A Confrontation I Didn’t Ask For

I’ve talked before about my cell phone number being an old one that was recycled from Sprint. It’s a little weird, but not too annoying because most of the calls I was getting for the owner of the old phone had died down.

Yesterday afternoon, I got a text from an unknown number: “Hey what the fucks your problem?”

I had a brief moment of ‘OMG who did I piss off unknowingly?’ … and then I remembered that my phone number used to belong to some guy. I showed the text to Dave, we laughed, and I decided to just ignore it.

A few hours later I checked my phone again (I just leave my phone on my desk and forget about it half the time). There were more texts, so I decided to answer the guy. (I assume it was a guy – I did a search on the phone number and came up with a page that showed a guy, maybe high school or college age – but for all I know someone else could have HIS number by now!) Our conversation went as follows:

text1  text2text3

(I have to admit, my first instinct was to text back ‘You kiss your mother with that mouth?’ … hehe … but I decided not to play with the kid too much.)

In the midst of our texting, he called my cell phone. I have my cell phone calls all automatically forwarded to our house landline, so he would have heard our voicemail message and realized I was telling the truth. (I have the calls forwarded because 99% of them are either spam or for the person who had the old number; if anyone I really need to talk to happens to call, I can read the captioning on the house phone and understand them, hopefully.)

Things have been quiet ever since. To be honest, I’m not sure what is more offensive … being sworn at or repeatedly being called ma’am! ;)

What’s in a Name?

When I was young – I’m not sure of the exact age, but probably around 11 or 12 – I decided to play with the spelling of my name. I think a lot of kids probably do this, don’t they? I tried Wendee and Wendie and Wendi, writing them over and over in a notebook. (I was hard-core into pen-palling and also tried out different styles of handwriting at the same time.) Eventually I realized I really liked writing Wendi instead of Wendy; I felt like it flowed easier from the tip of my pen. I started using that spelling in all of my pen pal letters, and eventually it crept into all of my everyday usage.

By the time I was a young adult, even my official documents were spelled with an i instead of y. I was so used to spelling my name that way that it just felt natural, and I kind of forgot it was really spelled Wendy on my birth certificate. My driver’s license, checks, even my social security card, at one point, were all spelled Wendi.

When I was 21, I bought my first house and got my first taste of red tape thanks to my name spelling. I had to sign an actual stack of documents with all the iterations of my name (Wendy Maiden Name, Wendy Married Name, Wendi Maiden Name, etc. etc.) that documented that the person with this name spelling was also known as this other name. It was a bit of a pain in the ass, but my hand was already numb from signing papers – what’s a few more signatures?

Over the years, various agencies really started cracking down on the name spelling issue. I had to be careful to use the spelling on my birth certificate if I was getting something that required me to present my birth certificate (marriage license, driver’s license, new social security card). I still kept Wendi on my checks (banks were late to the ‘make it official’ party, I guess) and in all my personal correspondence.

I started having to explain it a little more, though. People would fall all over themselves to apologize if they spelled my name ‘Wendy’ and I would explain that it was actually my official spelling – I just use Wendi for casual use. Then they’d kind of look at me weird. I don’t know why it was such a big deal; I mean, Dave’s official name is David and nobody freaks out about him using the name Dave! But I started having to explain things more and more over the years, and started just using Wendy in more cases – like the doctor’s office.

When we moved to Michigan, I had to get all new documents again and I took the chance to make a full change to Wendy when I did that. My checks, driver’s license, lease, all the various medical professionals I had to switch over to – all of that switched from Wendi to Wendy. The only time I was spelling my name with an i was in email and places like Facebook.

The thing is, though, now Wendi was starting to feel artificial to me because I was so used to spelling my name the real way, with a y. So a week or so ago, I changed my name on Facebook and in my email.

It took a while for people to notice (it’s not like it was a huge change, after all) and then a lot of people were curious why I changed it. It’s funny, isn’t it, how something you do kind of frivolously as a kid can carry through into adulthood. For the longest time, spelling my name Wendi instead of Wendy was just not a big deal, and it was never questioned. In this day and age of accountability and identity theft and having to prove you are who you say you are, though, it was really becoming a problem. So I just took the easiest solution.

Now I need to reverse my reassurance — to people who apologize for spelling my name Wendi instead of Wendy. It is seriously fine with me however you want to spell my name – I love and respond to both spellings.

My kids, though, better still call me Mom (or Momma, or Mama). ;) The jury is still out on what my grandma name will be – Nana? Grandma? Grammy? We’ll find out next year!

Time Flies When You’re Having Fun

I like to do this thing where I think ‘At this time last year, I was …’. It’s kind of amazing to look back and see how much things change in a year or five years or whatever. Dave and I were talking about this today because seven years ago at this very moment, I was in the recovery room at the hospital. This day marks seven years since my bilateral cochlear implant surgery.

