Monthly Archives: August 2008

Forty Four and Flabby

I’ve been buying workout videos since the 1980s (Jane Fonda, I’m looking at you) and this is the first one I’ve ever seen that had captioning.  I’ve gone for the burn with Jane, I’ve Jazzercised, I’ve done dance routines with Cher, pregnancy workouts with Denise Austin, I’ve done step aerobics, worked out with Kathy Smith, done yoga and Tae Bo.  I’ve never seen captioning on a workout routine until I rented the “30 Day Shred” DVD this week.

This DVD came highly recommended…one girl excitedly mentioned that she now has muscles in her armpits thanks to this DVD.  I would simply be happy if my armpits didn’t loll over the edge of my bra, thank you very much.

I like the fact that it’s 20 minutes long.  My big thing these days is to try to convince myself I don’t have time to exercise.  Who wants to spend an hour doing the same workout routine?!  But 15-20 minutes…I can do that.  Right now I have two DVDs I rotate through – Walk Away the Pounds (a one mile walk that’s done in 15 minutes) and I Want That Body, with 15 minute segments that work your arms, thighs or abs.  I am not a hardcore exercise freak.  Actually, I loathe exercise.  If I could lose weight by sitting at the computer or sitting around reading, I would be in heaven.

Unfortunately, life is not fair.  As a teen and in my early 20s, people always told me that “it would catch up with me”….”it” being my metabolism, I guess.  I was skinny in high school, freaking out if the scale went over 100.  I blimped out to a horrifying 115 in my 20s, but finally accepted it since getting under that weight became nearly impossible.  Being short (5’2”) doesn’t help matters – a weight gain of 5 pounds looks like 20 pounds on me.

So I went and had kids…gaining about 35 pounds with each pregnancy and taking a year or two to get the weight off.  I headed into my 30s a little heavier but not terribly so.  It was easy to take off that extra 5 or 10 pounds simply by cutting back on snacking or being more careful with the types of food I ate.

Then I passed 35.  Oh my God.  My body rebelled, my metabolism shut completely down, and I gained weight hand over fist.  I was pissed, you guys.  I hadn’t changed my eating habits or exercise habits (of which I had…none).  I just got older.  The weight piled on and now I am officially obese according to BMI charts.  Come on, man!  When I look at myself, “obese” is not the term I’d use to describe my figure.  I’m no fool and I know I’m overweight but geez.

Have I mentioned that it isn’t fair?  You see hugely overweight people in movies and on TV that are stuffing their faces with donuts, cake, candy, fast food.  It’s always implied that if you’re overweight, that’s how you’re eating.  Well, I’m here to say hell no.  I eat like a normal person.  The only candy I have is a mini candy bar snuck here and there when we have leftover Halloween candy.  I eat a piece of cake at birthdays but no, I don’t chow down on a whole cake by myself.  I don’t binge.  I don’t eat late at night.  I just eat my regular food, and I get fat.

So I decided I needed to increase my physical activity to raise my metabolism.  I know the mechanics of how you lose weight.  I have read all the books, tried all the diets.  I’ve tried Atkins, South Beach, Weight Watchers.  For some reason I actually gain weight when I exercise, and I’m not fool enough to think it’s because I’m gaining muscle.  I don’t work out that hard.

It took up til now for me to decide to not obsess so much about the number on the scale.  Eat healthy and exercise.  Exercising makes me feel better, even if it makes me gain weight.  I think I look better.  So I work out.

I was exercising regularly before my CI surgery, and only just this past week got back to it.  I read the great reviews on this DVD and added it to our Netflix queue.  It came in yesterday and last night I casually told Dave, “I think I’m just going to pop this workout DVD in for a bit…I just want to see what it’s like.”

The instructor, Jillian Michaels, comes on and talks for a while.  No captioning, but I didn’t expect it.  Then you choose your workout level (1, 2 or 3).  Of course, I pick Level 1.  I’ve heard chilling things about levels 2 and 3.  Level 1 begins and the first thing I see is [upbeat music].  It’s captioned!

