A Spring in My Step

Spring has been dragging its heels this year, peeking around the doorway and then retreating. For the past two days, though, it’s taken a big, bold step into the room and we have been enjoying 70 degree temperatures in the western Chicago suburbs.

The sudden warm weather, temporary as it may be (it’s supposed to be in the 40s on Monday, with a chance of snow), has made me think of summer and all that goes with it. Especially hot weather. And shorts.

Now, I haven’t worn shorts in public in over ten years. I had a huge, loose pair of shorts (so long they almost came to my knees) that I would wear around the house on hot summer days. But my thighs have not been available for public consumption in a long, long time. It was a public service, believe me.

Checking out a Pikachu car with the kids; one of the last times I wore shorts in public.

Checking out a Pikachu car with the kids (one of the last times I wore shorts in public).

Capri pants or clam diggers were my go-to summer attire. And if it was murderously hot (which, to me, is anything above 85 degrees) then I stayed inside and enjoyed the comfort of air conditioning. To say that I am not a hot-weather-loving person is an understatement. I actually think summer may be my least favorite season; I would rate them, best to worst, as follows: fall, spring, winter, summer. I love snow and HATE hot weather, so winter beats summer in my book. I do like thunderstorms, though. And if I lived somewhere that was not humid and the summer temperatures never passed 75 degrees, I would put summer in second place.

I was messing around one day this past December, pulling pants out of drawers where they’d been stashed for years. These were my ‘maybe I’ll fit into them again someday’ pants, and as I very (very) slowly lost weight, I’d try them on to see if they fit. Most of these pants were cropped, too skimpy to wear outside at the time I tried them on. I was hopeful that I’d be able to wear them once spring and summer rolled around.

When April arrived and brought some actual spring-like temperatures, I tried the pants on again. I was really excited to see that they were now too big on me; I’d bypassed the point where they fit perfectly, because it was too cold to wear them at that time. So now I was faced with a pile of pants that I could slide off my hips even when they were zipped up. I did have fun with this, putting on the pants and then calling for Dave. “Look at this!” I’d say happily, as I lifted up my shirt to show him the pants listing lazily around my lower hips. After I was done, though, I realized I now had nothing to wear when the dreaded hot weather rolled around.

Since I’m still trudging along on the weight loss path, I didn’t want to spend tons of money on new clothes. And, well, let’s face it – I never want to do that. I buy all my pants at Goodwill, for less than $5 apiece. So visited our two local Goodwill stores and I lucked out, finding three pairs of capri pants and one pair of shorts between the two. Yes, I said shorts.

My problem with shorts is my thighs, okay? Let’s just get it out there. I am super-short and I have never had long, beautiful legs. Even when I was skinny, my thighs were heavy; it’s just how I’m built. I used to despair over this and spend all kinds of time doing leg lifts and other exercises meant to tone problem thighs. I stood in front of the mirror and grabbed the back of my thigh, watching as it magically shrunk in diameter, despairing because I knew it would never look that way naturally. And when you have large thighs and you sit down in shorts, they spread. It is not attractive. Even worse, big thighs rub together when you walk. It’s physically uncomfortable, and usually the shorts bunch up weirdly in the middle, making things look even worse.

I actually did some web searching on ‘shorts for people with big thighs’ to get some tips. I already know that short-shorts are out for me. I’m more in the Bermuda shorts camp; I need some fabric at least halfway down my thighs. One girl mentioned that she buys her shorts a size bigger in order to give some extra leg room, so I decided to try that.

The funny thing is, if you’re short (I’m 5’1”) the general advice is never to wear cropped pants because they make you look shorter. I had to go with the lesser of two evils in the past, and I chose to look shorter rather than expose my legs. The difference now is that I’ve been exercising on a daily basis since the end of October. It’s nothing to brag about; I’m not running marathons or doing CrossFit or P90X. Twice a day I pull out my mini trampoline. I do a mixture of fast walking and jogging for 10 to 20 minutes in the morning (before I’ve had breakfast) and 20 to 25 minutes about an hour after dinner. So my legs are still big, but they’re more toned than they have ever been. And I finally feel brave enough to wear (longer) shorts in public.

So we’ll see. I’ve got the one pair, and I might cut off some of the jeans that I’ve outgrown and make them into shorts (utilizing that one-size-bigger advice). If I really get brave, I might even let someone take a photo of me wearing them. Not yet, though … one small step at a time. ;-)

You’re Deaf – Now What?

Each time I lost my hearing (1993 for my right ear, 2008 for my left), I was surprised and disappointed by one thing: I was not offered any type of support for dealing with such a monumental loss. And this is not to say anything bad about my audiologists and doctors, because I really like them. But other people have mentioned it too, the lack of resources, information and support for late-deafened adults, or anyone suffering from sudden loss of hearing.

In 1993, the only thing offered to me was a different type of hearing aid, a bi-CROS that brought in the sounds from my newly-deaf side. I was thrilled with my new hearing aids, so no complaints there. But I had lost so much hearing that I could no longer hear my alarm clock for work each morning. I had NO idea that there were ALDS (assistive listening devices) for hearing loss, beyond an amplifier for the phone. The audiologist didn’t tell me about them. My husband at the time was the one who talked to the audiologist and found out about an alarm clock that would shake the bed to wake me up. I mean, they sold them right in the office – why wouldn’t she offer that information, knowing I had just lost all the hearing in my right ear and had a profound loss in the left?!