Seven years ago, Eric was just about to enter college and Paige was just about to enter high school. How weird is that?

Dave reminded me that August 21, the day after I was activated, was the day we moved Eric into his dorm. I remember that like it was yesterday; I could hear sounds, but everything was weirdly robotic and voices were still very strange-sounding, especially the voices of Eric’s roommate and his family. I remember listening to the rhythmic sound of the car tires on the expressway until the sound made sense to me; same with the sound of the turn signal clicking.

So much has changed in seven years. I didn’t know back then whether the surgery would even work, and I wouldn’t hear sound again for another month. (Activation was a month after surgery, after I was mostly healed.)

My Advanced Bionics Harmony cochlear implant processor and headpiece

My Advanced Bionics Harmony cochlear implant processor and headpiece

The processors I wear (Advanced Bionics Harmony) are old news now, even though they were the latest and greatest when I got them. Since then they’ve introduced the Neptune (an off-the-ear, waterproof processor) and the Naida. I still follow the boards on Hearing Journey and offer support/mentoring to people who are curious about getting a CI, but I really can’t offer hands-on experience with the newest technology … and that’s a strange feeling. I might look into upgrading once we move and I know what our financial situation is going to be, but right now every spare penny gets saved for our future home. My Harmony processors are working fine for now (the rechargeable batteries are getting a little worse for wear though; I might need to buy some new ones).

I haven’t really been writing here that much lately. It’s not like anything bad is happening; summer is here and things are going along just fine. A couple of times I started to write a blog post and then got a sense of déjà vu, like I’ve written about the subject before. A quick search then shows me that yep, I wrote about that exact subject two years ago or whatever. I’ve gone through these periods before and I’m sure it’s just temporary. For now I’ll try to pop in and say hey even when there’s not much to say … and eventually I’ll be writing like crazy again.

So here’s to the next seven years – hopefully by then I’ll look back on this post and think ‘Wow, I was still using Harmony processors back then!’

The Feast (from 2013)

I’m re-posting this entry today because this is Feast time in Melrose Park, Illinois and it brings back great memories.  I wrote this in 2013:

There was one constant in the summers of my childhood, a family tradition that carried through until my very late teens.  Every year, in mid-July, we made the trek to Melrose Park for the Italian Feast.  We actually just called it The Feast; everyone knew what we meant.  I only just recently found out that the full name of this festival is the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, in its 120th year in 2013.

You know how you can take a kid on some amazing outing and they come home and just remember things like the water fountains or the revolving doors in the building?  That might be how my memories of the Feast are now, since it’s been over 20 years since I’ve gone.  But for what it’s worth, these are the things I remember.

Melrose Park is not that far from where we lived, in the western suburbs of Chicago, but as a kid the drive there felt like it took forever.  In reality, we probably got there in 30 to 40 minutes.  I remember going on Sunday, the day of the procession, but we may have gone more than once during the week as well.  We always parked by my Aunt Emily’s house, one of my dad’s sisters; she lived right on the route of the procession.  The biggest anticipation, by far, was guessing when the procession would come into view.  My cousins and I would all sit on the curb in front of my aunt’s house, and we would watch it unfold just inches from our faces.

This parade celebrated the Madonna, and the statue was carried all through the streets.  I always looked for my Grandma Tirabassi, who walked in the parade along with other ladies from the church.  I remember them carrying their rosaries and reciting the Hail Mary.  It used to just blow my mind to see my grandma in the parade; she felt like a celebrity to me, and I was always so proud when I saw her.

When the parade ended, people from along the route would join in and walk along at the end.  I did this quite a few times; it was the only time I was ever in a parade, even though I wasn’t an official participant.  This was such a huge, big deal to me as a kid.

My aunt’s house is etched in my memory, but vaguely.  I actually lived in the lower level with my parents for the first couple years of my life.  I remember she usually had a spread of food set out in the garage; there were tables and chairs set up, and people would wander in and out.  There was a big stone or cement porch on the front of her house, and we kids made a big deal out of jumping off the side of the porch onto the grass below.  When I was young, I considered this to be very risqué and dangerous; my boy cousins (and there were many of them) liked to play Evel Knievel and do daredevil jumps.

I had quite a few cousins either my age or within a year or two of me, as well as my brother who was two years younger than me.  We were all usually there at the same time.  I was the only girl in this age range; my other girl cousins were all older than me, old enough to not be hanging out with a little kid like me (I don’t blame them).  I loved being around my cousins, who were all boisterous and laughing and happy kids.  They all treated me kindly, even if I didn’t always join in with their shenanigans.  There were always tons of people around, people I called ‘aunt’ and ‘uncle’ even if that wasn’t really their relation to me.  It was just what you called the adults back then.  I would see familiar faces, faces I saw every year at the Feast, people I was happy to see even if I couldn’t remember their names.  There was just such a feeling of comfort and tradition.