Now I’m completely fascinated.  It starts off with a simple warm-up so I follow along…it feels silly to just stand there watching the DVD.  Then there’s jumping jacks.  Okay.  I’m a little concerned that I’m going to knock the TV off the stand from the vibration of me jumping on the floor, but I gamely keep up.  I can feel my processors lifting up and settling back down on my ears with each hop.  I’d like to hold them to my ears but you can’t do jumping jacks with your hands against your head.

I follow along half-heartedly through other segments – push ups (uh, yea…I think I’ll do mine against the wall, thank you), simulating jump rope (again with the bouncing processors and precarious bouncing of the TV as I hop).  Hand weight workouts and lunges are fine and I actually do all of those.  Then it’s sit ups.  I don’t mind sit ups…I can usually do them with no struggle.  It’s the yoga-based ab exercises where you hold your weight on your hands/wrists that I can’t do, because of my carpal tunnel problems.  Sit ups, though…bring ‘em on.  Except…don’t.  I can’t do sit ups wearing my CI’s.  My hands behind my head knock my headpieces off.  My processors are sliding back and off my ears.  I’m trying to look at the TV at the same time, to see what we’re supposed to be doing.  Finally, I give up and sit out the sit up section.

It’s back to jumping jacks.  I try, and then stop the DVD.  Gasping and wheezing, I tell Dave, “I don’t think I’m going to buy this DVD.”  He’s shocked, because I’d been really looking forward to trying it.  “Why not?!”, he asks.

Well, I tell him, I can’t do these exercises with my CI’s.  All the workouts I’ve been doing up til now are done standing up – walking, weight lifting.  I hadn’t done any floor work at all.  I just can’t do sit ups or jumping jacks and keep the processors on my head.

In the end, though, he talked me into giving the DVD another chance.  I’m going to try it without my CI’s on.  Since it’s captioned (yahoo!) I can follow along even if I can’t hear.

I think I’m going to wait another day or so to try.  Even with just a few minutes of half-hearted following along, I’m in pain today.  I feel like crying every time I lower myself into a sitting position.

As they say … no pain, no gain!

What’s the Buzz

Here’s what’s happening:

The buzzing is gone!  I pretty much never get that weird buzzing sound anymore.  When I first put my CI’s on in the morning now, it is just VERY loud.  It takes about one minute for the sound to level off and get normal again.

I had my second mapping on Wednesday morning, Aug. 27.  I’ll be going once a week through the end of September for mappings, and then I’m not sure how frequently I’ll be going.  The schedule they gave me only covers the first six weeks.

The visit started out just like my activation appointment, without all the magnet drama.  Krystine had me listen to all the tones and tell her when they were loud but comfortable.  This time I was able to tolerate much louder volumes, and when we were all done I asked her if my volume had increased.  She said it had, a lot.  That’s normal though, and to be expected.  🙂

After all the volume thresholds were newly set, I went “live”.  WHOA.  It was really, extremely loud – way too loud for me to tolerate.  So she dropped the volume until I told her it was better.  Then she did the same thing as last week, setting a softer program on P1, the regular volume I had selected in my threshold check for P2, and a little louder for P3.  I was actually on P1 in the office because the volume was still loud for me but it was tolerable at the P1 setting.

As we were talking, the processor started turning off for no apparent reason.  She would check, take it off my ear, put it back on…it’s fine.  A few seconds later, dead again.  It was really weird!  We switched batteries even though I had just put freshly charged Plus batteries in about 4 hours earlier.

She ran some diagnostics on the processor and then did an internal test on each of my electrodes.  She said I may or may not hear something during the test, and it was really long.  It took 15 minutes or more and it was really boring, just sitting there.  I could hear the clicking as the electrodes were tested, though, which was kind of cool.  It would click away, then start cycling through the whole thing again either at a louder volume or in a different pitch.  I was really relieved when it was over and we could get things moving again!

