasonably amplified, clear cell phone with great texting options. What works? Pros? Cons? Anything to avoid? Anything you can't live without?

I need a cell phone that's easy to text with (QWERTY keyboard even??) because I will probably use it for the texting feature more than the phone. The phone needs to be extremely compatible and clear with my CI. Anything that doesn't cost an arm and leg would especially win over my husband of course. :)

I like the idea of the Blackberry, but I don't think it's compatible for phone use for anyone with a hearing loss? Please correct me if I'm wrong.

Also... for those of you listening to music and books on tape, are you using an Ipod? I've never had any use for one, so I'm especially clueless when it comes to current technology and music on the go. My gym has televisions with captions and allows tuning into shows by radio... so the guy at the gym recommended an Ipod and buying the extra piece for FM radio. Anyone done this or have another idea.

Teach me please! I'm all eyes! 8-)

Thanks!

Friday, June 5, 2009

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Another blogger, Sara, who was also recently implanted mentioned that we very rarely hear/read the not so pretty side of life with a cochlear implant. She asked for honesty in what has been difficult with the cochlear implant experience since many people mostly just blog about the "kittens and rainbows" version and not the nitty gritty details. http://www.sarasera.com/2009/05/the-good-and-the-bad-will-you-share/ She didn't get too many overly negative replies, but that's not to say there isn't a downside to this experience on occasion. She comes across as an analytical person who likes to get all of her facts, so after some thought I decided to take a shot at the good, the bad, and the ugly.

THE GOOD (as in the very latest)... Well, tonight I heard crickets outside, at least until the air conditioning unit drowned them out. They were really loud. My husband said they were very high pitched, so I came in and looked it up. According to one site the cricket sound is around the 6000 Hz range. I'm pretty sure I've never heard crickets in my life. That was really cool. I mean seriously... a cricket??? (I remember my brother making jokes about a cricket they were listening to one evening when we were spending the night with our cousins at our grandparents' house. I remember thinking... "Cricket... what cricket??? There's a cricket here???" and I'm so much more deaf now than I was then.)

I'm also understanding my son more easily each day and the little quirks in his voice, but he only speaks one or two words at a time. Check back in six months to see how good this skill really is!

Using the phone is awesome, but after my last post about chatting away with my husband on the phone, I was unable to follow a conversation with him today for long. Oh well, you win a few; you lose a few. I'm glad that I have access to an interpreter at any time for phone calls at home. If I can make a successful call on my own, that's just bonus. If it's an off day, I don't miss a beat.

Birds singing.... I still can't hear them enough. Hearing my son and the birds.... if I heard nothing else, I would do this all over again.

Dinner with the in-laws last night.... Father-in-law with over-sized mustache and Texan drawl?... picked out a few random sentences throughout the evening?....check (and I'm almost always lost trying to understand anything he says if it isn't short and sweet.) Chatty brother-in-law who talks at the speed of lightening?....I picked out a few sentences with him here and there too.... got a little dizzy trying to keep up (or I just have a short hearing attention span?) Conversation in general at dinner table?? It took some concentrating, but there was a tremendous difference between what I could understand last night compared to the last time we had a family dinner. Usually I'm pretty quiet and will talk to only those right beside me, but last night I held my own with anyone I talked to when I focused. It doesn't come naturally, but the fact I'm even getting any of this information in that noisy environment is huge.

THE BAD.... Sometimes hearing every little last thing is a recipe for anxiety. Sometimes strange unlocated sounds may come across as annoying buzzing static. Sometimes I think everything is magnified tenfold, and I find myself shushing my husband for practically breathing out loud when my son goes to bed for fear he will wake up.

Really petty? I hate trying to put my sunglasses on my head. It's my little fashion statement to wear my super big glasses on top, but it knocks my magnet off, so I end up adjusting them at an odd angle. It's not just a fashion statement... it's also a bad hair day cover-up to throw glasses on top and pull the rest of it back in a ponytail. *sigh*

AND THE UGLY.... I'm *thisclose* to going kung-fu on some grown man in my neighborhood that insists on riding his motorcycle by our house vroom vrooming by as loudly as possible at ALL hours of the day... baby's nap time...check.... dinner time....check..... after dark....check..... midnight... of course...check check. I can not describe this accurately enough. My heart literally stops when I hear this motorcycle. The sound terrifies me, and it's like he's going to drive right through my window. Our house is at a four way stop, and when he slams on the brakes and then gasses up full power my heart darn near leaps out of my chest pounding. Got Xanax?