I don’t remember any fights or bickering on Feast day.  The adults all seemed to be happy; the kids were all beyond excited.  My aunt lived within walking distance of the actual festival so people would walk down to the Feast area and then back to her house all throughout the day.  Sometimes my cousins would come back with gifts or treats from a stall, and I would beg my parents to get me the same thing.  There were usually balloons there, and I always got a balloon.  Sometimes I’d get the kind that had a shape inside, which I thought were just the best balloons ever.  I think sometimes they were on a stick instead of a string.

When I was very young, I always walked with my parents to the festival area.  We’d walk along the streets, some of which were actually brick and looked like cobblestone streets.  I always loved those and thought they looked so pretty and old-fashioned.  A lot of people had nativity sets and Madonna statues set up in their front yards, and we would admire these decorations as we walked.  Often my parents would know the people who lived along the route to the Feast, so we would stop and chat.  Most people had a set-up like my aunt’s, with food set out in the garage and tables and chairs filled with relatives and friends.

There was a big sign that signified the start of the festival area; when it came into view, my heart would beat faster and I knew we were almost there.  Even now, looking at a picture of that sign brings back those old childhood feelings of excitement and anticipation.

feast sign

Once we got there, it was a crush of people.  People everywhere, getting food or talking in groups or buying trinkets.  Many people had red, white and green t-shirts and Italia jackets on.  Most people were Italian, and I’d hear a mixture of Italian and accented English.  My dad always bought us Italian ice, my absolute favorite treat.  It wasn’t ice like a sno-cone, or really ice at all; it was creamy, bright white and bursting with lemon flavor.  It was sold in a little fluted white paper cup; I would finish it and then push up the bottom of the cup, trying to make sure I didn’t miss any of the sweet, tart delicacy.  I’ve never been able to find Italian ice quite like the kind I had at the Feast; what they sell in grocery stores is not the same thing at all.  Gelato comes close and, oddly enough, so does the Italian ice that Culver’s sells in the summer.

I remember my dad buying these flat, yellow beans; he would squeeze the outer skin and pop the bean into his mouth.  They were sold in little wax bags, and until I did an online search the other day, I never realized they were lupini beans.  Of course, the smell of grilled Italian sausage was everywhere; that and Italian beef were the two main things I remember besides the Italian ice and my dad’s beans.

There was a carnival as well, and we always went on the rides.  As I got older, the carnival became the main attraction for me (well, that and the Italian ice).  As a teenager, it was easy to flirt with the carnival workers and get them to give us free rides; one time my friend and I got 15 free rides in a row on the Zipper.  (Never underestimate the power of flirting!)

Since we had to cross a busy road to get to the actual festival, it was a big deal when my parents finally allowed us to go to the Feast by ourselves.  Sometimes all the cousins would go as a pack; as I got older, I’d sometimes go with whatever friend I’d brought along to keep me company.  (Once I hit junior high and high school, I almost always brought a friend along.)  We would pass a place that sold soft-serve ice cream and that was another big treat, especially getting to go there by ourselves and order whatever we wanted.

In the alleys of the side streets, people would set off huge, massive packs of firecrackers that would pop and bang for long, noisy minutes at a time.  When I was very young, I was terrified of firecrackers so I would hide in my aunt’s house along with her dog, who was as scared as I was.

Once I moved out and then got married and was living on my own, I stopped going to the Feast.  My father actually discouraged me from going in the late 80s and early 90s because there were fights breaking out – I’m not sure if it was actually gangs or just rowdy guys, sometimes with guns.  The last time I went was in 1990, when Eric was just a month or so old.  I didn’t fear for my life or anything, but it just wasn’t the same.  The magical feeling I used to get from the Feast was gone, and I didn’t want to replace my good memories with something else.  I haven’t been back since.

Part of what made it so special for me was just family, having everyone gathered at my aunt’s, eating and talking and laughing.  Part of it was the novelty of getting to go to a carnival, get yummy treats and little gifts I normally wouldn’t get.  (I still have a rosary my grandmother bought me one year.)  Part of it was being trusted to walk there with my cousins and/or my friends, that first exhilarating taste of freedom from adult supervision.

In my mind, memories of the Feast are mixed up with warm sunshine, laughter, wafts of smoke from Italian sausages on the grill, waiting waiting waiting for the procession to start, and sweet, tart, cold lemon.


According to the On This Day app on Facebook, Dave and I signed the lease for our house a year ago today. June 2015 has been much more calm and stress-free than June 2014, thank God.

Even though the house was ours as of July 1, we had so much still to do at the old house that we didn’t move until the last week of July. We drove here a few times during the month, though, bringing things with us each time (to lessen the possibility of not having enough room in the Relocubes for all our stuff). We had to come out to pick up the keys, get the gas turned on, get the cable set up – that kind of stuff. During one of the visits for setting up utilities, we wandered the yard and picked a bunch of berries, then brought them back and froze them.