Whatever she did worked, because my processor has been fine ever since.  She did mention that one of the things she did was put it on Economy Power Mode (or something like that) since I had mentioned how quickly I was going through both types of batteries.  She was hoping that would give me some more battery life.  Yesterday (my first full day on Economy mode) my Plus battery made it to about 12 hours on the right side and 14 hours on the left.  I’ve noticed some days I get more life out of them so we’ll see how things go over the next few days.

We set the thresholds on the right side, and again the volume was increased a lot.  And again, when I went “live” it was much too loud, so she brought it down a bit until I could tolerate it on P1.

The right side processor was fine and never cut off like the other one did.  Krystine went ahead and internally tested my electrodes on that side as well.  It was boring but did go faster on that side.  And I’m happy to know all my electrodes are okay!

I filled Krystine in on how much I loved my CI’s, how the sounds changed over the first week, and also told her how the right side sounded more treble and the left side more bass.

She told me that for the first few weeks, the main thing we’ll be doing is re-setting the volume.  Usually it needs to be increased a lot each week, and then it starts to level off.  Once that happens, we’re going to start adding the other strategies/programs like Fidelity 120.  I’m still using HiRes 90K – S right now.  She also turned off the second microphone (up near the top of the CI processor) and I’m 100% T-Mic in each ear now.

Once we were done with the volumes and electrode testing, I noticed voices were much easier to understand.  Dave’s voice had lost a lot of the raspy and growly tones that were bugging me so much before.  He was a lot easier to understand.

To wrap up the visit, Krystine pulled out a book with sheets filled with sentences and words for listening practice and evaluation.  We went through about 5 to 8 of these sheets.  I was really apprehensive when I realized what we were going to do, since I did so badly the week before and my perfectionist Virgo personality really hates to fail tests!!  I just dread hearing and vision tests.  😦

She covered her mouth with the screen and then she would read a sentence and I would have to look on the sheet of paper to find what she read, then read the sentence back to her.  Sometimes she just said sentences and I had no paper to look at, I just had to repeat them back to her.  She read a list of words and had me tell her what they were (no paper to refer to).  She would say two similar-sounding words and I had to pick the word she said (referring to a sheet).

A few times I had to have her repeat the words or sentences before I got them correct.  But I surprised myself by getting most of them correctly on the first try!  After we were done, I turned to Dave and asked if he was able to get them all.  He grinned and said there were a few that I got that he didn’t get!  (On the other hand, he was able to get some of the ones that I missed on the first try.)

Still though, for only being activated for one week I was absolutely thrilled with the progress I made!  Just last week I couldn’t understand any of the words she said.

My homework was the same this week – read out loud to get used to the sound of my voice.  She also recommended some beginner level (i.e., kindergarten) books on tape for listening practice.  We have to get over to the library to see if they have any I can check out.

I had a true CI moment as we walked out of the doctor’s office.  A man was wandering in the hallway, looking confused. He was looking around at the doors and numbers, and asked me in passing, “Is there a directory here?” He wasn’t looking at me since he was peering around at the doors, and I understood him without lipreading!

After My Week 2 Mapping

I found a great resource for online aural rehab sources:

http://www.bionicear.com/userfiles/File/Websites_For_Listening_Practice.pdf

I came home and tried to listen to a voicemail on the phone.  The dial tone was much louder and very clear this time.  However, I could just barely hear someone talking so I ended up passing the phone over to Dave.  Krystine said it would be a while before I should really try the phone but I couldn’t resist seeing what it sounded like!

When we first walked into the house, it was overwhelmingly loud.  I wasn’t even sure I could tolerate the volume.  We have fans going all over the house, even when the AC is on (they help circulate the cold air around the house).  All I heard was this roaring sound from the fans.  I couldn’t even hear my keys clacking on my keyboard as I typed.  I mentioned it to Dave and we turned the fans down to their lowest setting.  He was going to turn them off but I told him I wanted to see if I could get used to it.