The internet was in its infancy in 1993, so the alarm clock and new hearing aids were the full extent of support I received. In 2008, my loss was much greater because I was now completely and totally deaf. They couldn’t offer me hearing aids. I didn’t know sign language, and neither did any of my family or friends. Yet again, once I got the hearing test that confirmed I was hearing absolutely nothing, I didn’t receive any information on how to deal with being completely deaf. That just blows my mind.

They put me on steroids to see if my hearing would come back; just like in 1993, they didn’t help. When I went back in for the follow-up visit, I was prepared. Thanks to the internet, I had done my own research. I knew I could receive a free TTY if the doctor signed off on it, and I knew about cochlear implants. I was the one who asked if I could get CIs (although hopefully if I hadn’t immediately asked, they would have offered it as an option). I was the one who asked if they could help me get the TTY. I found the state lending program that also gave me a flashing light for the phone (not that I was using the phone at that time).

Can you imagine losing all your vision, going to the doctor and having them say, “Well, yep, you’re blind,” and then sending you on your way? You have to hope they’d give you a list of resources for cane training, a service dog, learning Braille, programs to voice text for you, etc.

I didn’t find online sources of support until 1997, when I suffered from a horrific ear infection in my good ear. I spent almost two weeks without my hearing aids, using just the very limited hearing in that ear – it was already profoundly deaf, and I spent much of that time with my ear filled with medicine and covered with a cotton ball. I was a single mom at that time, and I was scared at how close to ‘deaf’ I really was. I had been able to fool myself into complacency with my hearing aids, and not having them to rely on really scared me. So I started searching for hearing loss support groups, hoping to meet other people like me. I have never interacted on a regular basis with someone that had hearing loss, so I didn’t have any real-life support of that type.

I found the Say What Club, and they are still active today. Back then, it was just one or two mailing lists; you signed up and they assigned you to a list, and then you would receive everybody’s emails. That was where I first learned of CIs and many of the ALDs I’m familiar with today.

I also joined SHHH, which later became HLAA (Hearing Loss Association of America), and ALDA, the Association of Late Deafened Adults. These are large organizations that have websites with lots of information, newsletters/magazines, and yearly conventions. Nowadays I am also a member of Illinois Cochlear Implant Chapter, which has local meetings every other month.

A view of my left CI (purple metallic color)

A view of my left CI (purple metallic color)

If you’re dealing with hearing loss, whether it’s recent or not, it can really help to be part of an online support group. I love email because it eliminates communication barriers; real life meetings are also nice because all the ones I’ve been to are captioned with CART. Now that I have my CIs, I usually don’t need CART to understand at a meeting, but it is still hit or miss whether I’ll understand a question from someone in the audience. CART captions everything being said, and it’s nice to utilize it for those soft-voiced questions or for a speaker with a heavy accent.

Losing your hearing can really isolate you. It’s tempting to want to stay home and avoid social interaction because it’s so exhausting, trying to read lips and follow conversations. It can be disheartening to be part of a large group and have no idea why everyone is laughing. Being part of a support group means that these people know what it’s like to have a hearing loss, and they don’t mind doing whatever needs to be done to be understood. At conventions, you’ll see people facing each other and reading lips, signing, writing notes. I still remember our first ALDA convention in 1999, when we joined others for dinner and dancing. We didn’t know how those who were deaf could follow the beat, until some friends showed me and Dave that if you hold onto a balloon, you can feel the vibrations of the music. How cool is that?!

Hopefully audiologists will catch on and realize that more needs to be done to support a newly-deafened adult. I would be curious, if anyone out there is a parent of a child who was diagnosed with hearing loss, if they were offered sources of support and help by their audiologist. Is it just adults who are sent off to deal with this on their own?

Finding Love Online

I know what I was doing 16 years ago on this day. I was originally planning to go out with a friend of mine. I can’t remember if we were going to see a band or just go to a club, but she ended up canceling on me at the last minute. So I was sitting around with nothing to do when Dave called me in the early evening.

We’d been online friends for a while at that point. We were both on a hearing loss support group mailing list called the Say What Club. I joined in Sept. 1997 and Dave was already a member, so he welcomed me to the list. We were good friends, and then in early 1998 we started to kinda like each other. ;-) We chatted via IRC and talked on the phone (not our favorite thing to do, obviously, but it wasn’t bad because we both understood what it was like to use the phone when you have a hearing loss). But we hadn’t met in person yet.

My kids were young, and they spent every other weekend at their dad’s. This was their ‘Dad Weekend’ so I was alone with no plans. When Dave asked what I was up to, I told him about my canceled plans. “How about if I come over?” he asked, sort of jokingly. I laughed and then he said, more seriously, “It’s only about a two hour drive. I really could come over if you want.”

So we made plans, and then I waited to hear my doorbell ring. Neither of us had cell phones or GPS, of course, so Dave wrote out his directions from MapQuest. Then he proceeded to get very lost. He couldn’t call me, so he just kept driving around, hoping he’d find my street. (There are two streets with this name in my town; he was on the wrong one because he didn’t realize he had to specify ‘west’ in the directions.)

About one and a half hours past when I was expecting him, when I was starting to think he’d blown me off, the doorbell rang. And there he was on my front porch, wearing a black leather jacket and looking just like his pictures.

Once he came in and we hugged hello, he told me the saga of his drive from Michigan to my house in Illinois. He brought in his WebTV, which was his way of connecting to the internet in 1998, and we plugged it in so he could show me how it worked. I showed him my computer; he scoffed and said he couldn’t see why he’d ever need a computer – he could do everything he wanted with his WebTV. (I do still like to tease him about that every now and then.)