At the time, I didn’t really pay attention to the difference between mulberries and raspberries; I just knew we had them both, and they were both a dark purple color. When we picked them, I just tossed all the berries in the same bucket. Now I can easily tell the difference – mulberries grow on trees, raspberries on bushes. Mulberries, to me, have kind of a flat, sweet flavor (and no seeds). Raspberries have an acidic, tart note to go along with their sweet berry flavor, and tons of seeds. Plus they look totally different, now that I know what I’m doing.

This year it was fun to walk around and keep tabs on the berries as they ripened. I watched the mulberries as they first formed, saw the raspberry brambles fill with life. The mulberries ripened first, and we entertained ideas of harvesting them (put a sheet under the tree, then shake the tree … which always makes me think of the song The Joker). Then we kind of wimped out and decided it wasn’t worth it – all those little stems, and the fruit is okay but (in my opinion) would need to be mixed with something else, like rhubarb, to brighten the taste.

Raspberries, though – I just love them. Dave isn’t crazy about the seeds, but he likes them too. I’ve been watching the berries turn red for the past week or two, and now the berries are turning purple hand over fist.

Ripening raspberries (not pictured: all the daddy long leg spiders that hang out in these bushes, ugh)

Ripening raspberries (not pictured: all the daddy long leg spiders that hang out in these bushes, ugh)

Before raspberries, though, strawberries came into season here. (They don’t call this area the Fruit Belt for nothing!) We picked up a couple pints from a local farm stand, then a quart from a farmer’s market, and then we went all in with a flat from Shelton’s Farm Market when they went on sale. We froze most of them, made strawberry shortcake, made strawberry rhubarb compote more than once, and then I decided I wanted to make strawberry jam.

Dave is the one that does the canning around here, although I’ve gotten more involved in recent years. This time, though, I wanted to try it myself. I didn’t want to actually can the jam in a water bath though; we should really use a canning element on the electric stove here, and we don’t have one. (If we do any heavy duty canning this year, it will probably be outside on a camp stove.) I found an all-purpose jam recipe that made a smaller quantity, and I figured I’d throw a half pint in the fridge, and put the rest in the freezer.

I cooked the heck out of the strawberry puree (the recipe didn’t use pectin) and even though I cooked it far longer than the recipe called for, it never really set up like jam. It was more like a compote or sauce; it was delicious, but it wasn’t jam. (It kicks ass on vanilla ice cream and vanilla yogurt, however.)

I did some searching on strawberry freezer jam, trying to find out what I did wrong. I figured that was what freezer jam was – you cooked it up, and then put it in the freezer instead of canning it. Instead I found an even easier method, better suited for hot summer days because you don’t cook it at all.

So that was experiment #2. I picked up some instant pectin at the store (I love how easy it is to find things like that at the stores around here; I even found rennet tablets the other day so now I can finally try making cheese other than ricotta) and gave it a shot. All you do is mash/puree the fruit, add some sugar (far less than you do if you’re cooking it) and the pectin, pour it into jars and you are DONE.

Can I say again how much I love the fact that I can make jam without heating the house up in the summer, when all the berries are in season? When you don’t have central air, you embrace all the non-hot cooking methods you can.

The flavor is all fruit – it stays bright and fresh-tasting because it isn’t cooked down. (Not that I mind the flavor of traditional jams, mind you!) I like that you can be flexible with flavor combinations; this afternoon I’m making a mixed berry jam using blueberries and raspberries. Cherries are in season next; last year we missed cherry season by about one week, which was heartbreaking.

We just bought a chest freezer and if I’m not careful, it’s going to be full of nothing but jam and frozen fruit. ;)

Words Are Very Unnecessary

On our way home from Dave’s one-month checkup with his hepatologist in Fort Wayne, we stopped at Subway for lunch. Although we like the food, Dave kind of hates going there because the ordering process confounds him. They ask a lot of questions, and for someone with hearing loss that’s a real drag.

I have an easier time with this kind of thing (as long as it’s in person) because I lipread, so I am usually the one to order. I just consult Dave first to make sure what he wants, or if he starts to order himself then I will relay the questions to him if he misses them.

Since it was just a light lunch, we did our usual and got the same sandwich in the foot-long size, and then split it. This location had a drive-through but we decided to go inside because I really struggle to understand anything through those speakers.

We were the only customers, and as we walked up to the counter the guy started talking. I wasn’t close enough to read his lips and had no clue what he said (he was talking really fast and also had a bit of a southern accent). I did my usual and just assumed what he probably said based on my past visits to Subway.

Well yes, I can relate to this.

Well yes, I can relate to this.

I told him the type of sandwich we wanted and the type of bread. He said something else that I missed, but I knew they usually asked about cheese and I thought I’d caught part of his question. “Did you say something about pepperjack cheese?” He nodded, and I confirmed that we wanted it. Then he asked if we wanted it toasted, which caught me off guard. I had to have him repeat the question a couple of times. After I answered him, I added, “I’m deaf and I’m reading your lips, so that’s why I sometimes miss what you say.”