After an hour or so, I could barely hear the fans.  They were just a very low hum in the background, and all the more important sounds came back into focus.  Awesome!!  😀

I really love how my CI’s handle loud noises.  The sound dampens down for a few seconds, then it comes back up so I can hear everything well again.  The background/loud noise, though, is barely noticeable.  It’s like the CI’s know what sounds should be foreground and which should be background, and they also keep sounds from being so loud that they make me cringe.  It’s amazing!  Even after just 1-1/2 weeks now I feel like I’m hearing better with my CI’s in most cases than I did with hearing aids.

The few things I still need to work on are the telephone, the TV (still has a strong buzzing sound to it) and music.  Sometimes music will sound better after a while, but usually if there’s music in the background (overhead at a store, or in the background of a TV show or movie) it makes everything else sound kind of weird.

I had another kind of gross CI moment yesterday morning.  Dave and I were sitting in the living room at our computers, talking.  I kept hearing this very quiet “click” on a fairly regular basis.  Finally I asked Dave what it was.  He thought it was me clicking a button on my computer but it wasn’t.  It happened during a lull in our conversation and I said, “There!” Then again.  He definitely heard it too but couldn’t identify it so he got up to look around.  He walked into our bedroom, which is at the total opposite end of the house, and came back amazed.

“I can’t believe you heard that!”

It was our cat, Sabrina.  She had an ‘accident’ in the bedroom (hence the ‘gross’ factor) and was trying to cover it up.  Every time her paw brushed the dresser, I was hearing it.  She’s declawed though, so there’s not much to hear!  (And no, we didn’t declaw her, poor baby – she was that way when we adopted her.)  I joked to Dave that it was like being able to hear a cotton ball brushing up against the dresser since her paws are so furry and she has no nails.  I guess I was hearing her paw pad!

Now I can hear and understand Dave talking to me in the car if we’re driving at night.  I turned on the dishwasher last night and it was so loud that I thought something was wrong with it!  It sounds like gears clanking and clacking.  I always thought the dishwasher was so quiet…I used to have to put my hand on it to feel if it was on or not.  I worked out today and heard the instructor’s voice (on DVD) again!

It’s been so weird to hear the voices on TV shows that we started watching when I couldn’t hear.  (I was going to say “When I was deaf” but I’m still deaf.  Hmmm)  There are a lot of shows where I’d never heard the actors before, like Generation Kill on HBO.  We started watching that in July, I think, and watched the season finale on Sunday.  For the first time I got to hear the guys talking and singing.  They never used to caption the songs they sang.  I didn’t catch the song until Dave told me what they were singing in this episode, but once I knew, it all made sense – it was “King of the Road”.

Getting Old

I turned 44 on Thursday.  It was a low-key day, we just went up to the mall for some shopping and then brought home dinner from Outback Steakhouse.  But what an awesome birthday – my CI’s were the best gift I could ever get!!

And Finally…Half Empty Nest

I’m not sure what’s worse…having a teenager who drives you crazy so that you’re thrilled when they leave home (but you suffer for all the years they do live at home) or getting along really well with your teen and then feeling your heart break open when they move out, because you miss them so much!

Just for the record, I really, really miss this guy:

Eric and Me, in his dorm room

Eric and Me, in his dorm room

That’s me and Eric in his dorm room, doing the NIU Huskie “sign” (which looks a little like heavy metal devil horns, LOL).

Eric loves loves loves college, his dorm and the people there.  That makes it a little easier for me, because I know how happy he is.  Still though…it feels like just a few years ago I was taking him to preschool.  How can he be in college already?!

More Activation Observations

The first thing that popped into my head when my CI’s went “live” was, “How am I going to describe this?!” It was a sound I’ve never heard before and didn’t seem to fit any of the previous activation descriptions I’d read.

Now that a few days have passed, things are (thankfully) much easier to describe. I spent the first couple of days constantly freezing in place, with a look of intense concentration as I tried to figure out what I was hearing. I’m constantly asking Dave and Paige to identify sounds for me, especially loud noises. They all sound nearly the same, like a loud buzzing. So I’ll ask, and find out that oh, that loud noise is the coffee grinder, or the patio door opening.