We just hit it off immediately, and all the worries I had (maybe there would be no chemistry in person, maybe he’d take one look at me and want to leave, maybe he’d have weird habits that I wouldn’t realize until he was in my house, maybe he’d be an axe murderer) flew out the window. We went to see the movie Titanic (and the ALDs in the theater didn’t work, grrrr) and went out for an 11:30 pm pizza at Giordano’s (Dave’s first taste of Chicago-style deep dish pizza).

And here we are now, 16 years later, with this date inked on our calendar every year. We always celebrate with a deep dish pizza (now it’s from Lou Malnati’s) and I’m always thankful that Dave took that chance and made that two hour drive to meet someone he previously only knew online.

Thanks, Say What Club, for introducing us!

Me and Dave, in the early days of our relationship

Me and Dave, in the early days of our relationship

The Five Stages of Car Repair Grief

It was a Saturday like any other.  After breakfast, we decided to head out to some stores – Goodwill and Sally Beauty.  Nothing crazy, but better than sitting around the house.

We both got into the car, settled in and fastened our seat belts.  Dave turned the key, the car started and then immediately died.  I wasn’t alarmed; I thought maybe he didn’t turn the key all the way or something.  He tried again, and the same thing happened.  And again.  And again.  Finally he sighed and said, “Give me about ten minutes.”  So I went back upstairs, not bothering to take off my coat or shoes.  I figured I’d just be putting them right back on again.

It didn’t take long for him to come back upstairs and ask me to check online to see if other people had the same problem.  That’s when it began … when we entered the Five Stages of Car Repair Grief:

1.     Disbelief

Well, there can’t really be anything wrong with the car.  I mean, we drove it yesterday!  What in the world could have happened overnight, while the car sat innocently in the garage, to cause it not to work today?  It must be something simple like maybe a connector on the battery got knocked loose or something.

Yet, nothing is working.  All the Googling points to something ECM related.  No, I don’t know what an ECM is or what it stands for.  I just hope it’s not expensive.

2.    Despair

Oh my God.  This is going to cost over a thousand dollars, I bet.  Or maybe it’s going to cost so much that it’s not even worth fixing the car.  I mean, it’s ten years old now.  How are we going to pay for this?  Why is all this car stuff happening right after we get rid of all our credit cards?!  (Seriously, the A/C in the car went out a month after we ditched the credit cards.  Then we got all new tires and wheels in January, when one of the tires stopped holding air.)

Dave starts talking ominously about how we are going to need a new car, because we need something reliable.  It’s not like we have a second car as a backup.  We start pricing used trucks (because Dave really, really wants a truck).  We spend the weekend morosely sitting around the house, because it’s 18 degrees outside and too cold to walk anywhere and WE DON’T HAVE A WORKING CAR.  Sigh.

3.    Anger

At 9 am on Monday, Dave calls State Farm’s Emergency Road Service number so we can have the car towed to a shop.  The first thing they ask is, “Are you calling from a safe location?”  Dave is caught off guard a bit, then recovers and explains that our car is in the garage, won’t start, and we need a tow.  He answers a bunch of questions, they verify our coverage, and confirm the location of the shop we want the car towed to.  We’ve never used these guys, but they have great Yelp and Facebook reviews, and they’re only three miles from our house.  If we have to, we can walk there to pick the car up.

We’re told the tow truck will be here in less than an hour.  It’s St. Patrick’s Day and we’re planning a breakfast scramble with potatoes O’Brien; we decide to wait until the tow truck leaves to start breakfast.  (We always wait to eat until after 10 am anyway.)  At about 10:15, we get an automated call from State Farm, confirming that our service has been completed.  No, it hasn’t … so Dave is connected to an operator.  He explains that the tow truck still hasn’t arrived; she puts him on hold, talks to the tow truck guy, comes back to Dave and says his previous job took longer than expected and he’ll be here in 20 minutes.

Twenty minutes comes and goes, and Dave calls State Farm again.  Again, they put Dave on hold to talk to the tow truck driver; he says he’ll be here in no more than 10 minutes.  I set the timer on the microwave, just to be a smartass.

Ten minutes comes and goes.  After about 15 minutes, the tow truck guy calls.  He’s asking what’s wrong with the car, which is kind of weird.  Then he tells Dave he’ll be here in about 20 minutes.  !!!

By now we’re freaking starving and super freaking pissed off that this guy has been lying about his arrival time for almost three hours.  I’m ranting and raving about how screwed we would be if we really had needed roadside assistance.  Or maybe they’re taking their sweet time because they know we’re at home?  In any case, I’m apoplectic and Dave is calm; as I’ve mentioned before, usually when one of us is furious, the other keeps their cool.  I pause in the middle of saying extremely unkind things about this tow truck driver to recommend that we get started on breakfast.  “Otherwise it’s going to be noon before we eat!” I shriek.  Maybe there’s a little low blood sugar going on here.

Just as we get the eggs cooked and sprinkle cheese on top of our potatoes, pretty much at noon on the dot, the tow truck finally arrives.  Dave tells me to start eating and runs down to deal with the car.  About ten minutes later he’s back, shaking his head.  “You know that druggie congressman on House of Cards, the one they think killed himself?” he said.  I nodded.  “This guy looked exactly like him.  Acted like him too.  He kept trying to get me to let him take the car to his shop in Schaumburg.”  (Side note:  Schaumburg is about ten miles away.)