Now, usually I add that I have cochlear implants and I hear with them; that way people know that I do hear sound but they also know that I’m reading their lips as well. But I figured eh, this is just a quick lunch order and why go into all that detail? Here’s what happened when I just let that statement hang in the air without further clarification:

The guy stopped talking.

He had been keeping up a constant patter while we were there, which was making it hard for me to tell if he was asking a question, making a comment about our order, or even perhaps just talking to himself. My statement silenced him, and what a gift it was!

He quietly made the sandwich and just kind of looked up when he got to the veggies, waving his hand vaguely in the direction of the options available. I smiled and said we just wanted tomato, nothing else, and no sauce.

Obviously he thought I couldn’t hear anything and there was no point in really talking to me anymore, so he resorted to his version of sign language – and it was perfectly fine with me (even preferable, if I’m being honest). I thought it was kind of hilarious; it’s been a long time since I’ve had someone react that way when I say I’m deaf. Even before I got my CIs and I really couldn’t hear, when I told someone I was deaf and reading lips, they would still keep talking to me the same way they had been.

(Before I get to my next story, I have to interject and say that Dave had his viral load tested at this appointment, and we got the results yesterday. As of one month into his three month treatment with Harvoni and Ribavirin, he has cleared the Hepatitis C virus! He never cleared it in 2013; he went from over 4 million to 11,000 but that was as low as it went. This time he started at over 3 million and BOOM … now it’s undetected. ! ! ! !)

The other hearing loss-related thing that happened around here was during a power outage. The power really doesn’t go out very often here, and when it does they get it back on within a few hours (at the most). It seems to go out at weird times, though, not during storms. The last time was about a week ago, after we’d had some rain come through. During the storms all was well, but about 3:15 in the morning my eyes just kind of flew open. I could feel that something wasn’t right; I just didn’t know what it was. I realized Dave wasn’t in bed, and then I looked over at the clock and saw that it was off – we had a power outage.  (Dave had realized about five minutes before me and was getting candles.)

It wasn’t hot so we didn’t have fans on (or else the room suddenly getting hot would have woken me up). I realized that when I’m sleeping I’m more sensitive to light (and the lack of it) than I realized. I always assumed I wouldn’t wake up from a strobe light on a smoke detector, and that I’d need something that vibrated the bed to wake me up. (Those systems are, by the way, very expensive.) Now I’m kind of wondering if the strobe light would actually do the trick. I must be more sensitive to that kind of thing when I’m sleeping since I don’t have hearing to rely on. Very interesting!


Short People and 5Ks

I mentioned a while back that Dave and I signed up to walk our first 5K. It was this past Saturday, and I’m happy to report that we finished (and far from last place).

As I do with every first-time experience, I researched as much as I could ahead of time. Every time I mentioned what I thought I’d wear or eat that day, Dave would chuckle and say, “It’s just a 5K! It’s not that big a deal, relax.” He used to run 10Ks, even a half marathon, back in the day and had actually never done a shorter race like a 5K. Finally I had to explain to him that even though it doesn’t seem like much, 3.1 miles is a big deal to a non-athlete like me.

I worried quite a bit about the weather. I didn’t really care if it was going to be hot that day because we’d be walking at 8:30 am, but I really didn’t want to deal with rain. My cochlear implant processors can resist a light drizzle, but serious rain would not be cool. I probably would have taken a pass on doing the 5K if it was a downpour, because I’m not into trudging 3.1 miles totally deaf in wet clothes and wet shoes.

We went the afternoon before and picked up our race packet. I was expecting something like a big envelope with lots of documentation – I’m a weirdo that reads through ALL the printed material I receive, especially for something I’m clueless about. Instead, we checked a board (outside the hospice facility that was holding the race) for our race numbers, walked inside and gave our numbers to a lady who presented us with the … thing that has our race number on it, whatever it’s called (the thing you pin to your shirt). We grabbed some pins, moved further along and were handed our race shirts (really cute, blue tie-dye) and a little backpack thing. Then we headed back out to our car (after I asked someone where we should park the next morning).

I assumed the backpack had all the paperwork inside. We were about halfway home when I opened it up and found only a magnet for a local business, and a water bottle. I flipped the number thing over and saw a strip attached to it, so I assumed that was the timing chip. After I freaked out a little bit (poor Dave, dealing with my Virgo personality), I went back to the website when we got home and re-read all the information a bit obsessively until I was satisfied.

The next morning I had an English muffin with some apple butter (which turned out to be just the right amount of food) and we headed out at about 7 am. We got there about 40 minutes before the race started, so we walked around (there were LOTS of people milling around the parking lot), I used the porta-potty, we took pictures … and then it started raining so we went under the awning and prayed for the rain to stop.