I did leave out one important thing that happened on activation day – the word recognition test. Krystine grabbed a little round screen that covered her mouth, and told me she was going to say some words. I was supposed to tell her what I thought I was hearing. I didn’t have high hopes for this because things all sounded weird and buzzy, and I couldn’t understand any conversation without lipreading. Someone speaking a word sounded the same as a door shutting – all just a buzzing sound.

The first word was “ball” and I guessed, I think, “mom”. She dropped the screen and said the word again, which I was able to lipread. The next word was “hotdog”. I hesitated and didn’t say anything…I had a feeling it was “hotdog” because I know that’s a common word used in word recognition tests, and I could tell it was two syllables. Before I said anything though, she dropped the screen and repeated the word. Ah, yes – I would’ve guessed correctly! (But it would’ve been a guess.) The last word was “blueberry”. Again, I was frozen, trying to think of what it sounded like and I didn’t respond. She dropped the screen, repeated the word. I laughed and said, “I was going to say ‘library’!” Not too far off but still obviously not the right word.

When we got home from my appointment, the first thing Dave did was get out the hair clippers and shave my head where each headpiece attaches. We’re going to keep those areas shaved to make it easier for them to connect. You really can’t even tell that it’s shaved – in the picture from my previous post, that was after my hair was shaved.

So now it’s Sunday afternoon and I’ve been living with my CI’s for about 4 days. I was originally worried that the magnets would make my head sore, since they are stronger than usual. They are fine though, no problems at all. Yesterday I started the day wearing the full size Plus battery, which usually gives about 24 hours of listening time. (The Slim batteries are smaller and usually give 12-14 hours.) I wasn’t wearing the Plus batteries originally because they are a little bigger and I didn’t think my ear could handle the extra weight all day long. They are fine as well, though – maybe a little sore but not unbearably so.

My programs must be really strong though – I know I have the microphone light programmed (it flashes green when there’s a loud sound so I know the processor is communicating with the headpiece) and that may draw more power. The batteries don’t last nearly as long as they say they will. I get about 10-11 hours out of the Plus and 5-7 hours from the Slim right now. That might change when my mappings change in the future.

I’ve been jotting little notes in my Advanced Bionics diary, to remind myself of how things sounded in the “early days”. The first night I was sitting at my computer and I noted that I was hearing a scraping sound. I got up to look around and see what it might be. I went downstairs and saw Dave cleaning the litter box…so I heard that from upstairs. Not bad!

That night I noted that I could hear the dog barking (but it was not clear – it was a loud buzzing sound), the phone ringing (faintly, if I was sitting next to it), tapping, and turn signals on the car. Things like water running and the toilet flushing were just loud, staticky noise.

Thursday I really noticed sounds starting to form out of the buzzing. This was the day we moved Eric to his dorm, so I spent a lot of time in the car. No road noise, but when we were quiet I could definitely hear the “whomp, whomp” of tires on the pavement. I was still having trouble with voices, and weirdly enough, it seems harder to lipread strangers than it was when I couldn’t hear at all. When we met Eric’s roommate and his family, I was a little panicked because it was very hard to understand them. I think the buzzing sound (especially from male voices, which are much harder to understand for me) distracts me and makes lipreading harder.

During the day on Thursday, as we got Eric’s room set up, I definitely still had to lipread to understand anything. I wasn’t even sure if I was hearing voices or something else, unless I was looking at the person’s face and saw their lips moving.

When Dave and I got home, we were both tired so we took a nap. I took my CI’s out and put them in their cases – it definitely wouldn’t be comfortable to sleep with them on. When I woke up and put them back in, though, I had a real scare. I could barely hear! Everything was extremely muffled and definitely different from the way I was hearing earlier in the day. I tried not to panic though, and first switched the batteries. No change. I tried going up to the loudest program, which I hadn’t used at all at that point. It was a teeny bit louder but not anything really noticeable. At that point I kind of gave up, assuming that my brain had done all it could with this mapping and I had gone “soft”, ready for a new mapping already. That seemed a little weird, since it was only one day after my activation, but this was all new to me!