“Did he give you any paperwork?” I asked.  Dave shook his head, in between bites of his breakfast brunch.  “Oh my God – we need to make sure he really takes the car to RCN instead of his own shop!” I fretted.  Anger has melted away and is now becoming:

4.    Bargaining

Once we verified that the car did, indeed, get towed to the correct shop, it was time to start worrying about the actual repair.  This is the point where you promise God, or whatever Higher Power you believe in, if any, that you will do anything if the cost of the repair can just be under, let’s say, $400.  Please please please.

5.    Acceptance

Well, what’s done is done.  We can’t afford to buy a different vehicle right now, so we just need to keep this one working.  Whatever it costs, we’ll figure out how to pay it.  Hopefully it won’t happen again.  And at least it happened while we were at home, and we didn’t get stranded anywhere.  Even better, we have nothing going on this week so we can handle being without a car for as long as it takes to fix.

For a lucky few, there’s a sub-stage called Relief.  That’s what happens when they call on Tuesday to tell you the problem was a crankshaft sensor, it’s been fixed, and the total was under $188.  So you order a taxi, it arrives promptly, and it costs a mere $8 to be deposited, safe and warm, at the car shop.

I’m not sure how long it takes to stop holding your breath when you start your car.

Review: I Can Hear You Whisper, by Lydia Denworth

If you’re like me and you like to read books that touch on hearing loss, then I’ve got a book to recommend to you.  If you enjoy books that touch on scientific subjects in layman’s terms, then I’ve really got a book to recommend to you.

It’s called I Can Hear You Whisper:  An Intimate Journey through the Science of Sound and Language, and it’s written by Lydia Denworth, a former Newsweek reporter and mom to three young boys – one of whom has a hearing loss and wears a cochlear implant.

The book was described as “an investigation into the science of hearing, child language acquisition, neuroplasticity, brain development, and Deaf culture.”  I wasn’t sure if it was going to go over my head, but it sounded really interesting.  I was happy to discover that it was written in a way that made all the scientific information easy to understand for someone like me, who never took more than Intro to Physical Science in 9th grade.

The author deftly weaves her personal experience into the story, describing what it was like to discover her son’s hearing loss and the process she went through as she tried to understand how it was going to impact his ability to acquire language, both spoken and written.  If you have a child with a hearing loss, this would really be a valuable resource.

I learned SO MUCH by reading this book, things I never knew about cochlear implants (and I thought I knew a lot) and how they were developed.  There are chapters on how we process speech, how we learn to read, the plasticity of the brain (which is so cool, and is one of the reasons I hear sounds with my cochlear implant now instead of the weird beeps and warbles I heard when it was first activated).  She touches on Deaf culture, sign language, oral versus ASL – and all of these subjects, which can be so very touchy, are discussed in a calm, thoughtful way, with both sides presented fairly.

I was curious to see if the cochlear implant brand wars would be mentioned, or if she would show a bias toward the company who made her son’s implant (which is not the company that made mine).  I was very happy to see that this did not come up at all.  The book just presented the CI facts in a general way:  How they were developed, the testing involved, what early CIs were like (my goodness!), the challenges of hearing in a noisy environment for CI users, listening to music, etc.

Some of her descriptions of her son Alex’s early testing brought back unexpected, vague memories for me of my own testing as a young child.  When Alex suddenly lost all of his hearing and he told his mom, through cries and screams, “I can’t talk!” (because he can no longer hear himself talk) my heart went out to them both.  That is still the most startling thing for me, not being able to hear myself talk when my CIs are off.

I thought it was awesome that they found a tutor to come in and teach some ASL to the family; when I went deaf, that was one thing I really wished we could have done.  As she illustrates in the book, it’s not very easy to teach everyone ASL at once, especially young children.  I admire their efforts, though, to bring sign language into Alex’s life as a complement to his CI.

I could have kept reading this book for days and days; I was sad when it ended.  It gets five out of five big stars from me – look for it (e-book and hardcover versions) a month from today, April 17.

 

(I received this book from the publisher for the purposes of an honest review; my views are my own.)

Review: Boots Botanics Ionic Clay Mask #powerofplants

I’ve added a category for reviews here on my blog; I like to talk about stuff, obviously, and it will also give me topics for those days when I think, “My life is so boring, I have nothing to talk about!”

I’m starting out with the complimentary Boots Botanics Ionic Clay Mask that I received (for testing purposes) in my Influenster VoxBox.  This was the first thing I grabbed, because I’ve always heard good things about Boots products.  (There is a curl cream that girls rave about on Naturally Curly’s CurlTalk forums, but I’ve never been able to find it in the US.)

I never think to buy face masks nowadays.  I guess I kind of thought of them as something you used as a pimply teenager to try to dry out your skin … not something my slightly-sensitive 49-year-old skin really needs.  The last mask I bought was probably Queen Helene’s Mint Julep mask.

Remembering how hard that was to squeeze out of the tube, I assumed the Boots mask would be the same thick, paste consistency.  I gave the tube a hard squeeze and was surprised to see a thin stream of light greenish gray liquid shoot out.  I’ve since learned that it’s best to shake the tube to thicken it up just a bit.  It comes out in a consistency that’s very easy to spread.

I squeeze about a pea size blob onto a fingertip and quickly spread it onto my face, avoiding the area under my eyes and, obviously, my lips.  (blech!)  It dries really fast, so you’ll have parts of your face that look dark gray and parts that look army green where the mask has already dried … very entertaining!