I honestly have so much respect for hearing people who HAVE to hear 24/7 now. Even when it is quiet, there is still sound. Aidan and I have the book Goodnight Moon on loan from the library, and the last line amuses me. It says "Good night noises everywhere." God bless the poor hearing people. :-D Is it any wonder the white noise CDs and machines along with all the mediation music and nature sound CDs make a gazillion dollars? I only wish I could bottle up the sound of silence because I could sell it off by truck loads to the weary non-sleeping masses. I'd call it "Back to the Womb" or "Go to your Womb!"

Good night everyone! I'm signing off and tuning out. Ahhh.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

It's the Little Things

So, my husband just called. The phone stopped ringing before I could find where I left it last, but I quickly switched my BTE (to any newbies... that's short for "behind the ear") over to the t-mode to talk on the phone and punched in his number. I knew if it was really important he'd tell me immediately to call him back through VRS (my video phone) so that an interpreter would make sure I didn't miss anything.

James had a few things to tell me about... He talked to an old friend. Another friend's pet died. He was going to pick up Turbo Tax. He was at Home Depot returning things, but he also bought a few items. He might go do this errand. He'd be home soon. Tomorrow he planned to clean out the garage... and on it went. So the conversation wasn't necessarily the most exciting, but it was not limited to short sentences and ended under 60 seconds.

My reaction to all of this??? I had just put Aidan down for his afternoon nap. I was a little tired after my little wild child had kept me on my toes getting into everything all afternoon, and we had just read several books before nap time, so I just plopped down in a chair outside to kick back for a few. I wasn't trying extra hard to concentrate or squinting at the phone (because as I told a friend, squinting at phone somehow improves my comprehension.) I got off the phone and realized what just happened. Wow. A real married conversation. I just love this little bionic ear.

One more note for the day, I'm also thrilled that my little man, as wild as he can be, is learning to show his gratitude. He has one of those wooden box toys that can be found in many doctors' offices with the bead mazes and puzzles. There's three puzzles on one side that can be made by flipping the wood pieces, and he got his wrist jammed between the frame and a puzzle piece. The poor child was screaming like a banshee from his bedroom. Fortunately his dad heard him, as I didn't, and James was able to finally free his wrist by putting lotion on his swollen hand. With tears pouring down his face he looked at his daddy and said "thank you!" James caught his breath, and I heard him say, "you're welcome" while watching his son scamper off, and then he looked at me and said in awe, "he thanked me." I love that kid!

Friday, May 29, 2009

What I Learned in Freshman English

It's been a few *cough* years since I was a college freshman, but I've never forgotten the first year of English classes. I love to write about my own life experiences or short stories about my views of the world around me. Even though I was great at procrastinating, I could usually throw an English paper together two hours before class during the fall semester and still make a decent grade. I'd write the final draft first, off the top of my head, at lunch before class. Then I would write a quick "rough draft" version a little more shabbily and toss it in the pile and turn it all in for the week's work.

I don't think my teacher's expectations were too high for any of us, but my roommate, who would spend a week polishing off her paper to the last perfectly typed detail, would mockingly pout when we'd bring home the same grade. (Mind you, this was the one class the I could bluff my way through so easily. The rest of college? A rude awakening. :)

During the spring semester English became something a whole lot tougher to fake (and my roommate's diligence started to pay off.) All of a sudden papers had to be researched, referenced, doubled-spaced, and typed. (Ahhh... the pre-computer boom era... lots of careful pecking on a clacking electric typewriter with nothing more than prayer and liquid paper for those 911 typo emergencies.) Looking up information through microfiche files and the card catalog system was tedious and boring in the days before the internet. Once I finally had the information I needed for a subject, I started enjoying the assignment a tad bit more. We also began to receive much more specific assignments for writing that required a little more thought than some fluff written over dessert in the university cafeteria.

One freshmen English assignment ended up being a life lesson that still comes to play in my life today. I had to write a persuasive paper on a subject that articulated my thoughts and opinions in a mature, well thought out manner. The next week? I had to be equally mature and persuasive and write the opposite opinion on the same subject. What the heck? That was just crazy talk because I'd already proved my point and shown the validity of my argument! What did she mean she wanted to hear me argue the other side of the debate? Oh, the blasphemy!