It did, in plenty of time, and the walk itself was completely dry (if a bit humid and muggy). We walked into the street to line up at about 8:20. There were guys holding signs that said ‘Runners – 5 min mile’ (plus 8 min and 10 min, possibly other times too). We got pretty far back from the 10 minute mile sign, and eventually I looked around and saw a guy holding a sign that said ‘Walkers’ so we moved over behind him. (I just realized the Walking Dead reference there … hah.)

It was packed and a lot of the time I had to keep pace with the people in front of me. We walked for quite a while on uneven cobblestone streets, so I was spending a lot of time watching the ground in front of me to make sure I didn’t trip. Eventually I hopped up on the sidewalk and was able to go faster that way. But really, being short when you’re doing a race like this (running or walking) just sucks. (I’m barely 5’1”.) I had to take a good four steps for every one being taken by anybody 5’4” or taller. I was working my ASS off, walking so fast I couldn’t really hold a conversation, and up ahead of me would be taller people just casually strolling along, chatting with their companion like it was no big deal … and I couldn’t catch up to them. It was really maddening!

I did end up jogging in a couple places – once when we were going down a hill, and a couple times to get around people who were walking slower than I wanted to. Dave let me set the pace, and he said afterward that I surprised him with how fast I was walking. I felt kind of bad, like I was holding him back – I knew he’d never walked a race, only jogged, and I told him he could jog if he wanted to. He admitted that he would never jog a race again – he prefers to walk now. That made me feel a little better. ;)

For a while it felt like the race would never end; I was getting sweaty and tired and I kept up that fast, fast pace (for me, anyway) the whole time. Just when I was starting to despair, I saw the finish line come into view. We walked faster, then I looked back at Dave, nodded and started to jog. We jogged over the finish line and somehow he passed me, so he finished at 48:47 and I finished at 48:48, with an average pace of 15:43 per mile. Not bad for two old fogies! :)

Our first 5K together

Our first 5K together

I did notice that lots of people were mixing jogging and running; I have no idea how many were joggers that switched to walking, or walkers who threw in a jog here and there (like us). That was also something I agonized over – is it okay to jog a bit if you sign up to walk? Apparently it is.

We were tired but we felt great when we finished. They had all kinds of stuff set out to eat – donuts, bagels, pastries, bananas and orange quarters, plus bottled water. I grabbed a water, looked at the donuts and felt completely grossed out, and grabbed an orange quarter. It was like nectar, seriously. I told Dave, “If you’d told me beforehand that I would choose an orange quarter over a donut, I’d have said you were nuts.” I just couldn’t fathom really eating after all that exercise though.

We will definitely do more 5K races in the future, but Dave wants to wait until his Hep C treatment is complete (and I don’t blame him). I also really don’t want to do a race when it’s hot, so that’s even more reason to wait until Sept. to look for more races to enter.

Hopefully by then we’ll have a chance to get more walks in through the summer and the next one will be a little easier. It would help if I could grow five inches by then, but something tells me that’s not gonna happen.

Not Exactly the Mother’s Day Gift I Was Looking For

Sung to the tune of ‘Eleanor Rigby’:

All the baby spiders
Where do they all come from?
All the baby spiders
Where do they all belong?

Auuughhhh, look at all the baby spiders …

I opened the bathroom cabinet the other night, grabbed my bottles of Clear Care and saline solution, and then noticed something hanging off the saline solution bottle.  Upon closer inspection, I realized it was a baby spider — black, no bigger than the head of a pin.  I killed it (I’m not afraid of the teeny tiny ones) and didn’t think much of it.  Then I went to put the bottle away.



Next to where the bottle had been was a stack of Dixie cups.  I saw about six baby spiders making webs and hanging off the stack, so I grabbed it, rinsed off the cups (and the spiders) and gave an involuntary shudder.  Then I inspected the bathroom cabinet more carefully.  After picking up a few more things, I found and killed a couple more spiders.  Then I went to the bedroom, where Dave was reading, to have a gentle freak-out session.

He came and inspected the cabinet more thoroughly, pronounced it spider-free, and went back to bed.  Ever since, I open the cabinet a few times a day and peer around.  (All of my toiletries have been moved somewhere else for the time being.)

I’ve killed a couple here and there since then, but nothing like that first night.  STILL.  Spiders have hundreds of babies!  Where the hell are they?  (Do I want to know?)

And before you get your knickers in a knot, I am not about to let hundreds of baby spiders mature in my home.  Sorry — they get killed if I find them.  I hate spiders.  HATE them.  I know people are all, ‘Blah, blah, they kill flies!’ But you know what?  I’d rather have a fly in my house than a spider.

Trying to decide if perhaps it’s better to burn the bathroom down than to try to find the rest of them.  Happy Mother’s Day!