Boots Botanics Ionic Clay Mask

Boots Botanics Ionic Clay Mask

Give it 10 minutes to work its magic.  As I said, my skin is slightly sensitive and I didn’t notice any feeling of dryness, tingling, etc.  The mask dries in a fairly flexible, non-flaky way; you can feel that it’s tightened on your skin, but you can slide your fingers over the dry mask and it doesn’t come off.

Wash it off with water (you can use a facial scrub/sponge if you like, but you don’t have to) and that’s it!  My skin always feels soft and fresh after I use this mask; I try to use it once a week.

It’s affordable and works well for me – I give it an A.

The First Time I Went Deaf

For some reason, spring is not kind to my hearing.  Every time St. Patrick’s Day rolls around, I remember the first time I went deaf.  Well, the first actual hearing loss that I suffered happened when I was too young to remember; I wasn’t born with a hearing loss, it was discovered when I was four.  A couple years earlier I’d had roseola and was hospitalized with a high fever, and the doctor speculated that was what caused my initial hearing loss.

But I wasn’t deaf, just hard of hearing.  More so in my right ear than my left, but I could hear sounds in both ears.  (I wore a hearing aid in my right ear.)

Spring, though, has brought deafness to me on two separate occasions.  I’ve written quite a bit about the hearing loss I suffered in mid-April 2008, the one that left me completely deaf and prompted me to start this blog.  As traumatic as it was to suddenly lose the rest of my hearing, I think the first time I lost my hearing as an adult was worse.

I don’t remember the exact day, just that it was very close to St. Patrick’s Day.  I remember taking a rubber stamping class that focused either on making cards for spring, or maybe cards to celebrate St. Pat’s and Easter.  In any case, the hearing in my worse (right) ear was fading and it made the class a real challenge.  I didn’t socialize as much as usual because it was too hard to follow all the conversations around the long table where we worked.  Instead I worked on my projects and went home, feeling worried and stressed.

Originally I thought it was my hearing aid, so I took it in to be checked out.  I was really sure this would fix things, so when I was told that the hearing aid was fine, I got a bad feeling.  I didn’t have an ENT, so I went to an urgent care clinic and told them what was happening with my hearing.  They took a look and said I had an ear infection, which was weird because I felt perfectly fine.  They prescribed antibiotics, which I dutifully took even though I didn’t believe the diagnosis.

When the antibiotics didn’t help, I found a local ENT.  This was an older man with not much of  a bedside manner.  He just did a hearing test, looked inside my ear and then told me I was deaf in that ear.  No, he couldn’t tell me why – there was no obvious reason.  Sometimes it just happens.  End of story.  He sent me on my way, furious and confused and devastated.  How had I lost all of the hearing in my ear?!  My hearing loss wasn’t supposed to be progressive.  I never, EVER expected to lose more hearing in my lifetime.

I found another clinic, doctors with a great reputation (ironically, they were the first to do a cochlear implant in Illinois) and made an appointment.  I wanted a second opinion; I wanted answers.  The doctor I saw was kind, patient, and answered all of my questions.  Besides a hearing test, I also had blood work done and a CAT scan to check for an acoustic neuroma.  (Side note:  This was in the internet’s infancy, 1993, and I happened to see on the order that they were looking for an acoustic neuroma.  I had no idea what it was, so I went to library and looked it up.  And proceeded to freak.  A tumor!  I’m going to need brain surgery!)

The CAT scan and blood work came back fine, so I was started on a regimen of steroids to see if my hearing would come back.  In the meantime, I was struggling to hear, to continue doing my job (I did word processing – on a Wang word processor) and communicate with people, mainly my then-husband (this was pre-Dave) and my son.  (My daughter wasn’t born yet.)  I was gripped with anxiety, sure that every day I would wake up and be completely deaf.  I had no idea why this was happening, and no reassurance that it wouldn’t happen again.  I didn’t have an ear mold for my left ear, so I couldn’t wear a hearing aid.  Although I had still had some hearing in my left ear, I already had a profound loss and didn’t know if it was getting worse.

In the end, the steroids didn’t help.  Hearing tests showed that I had lost all of my usable hearing in my right ear and just a small amount in my left, leaving it solidly in the profound range.  I jammed the ear mold meant for my right ear into my left ear so I could hear.  I cried myself to sleep every night.  I felt alone, isolated, and absolutely terrified.

The doctor was kind as he explained that sometimes this just happens and they don’t know why; they call it Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SSHL).  Maybe it was a virus of some kind, maybe my hearing loss was actually a progressive one and not caused by the fever when I was a toddler – who knows.  Although he couldn’t promise me it wouldn’t happen again, he said it would be very rare.  He recommended hearing tests every six months or yearly for a while, to keep an eye on things.

I don’t remember how long it took for me to stop being nervous every morning when I put on my hearing aid.  For the first couple of years, I would panic when my hearing aid battery died, thinking I was losing my hearing again.  It was embarrassing to wipe away tears after replacing a battery and hearing sound again.

What really helped me calm down was getting new hearing aids.  I got analog bi-CROS hearing aids, which helped me ‘hear’ sounds on both sides.  I had to get used to wearing a hearing aid in each ear, but that wasn’t too bad.  The one on my right ear was just a transmitter, since I couldn’t actually hear in that ear.  But it picked up the sounds on my right side and sent them wirelessly to the hearing aid/receiver in my left ear.  When I first put them on, it was like light flooding a dark room.  I didn’t need an adjustment period; I loved those hearing aids from the first moment I wore them.  Things sounded the way I remembered them, even with no hearing left in my right ear.