I don't even remember on what subject I wrote flip sides of persuasion to convince readers of my passionate points of view. I only remember learning through the process that, well, maybe, just maybe, there's more than one side to a debate that's relevant and fair and deserving. Also, in the search for information to support an argument, it seems to be a great skill to be able to also look for information that supports the other side of the debate as well. Isn't this a valuable skill that allows a truly talented lawyer to shine in a courtroom after all?

Often the lesson I've learned is that no one side is "right", but that there is more than one way to view a situation, especially when the different sides involved have substantial facts, information and history that supports their beliefs. There are often valid arguments for opposing sides, and sometimes the best resolution is finding a middle ground, a compromise, and when all else fails, all parties trying to find a way to respect each other enough to agree to disagree.

I've spent the last few months closely observing this deaf blogosphere I've recently entered. I've read many heartfelt blog posts and watched quite a few equally ardent vlog posts. I've been fascinated by the wide range of viewpoints on various subjects by a blogging community that includes hearing and deaf parents of deaf children in oral deaf education, bi-bi programs, mainstreamed classes, and deaf schools. Other bloggers include the deaf adults of those hearing parents and deaf adults of deaf parents, as well as educators, active members of the Deaf community, and adults deafened later in life. Of course the modes of communication used in this community are just as diverse as the group itself. A few that come to mind quite readily include ASL, total communication, cued speech, Signed English, and spoken English.

There are the blogs of lifelong d(D)eaf adults who grew up educated and living in an environment that supported one type of communication, but as adults chose to use an entirely different mode of communication based on preference or needs. There are blogs by adults who have been deafened later in life by an illness or accident that have never had any type of prior exposure to the deaf community or sign language. There are those deaf who have grown up dabbling in one world or the other, yet not quite feeling a complete identity with either.

As a deaf mom and a former deaf education teacher, the blogs that touch me the most are those of the parents of deaf children seeking the path their children should go. Many parents stand at the crossroads trying to figure out where they are going next. The signs point in different directions and the roads are many. All look equally important, but only one can be chosen. The billboards promise that their road is the surest way to reach the desired destination successfully. So many decisions, so little time, what to do, what is right, what is best, what is fair, which way to go, will there be regrets, will there be dead ends, will there be bumps in the road, do we head this way full throttle, but oh... that sign over there... look what it promises!!!... what if this road is wrong... what if that road is right?? Oh what to do... see here... see here... my child grew an inch just last night in his sleep... time is flying.. there's no time to waste... I must pick a path... I must go without haste for my child awaits.

No matter which path these parents take, the one thing most of us would likely agree upon is that these parents have their hearts in the right place. As loving parents anywhere would feel, they only want what is best for their children and their future. Likely there will be second guessing and "what-if" moments, but isn't that a rite of passage of parenthood for all of us regardless what of what challenges we face? In the end isn't it the loving, involved parents armed with information and positive support from the community around them that will thrive most confidently? Aren't those the parents with the most successful children, no matter which road they chose?

The most divisive issues that have really come to play in this world front and center seems to be the preservation of the Deaf community and the rights of the parents to choose the path they feel would best serve their children's success in the "real" world. At this center of this storm today? The cochlear implant. Is the cochlear implant the only issue? No, of course not. It is, however, the common denominator in many of these blogs. The opinions are many. Stands have been made. Each side feels right. It's a battle; it's a war. Lines have been drawn in the sand, and the ones who stand to lose the most are our children.

The landscape of the Deaf community and culture is changing. The progress in technology is moving forward. Each side has an equally strong and impassioned case. Each side has excellent points. Our children's future success being deaf in a hearing world and their right to inherit an intact, strong, and supportive Deaf community is at stake. It's not an either/or issue, but maybe, if we all stopped and put our heads together, we could give them "all of the above". Our children deserve to have every chance for success and every bit of support that is rightfully and historically theirs.

It's up to all of us, and we all have something unique to put on the table that will provide our children support, confidence, and pride long after we are gone. Perhaps if we, as adults, could suspend our personal beliefs for a moment and listen to what the other side has to offer to our children, we might find a common ground upon which we can give our Deaf children a truly wonderful tomorrow.