Hep C, Writing, Fitbit, House

“It says here that I should eat ice cream every day.” Dave looked up from his computer screen and smiled.

I have to give him points for trying – ice cream every day would take the sting out of going through treatment for Hepatitis C a second time.

His new treatment starts next week, and it goes for three months this time. He’ll be taking a new drug, Harvoni (I keep wanting to call it Havarti, like the cheese) along with his old friend Ribavirin. No interferon shots this time, thank God. We couldn’t remember if he had to take the drugs with a high-fat snack the way he did last time, so he was doing research to refresh his memory. (Turns out it was the boceprevir that required the high-fat snack, so no requisite Hershey bars or peanut butter this time around.)

This regimen should have way less side effects, although there will still be a few from the Ribavirin. (If he was treatment-naïve, he would just take the Harvoni which has very few side effects.) We’ll be making bi-weekly trips to Fort Wayne to pick up his medicine (he gets a two week supply each time) and have them check his labs.

I didn’t mean to let so much time go by without an update. I was taking an online class on how to make money from your writing, and it ended this month. By the end of the class I was feeling like I just wanted to write here and not try to actually make any money by writing – and then I stopped writing here, go figure. It was pretty eye-opening, though, and I’m glad I took the class. I had a lot of misconceived notions about writing for magazines, for instance. I didn’t realize that you don’t actually write a piece and submit it (unless it’s an essay, which I discovered is the type of writing I prefer). A magazine article is just an idea when you send a query to a magazine – ‘Hey, how about I write on this subject for you?’ – and then you wait to find out if anyone is interested. If they are, then you write the article.

And a book – well, my memoir has been stalled for months, so it’s not like I was on the verge of being done or anything, but I was still thinking of book publishing as ‘write a book, submit the manuscript and hope it gets accepted, if it does then the publisher promotes it and you hope people buy it.’ No sir. It’s more like, write a book and then try to convince a publisher to accept it by showing how popular you are and all the things YOU can do to promote it. I have NO desire to try to sell a book. I don’t want to have to give talks or readings, I don’t want to do interviews, I don’t want to spend my days begging my friends to buy my book. I just want to write, man. So I figured, screw it, I’m just going to satisfy my urge to write through my blog. And then, like I said, I stopped writing.

I was very caught up in the whole ‘I am not a writer if I don’t get paid for what I write’ thing and it was really messing with my head. So I backed off of everything for a while, I guess.

In other exciting news, sort of related to writing, I got a Fitbit last week. Influenster offered me the eBay Guide badge, where you earn a $25 eBay gift card by writing two eBay guides. It took forever and a day to have both of the guides accepted (they read them and approve them one at a time) and then to actually get the gift card, which was sent in the mail. While I was trying to figure out what to spend it on, they offered me an eBay Guide VIP badge for another $25 gift card. I decided to do two more guides, and held onto the first gift card so I could combine them. The second gift card came via email and voila, I had $50 to spend on eBay.

I had done some research on the Fitbit, and decided on either the Flex or the Charge. I don’t use it for phone stuff so the only thing the Charge really offered that the Flex didn’t have was an on-screen display. I did some pricing and realized I could get the Flex for very little of my own money, so that sealed my decision. I finally snagged a slate blue Fitbit Flex for $60 with free shipping, used my $50 in gift cards and got myself a Fitbit for the low, low out-of-my-pocket price of $10.

I am properly obsessed right now, and I do find myself extending my workouts to get in at least 10,000 steps a day if I can. I don’t really bother with the calorie portion of the app because I use the Livestrong MyPlate website to track my calories, but I do take note of the calories I supposedly burned (according to Fitbit) versus the calories I consumed (according to MyPlate).

I am holding steady with my weight, and I just have seven measly pounds to get to my ultimate, in-my-dreams goal. However, I’ve been within 4 to 7 pounds of that goal for nearly a year now. Maybe the Fitbit will take me over the top. If nothing else, I’ll be more active. Win, win!

Now I’ve gotten a third eBay Guide badge, the VIP Plus, for another $25 gift card. I completed those guides and they were accepted right away, so I’m waiting for the gift card (it usually takes a few weeks). Let me just say, finding topics that I could write on was really hard. You have to use the Influenster topic suggestion tool and use something from there. You click on this ‘inspire me’ button and it spins around and throws out a topic. Most of them were for things I’d never even heard of, or had no idea what to write about (how to replace a manual transmission; pricing Pokemon cards; birds of Asia). I lucked out with a couple of candle topics, one on canning, DIY hair stuff, things like that. It took a lot of clicking to get there, though.

I think we are finally ready to give the garden a go. Dave is out burning the brush pile right now; it has to go because it’s currently in the area we plan to till. Well, I think we may have someone come in and do the tilling for us. We’ve figured the cost of renting a tiller AND a truck (because we can’t fit the tiller in our Hyundai Sonata), and it may be cheaper just to pay someone to come do it for us with their own equipment. One way or another, though, the garden area should be prepared in the next couple of weeks and we can finally begin planting. One more thing – we finally started a compost pile. I’ve never had one, so I keep having to dig through the trash to pull out vegetable peelings, egg shells and the like.