It took 15 years for the other shoe to drop, for me to lose my hearing again like I always feared I would after the first time.  When it happened, though, I knew I had no more to lose.  It was a different type of grieving and adjustment, losing all of my hearing, but it was a small relief to stop worrying that it would happen again.

It happened, I survived.

The Curse of the Digital Scale

Up until now we’ve been using an old … manual scale (is that what they’re called?) – you know, not a digital one.  The kind where you get on and the needle swings up and then you squint and try to figure out which line it’s on, exactly – is that the second little line or the third?  You lean down and then the needle swings to a different position, so you stand back up and DAMN, you can’t really tell.  Our scale even has little plastic marker thingies that you can move around, and those make it a little easier.  You can put the marker thing on 152, for instance, and then if the needle lines up with the plastic marker, you can tell it’s on 152 and not 153.  Even that isn’t perfect, though, when you have Old Eyesight.

It’s all beat up and nasty looking, but it’s accurate and you can’t beat that.  (It’s a Taylor, by the way.)  I kept testing it by stepping on the scale just before I left for a doctor’s appointment, and then comparing the doctor’s office weight with my home scale weight.  It always matched.  So even though the scale was huge, bulky, ugly, and hard to read with any kind of precision, we put up with it.

It’s so big that we were keeping it in the bathroom downstairs; there was just no room for it in our regular bathroom.  That was getting inconvenient and COLD, frankly, because our lower level is a lot colder than upstairs, where we do all our living (our house is a raised ranch).  I ended up bringing the scale into our bedroom and sliding it under the dresser, so we could just pull it out when we wanted to use it (and not freeze our butt off in the process).

Something possessed me last month and I decided I was just tired of trying to figure out what I really weigh.  I’m in that period where I’m trying to lose my last ten pounds, and it’s taking f o r e v e r.  Like, a-pound-a-month forever.  So I spend weeks weighing myself and trying to see if I’ve lost that elusive one pound or not.  I figured a digital scale would be a lot easier on my tired, old eyes.

After a bit of research, I decided to get an Eat Smart scale, the precision digital one, like this:

Our Eat Smart digital scale

Our Eat Smart digital scale

(This is not a sponsored post, by the way – nobody knows I exist, and they definitely don’t give me free stuff in exchange for reviews!)

So we calibrated it and set it up in the bedroom, because you really need to put it somewhere fairly permanent; you have to recalibrate it if you move it around, so no pulling it out from under the dresser or whatever.  There just wasn’t a place in the bathroom where it wouldn’t be in the way, even though it’s far, FAR smaller than our manual scale.  It’s pretty, though, and unobtrusive, so I don’t mind leaving it out in our bedroom.

The problem, however, is that it’s always there, taunting us.  “Step on me!  See if your weight has changed in the last hour!”  For someone who struggles with compulsive tendencies, this is torture.  I know, I know you aren’t supposed to weigh yourself every day.  But I’ll be damned if I don’t step on that scale every single morning because COME ON, I have to know.  What do I weigh today?

You’d be amazed how much your weight fluctuates daily, even hourly.  I’ve gained and lost as much as three pounds in one day.  And you can obsess even more with this little beauty because it gives your weight in .2 pound increments.  So if you weigh 142.8 pounds, do you call it 142 pounds?  (YES, YES YOU DO.)  Or do you say well, I’m only .2 pounds away from 143 so it’s really 143?

Even Dave is getting into the fun – he hops on the scale all day long, usually when he’s wearing jeans, a t-shirt and a sweatshirt.  One day I finally convinced him to take off all the extra so he could see what his BODY weighs, not his clothes (plus, it’s fun to order your husband to take off all his clothes).  He lost over three pounds instantly!

I was definitely freaked out the first time I saw a big weight jump, but I’ve been doing it long enough now that I know it’s just how my body is.  The pounds come back off, sometimes in just one day.  I can definitely see why they tell you not to weigh yourself daily, because it can be alarming and discouraging.  I just can’t help myself, though; I look at it as more of a science experiment than a failure on my part somehow.  (Or I try to; I do have days, like today, when I tell Dave how unfair it is that my weight jumps around so much.  Today is an ‘up’ day, can you tell?)  Since I’m not dieting per se, it’s not like I’m going to abandon my diet.  The most I might do is feel discouraged and disappointed, but I keep on keepin’ on.

So don’t mind me – I’m just over here trying to resist the urge to step on the scale just One. More. Time.

New Restaurants and First Impressions

About three weeks ago, Dave noticed new construction in the space that previously housed a Burger King restaurant in Carol Stream.  Correction:  He noticed this new restaurant quite a while before, and I kept meaning to check it out online, and when we drove by three weeks ago I finally remembered to actually check it out.

It wasn’t open yet, but we just loved the premise:  healthy fast food, including fries that were baked, sweet potato tater tots, grass-fed beef, nitrite-free hot dogs, and baked chicken tenders.  We aren’t fast food people by a long shot; usually we only do fast food on road trips or, rarely, if neither of us feels like cooking and we decided to have Italian beef sandwiches.  We go to Portillo’s for those – it’s our first choice for fast food because it’s delicious, super affordable, and the service is impeccable.  If you go there during their dinner rush, they work that drive-through line like a well-choreographed dance.

So we made note of this new restaurant’s opening day, which was yesterday, and I made accommodations for the extra calories I’d be eating when I calculated my meals for the day.  I was pretty excited since fast food is kind of rare for us, as I said, and I was really curious to see how this new place handled things on opening day, not to mention my curiosity about the food itself.  It’s located right by our house, so we decided to stop for food and bring it home after we were done running a few errands.