We will miss this little house when we move on, but it won’t be until 2016 at the earliest. Last year was so full of trauma and upheaval, and we are looking forward to just staying put for this year. It is so nice to wake up every day feeling relaxed, wondering where the day will take us. Every day we find new flowers coming up, new buds on the trees. I’m already looking forward to mulberries and raspberries.

Raspberries from our yard last year

Raspberries from our yard last year

It Only Took 32 Years

… for me to change my attitude on exercise.

When I was in high school, we were required to take gym class. Except for the times we were doing special units (my favorites were roller skating and gymnastics), we had to run a mile every week. We’d get out on the track and, in my case, huff and puff until the punishment was done. I hated doing the mile. Hated it.

It didn’t matter that I was really skinny in high school; I was not physically fit at all. In the beginning, I’d kind of jog along with everybody until I got too tired, and then I’d walk. As the months went by I just said ‘screw this’ and walked right from the start. I was usually last to finish, and I didn’t care.

I often wonder if we’d ever been taught how to work up to running – you know, a Couch to 5K kind of thing – then maybe I wouldn’t have hated it so much. I just could not jog for that long without physical pain. It taught me to hate jogging with a passion.

When I saw my doctor last month for my new patient physical, she asked if I exercised and I told her that I jogged on a mini trampoline daily. “I’m trying to transition to jogging outside,” I added, “but it’s so hard.” “Oh, walking is better for you,” she replied. “There’s less chance for injury.”

When my physical was over, I had a blood test. I was curious to see how my cholesterol levels responded to the daily exercise and 35 pound weight loss. My blood pressure was already showing positive changes; even though I was nervous as hell at my doctor appointment, my blood pressure was 112/70. (I take medication for it.) I see the doctor again in September and there’s even a chance she might take me off the blood pressure medication, which I’ve been on since 1994.

High cholesterol runs in my family, and although it responds a bit if I lose weight, I usually still have high cholesterol if I don’t take medication for it. I have never exercised regularly though; this is the first time in all of my 50 years that I’ve exercised on a regular basis for more than a couple of weeks. (It’s been about a year and a half for me now.) I think the biggest change was my HDL cholesterol, which went from 45 to 64 – the highest it’s ever been.

My overall cholesterol went down just 4 points, but I’m taking a fibrate instead of a statin so that doesn’t surprise me. (My last doctor was trying to get my triglycerides down, so she switched me from the statin.) The fibrate medication does bring my triglycerides down more but it doesn’t really touch my LDL or overall cholesterol much. I was happy that my overall cholesterol was still under 200, even on the fibrate. My LDL went down 14 points, but it’s still a shade over 100 (which is the ‘optimal’ range).

My triglycerides though – holy crap. They are 71, which is so much lower than I’ve ever been. My highest was 237; that was when I was taking prescription fish oil (Lovaza) and ugh, that stuff was horrible. So I really think the exercise is helping my overall health more than I realized, possibly even more than losing weight.

While I was still riding the high of my much-improved results, I happened to see a small notice in our town paper about a 5K to support a local grief support and hospice program, Lory’s Place. I’d just finished reading Being Mortal and really liked what the author had to say about hospice in general, so I was all for doing something to support them. I talked to Dave and he agreed. So I signed us both up to walk our first 5K on May 16.

We’ve been walking outside every day that it isn’t raining. I was pretty sure we could finish a 5K in an hour; I mean a 20 minute mile sounds so leisurely, you know? But we got out and walked around the backyard one day and I was positively gasping, my heart pounding, my thighs screaming … and it took over 22 minutes to walk one mile.

“I’m going to be last!” I despaired. I’d made the mistake of looking at the past race results and noticed that the slowest walking time was about 1:17. I could see myself slowing down after the first mile and doing my subsequent miles in 25 or more minutes each. I actually made Dave promise that if we were last, he would slow down so I could cross the finish line before him and be second to last. (My husband is such a good guy!)

Of course, jogging is out of the realm of possibility here; I can’t even walk that fast, much less jog. But we made it out to an actual paved trail yesterday and did our mile in exactly 17 minutes, so that gives me hope. I was still panting and gasping at the end, but it’s definitely easier to walk on a paved surface versus our soft, lumpy, molehill-ridden backyard.

I’ve decided to just dial back my competitive nature and do this 5K for the fun experience I hope it will be. Maybe with time and practice, it will get easier. Maybe we’ll even sign up for another one in the future.

If you would have told me back in high school that I’d voluntarily walk 3.1 miles, I would’ve thought you were crazy. At least I don’t have to do it wearing a gym suit. ::shudder::


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