After an amazingly productive trip to Goodwill (Dave got new jeans and a cool, retro drip coffee maker, I got an LL Bean Healthy Back shoulder pack and an LL Bean tunic that doesn’t look like it was ever worn) we headed over to the new place.  I thought long and hard about this and decided not to name it outright, just in case my opinion changes, but if you’re super-curious it will probably be easy to find the name if you search for healthy fast food in Carol Stream.

They’d been on TV that morning and we happened to catch the news segment.  It made me a little wary when I saw and listened to the owners; my first impression was that they came from money and were looking to cash in on what is a hot current trend.  (After we’d finished eating and were discussing our impressions, I confessed to Dave that I would’ve felt better if I’d seen the owners were young kids with dreadlocks or something, super-committed to the idea of tasty, healthy, fast food.)

We approached the door and could see a line of people winding around in front of the counter.  I took this as a good sign; it was about 1:15, so they probably had a big lunch rush.  We entered and stood for a minute or two until the lady in front of us realized that the guy in front of HER was not waiting to order … he was waiting for his food.  Alarm bells started to go off in my head; I looked to my right and realized the big crowd of people there all had tickets in their hand, waiting for their orders.  One guy loudly told someone nearby that he’d been waiting 30 minutes for his food.

Dave looked alarmed and asked me if I wanted to go over to the tables and order there.  Each table was outfitted with an iPad for ordering, but all the tables were basically empty.  I was debating whether this would be any faster when suddenly it was our turn to order; the wait to get to a cashier ended up being very short.  Most of the traffic jam by the counter was from people waiting to hear their number called.

I had originally planned to get one of their burgers with caramelized onions, ketchup and tomato – a departure from what they normally come with.  Dave had looked around at the throng of people and decided to have a hot dog.  I know he’s not a huge fan of hot dogs, and I realized he’d probably chosen that figuring it would come out the fastest with the least possibility of being screwed up.  So I ordered two hot dogs and two fries for us, mine plain and Dave’s with everything.  I repeated my order three times to the girl before she finally seemed to have it correctly entered, and then I thought she said the total was $7.82.

I handed her my debit card, because we almost never have cash – we use the debit card for everything.  At that point she said, “Oh, we’re only taking cash.”  WHY couldn’t they have posted a sign on the front door?!  (It turns out that their POS system went down early in the day and apparently never got fixed; I saw on their Facebook page that they actually closed three hours early because of it.)

That didn’t faze me because I was sure I had $11 in cash in my wallet (a rare thing); I started pulling out bills and handed her $8.00.  She just looked at me.  I said, “Did you say it was $7.82?” and she said, “No, it’s $11.82.”  I went back to my wallet and saw there were no more bills – somehow I had grossly misjudged my funds.  I shrugged, smiled and explained that we just don’t ever carry cash, so we would have to cancel our order.  Before she could respond, a young guy zoomed up to the counter and said it was no problem, he would take care of it.

I was stunned; I actually thought he was going to pull out money and pay for our hot dogs!  I stammered, “Oh no, you don’t have to do that, it’s okay,” and he insisted, saying something that I missed but I think he said he was the manager and was approving the sale for us.  I was mortified and impressed at the same time, so I said, “Oh my gosh, thank you, but here, at least take the cash we do have.”  So we paid our $8.00, got our ticket, and went to stand with the crush of other people.

As we waited, I noticed this guy really trying to make things right; he handed out a few bags of free food to the people who had been waiting for a long time, asked certain people what their order number was and seemed to expedite it, etc.  But the workers all just seemed confused.  There were two rows of paper tickets laid out on the counter; from time to time, one of the women behind the counter would look them over, then just kind of swipe a few, crumple them and throw them away.  There were two bags of food they kept calling numbers for and nobody ever claimed them.  (According to a Yelp review, there was a mix-up where they were calling off a number written halfway down the ticket, but the customers were looking at a different number on the top of the ticket.)

Most people were just amused; a few of them seemed irritated.  I watched as a couple of people came back and had things switched in their bags.  One of the girls who was offered free food said she couldn’t accept it because she was vegetarian (they have a veggie burger, which I’m sure she ordered).

We waited for 15 or 20 minutes and finally our number was called; it was the number at the top of the ticket, so there was no mix-up there.  We gratefully grabbed the bag and headed out the door, glad we were free of the mayhem inside.

Unfortunately, I waited until we were halfway home to open the bag.  Originally I wanted to see if my hot dog truly was plain; half the time I end up with a fully loaded hot dog or hamburger, and no, you can’t just scrape off the detritus if you loathe mayonnaise, pickles, mustard, and relish the way I do.  The first thing I saw was that the bag looked awfully empty; there were just two wrapped hot-dog shaped bundles in the bottom.  I said, “Uh, it looks like they forgot our fries.”  Then I thought of Gene & Jude’s, the legendary Chicago-area hot dog stand (and still my absolute favorite hot dog and fries EVER) and remembered that they wrap the fries in with the hot dog.

“Oh!  Wait – maybe the fries are wrapped inside,” I said hopefully as I unwrapped one of the bundles.  Nope – it was just a hot dog with everything on it, no fries.  Dave forcefully replied that he did NOT want to go back, and I immediately agreed.  I was really hungry at this point, and now I was irritated too; who knew how long we might wait to get our fries if we waded back into the melee at the restaurant?

We came home and baked some onion rings to go with the hot dogs which were, obviously, cold by the time we actually got to eat, so we heated them up in the microwave.  They were okay – just tasted like a regular store-bought hot dog, nothing big.  (Mine was plain, thankfully.)  I checked the receipt and saw that the hot dogs were $3.85 each, not including the fries.  Since we never got our fries, we basically paid full price for the meal, which makes me feel less guilty.  Still, when Dave asked what I thought, I told him that the hot dog was okay but not worth $4.00.

After we got home, I watched the reviews pour in on Yelp and Facebook for this place.  By the end of the day, they had seven reviews (almost unanimously bad) and 1-1/2 stars on Yelp, with numerous complaints on their Facebook page.  Dave was appalled by what he’d seen at the restaurant; he used to manage a few different fast food places and restaurants back in the day (before I knew him) and pointed out quite a few things they could have done differently.  It’s been fascinating to watch this unfold, because I’d never been to a restaurant (fast food or otherwise) on opening day and had nothing to compare it to.  It reminded me a little of Three Days to Open, a Bobby Flay reality show that followed restaurants for three days before they opened; sometimes the places aced their opening day, other times they bombed badly.

We did see the owners behind the counter, not doing much really.  The only employee who was on the ball and seemed to have any clue what was happening was the young guy I assume was the manager.

We discussed it for a long time, debating whether we’d give it a second chance.  We decided maybe we would, if the Yelp reviews got better.  A lot of people got cold/partially cooked hamburgers, and that makes me nervous.  The reviews of the food would have to really go up before I’d spend money there, honestly.  I can understand opening day mishaps but if the food sucks, that’s a problem.  We also debated whether to leave a Yelp review, and ultimately I decided against it.  The manager did offer to comp our food, and was doing his best to take care of other people who were waiting.  Even though we did end up paying for the whole meal since we didn’t get half of it, I’d still feel bad leaving them a negative review.  (Updated to add:  Dave just told me he’s planning to leave a review.)

I’ve joked with Dave about opening up our own restaurant (which he swears he would never do, not in a million years) … after seeing yesterday’s mass confusion, I understand why he feels that way!

My Sexy Secret

I’ve written before about the challenges of growing up with curly hair.  And I’ve been surprised to find that the most popular post on my blog is one I wrote a few years ago about how to make flax seed gel (popular with many curly girls).  But one thing I’ve never divulged is my secret for sleeping on curly hair and not waking up with a rat’s nest in the morning.

Yes, I could just describe it.  But nothing gets a point across faster than photographic evidence.  The problem is, the photographic evidence is deeply humiliating.

To start, I don’t have a fancy phone with a fancy camera.  My phone’s camera is terrible, and you can’t see the picture you’re taking unless you look in a mirror.  As a side note, I used to think all phones were this way until I asked my son about it this past Christmas.  “How do you guys all take such good selfies?” I queried in a bewildered voice.  “Half the time I cut off part of my face, and all of my pictures come out terrible.”  Kind of like this:

This is better than most of my selfies.

This is better than most of my selfies.

After Eric finished laughing (seriously holding his sides laughing), he showed me his phone.  It has a camera on both sides (or something) and somehow magically shows him the image he’s about to snap.  These kids totally cheat!

So I take my selfies in the bathroom mirror, using my regular Canon PowerShot camera.  I always have an awkward, forced smile in my pictures, and I hope to God I don’t really look like that in real life.

When you have curly hair, you can’t just wake up and brush it.  Well, you could but that would be a huge mistake.  Instead, you wake up and see that half of your curls have smashed flat and the other half of your hair is a big mass of frizz.  What I used to do:  wet my curls with water and re-style them, then dry them with a diffuser on my blow dryer.  What I do now:  wear a satin sleep cap to bed four nights a week.

I wash my hair three times a week, alternating between co-wash (washing with conditioner), a no-poo (shampoo with no sulfates) and a low-poo (shampoo with no sulfates but does have a cleansing agent like coco-betaine).  Therefore, I want to preserve my curls for the next morning since I’m not planning to wash my hair.  So if I’ve washed my hair that day, this is what I look like when I go to sleep:

Don't you envy my style?

Don’t you envy my style?

Sexy, right?

Luckily for Dave, I don’t bother to wear the cap the night before a hair-washing day.  I don’t care what my hair looks like in the morning since I know I’m going to be washing it, so why bother?

Dave claims he doesn’t care about the cap but I found it truly hilarious the first month or so I was wearing it.  I still make jokes about it, three years later.  I probably wouldn’t have had the strength or fortitude to wear this thing when I was younger; I was just too self-conscious and would have been mortified.  Now I’m kinda like, eh, whatever.  It saves so much time the next day that I can handle a little humiliation the night before.

Here’s why I love my satin sleep cap:  When I take it off in the morning, first I look like this:

Right after the cap comes off...hilarity ensues.

Right after the cap comes off…hilarity ensues.

My hair looks crazy (this picture doesn’t capture the craziness, really) but it’s easy to fix.  I just slide my fingers under my hair, by my scalp, and shake my hair out.  I reposition any curls that flipped to the wrong side or look really weird.  The most I ever have to do is re-wet an individual curl that’s gone insane overnight and is curling the wrong way (usually I clip it in place until it dries).

After one or two minutes of this, my hair looks like this:

Please ignore the crazed smile and focus on the non-bedhead curls.  Please.

Please ignore the crazed smile and focus on the non-bedhead curls. Please.

Or this:

Curly second-day hair

Curly second-day hair

If you, too, would like to rock this bedtime look, you can find these satin sleep caps dirt cheap (around $3 or so) at Wal-Mart and Sally Beauty Supply.  You can thank me later, sexy thing!

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