Then I decided to take the processors off and look at them. I checked the volume control, which I hadn’t moved at all since I got the CI’s. Krystine had programmed my most comfortable level with the volume at the 12:00 position, and I hadn’t felt the need to change it. I was shocked to see that the volume for both of my CI’s was almost completely turned down! Once I turned them both up to 12:00, I got a level of clarity that I absolutely hadn’t had before. Originally my right CI seemed much quieter than the left, and I’m pretty sure I managed to turn the volume down on that CI even as early as Wednesday night, the night of my activation. Once it was at 12:00 for volume, it was almost louder than my left CI. Although the right ear hears things much more high-pitched, which I really don’t like (treble or high pitched noises make me cringe) it made a big, big difference in hearing speech.

I still don’t know how it happened, but I’m pretty sure it happened when I was trying to arrange the processors in the cases – I was moving them around and it’s easy for the volume control to rub against the side of the case and change position. It could also have happened when I was putting color caps on. So now I make sure I check the volume level before I put my CI’s in!

The TV really was hard to understand and didn’t get clearer until Saturday or so. There’s a lot of “buzzing” when I listen to voices on the TV. If there’s any background music playing, it sometimes sounds just like noise and makes the voices harder to understand. I can usually get the beat of music though, and with captioning I can understand the words. I recognized the song “Hungry Like the Wolf” at the end of a movie on Friday night!

Environmental sounds – microwave beeping, pens tapping on the desk, etc. sound clearer than speech to me at this point. Women’s voices are easier to understand than men’s. Dave’s voice, especially, is hard for me to hear well. It sounds like he’s growling. It’s very raspy, although I can tell it’s him talking and there are some nuances of what I remember his voice sounding like.

Things that were just generic noise a day or two ago are now starting to sound more normal, like the toilet flushing. It no longer sounds like just a roar to me.

I can hear the microwave keypad beeping when I set the time (and I’m standing in front of the microwave) but after I walk away, I can’t hear the beeping when it finishes.

I’ve had a couple moments of hearing things that took me a minute to believe I was hearing…the dogs barking next door, when all our windows were shut, and when Dave was talking on the phone I could hear the voice of the person he was talking to coming through the receiver (when it was up to his ear). Of course, I couldn’t understand what they were saying but I knew I was hearing a voice. I also heard crickets last night!

I can’t hear at all on the phone. We’re part of the Nielson Homescan panel and we’re supposed to call once a week to hear a recording (apparently it gives tips and suggestions for the scanning that we do). I’ve always had Paige or Dave make that call, and I thought it would be good practice for me so I called yesterday. I just heard noises and had no idea what was being said. When Eric called us on Friday, Dave handed me the phone and again, I could tell he was talking but had no idea what he said.

Whenever there’s a loud noise, it sets off a whining sound in my right ear. (Toby is barking right now, which sounds like ‘woof’ to me now BTW, and this is setting off the whine in my ear.) It whines while the noise is loud and then goes away.

Actually, in the morning when I first attach the headpieces, both of them are very loud with a whining buzz type of sound. It’s similar to the way things sounded when I was first activated. It goes away after a minute or so, but it is really loud so I make sure to put my CI’s on the “soft” program first thing in the morning. I change them up to the regular middle program after a few minutes. I haven’t been using the louder program much, usually just when we’re watching TV.

Today I was getting really bad, LOUD tinnitus every couple of minutes in the morning. It sounds like a freight train passing by my head and amplifies what I hear with the CI’s too. I used to get this tinnitus just a couple times a day and today it really ramped up and was getting irritating. It lasted most of the morning, loud bursts of wailing/hurricane/train tinnitus for about 20-30 seconds, then a break for a few minutes, then it would be back again. It’s afternoon now and has nearly stopped, for which I am very thankful!!

So far there haven’t been any painfully loud sounds for me. I went to a few websites yesterday to see how I did with word tests and was pleasantly surprised. I spent a lot of time at http://www.esl-lab.com/ doing various listening exercises. I didn’t expect much from this since I can’t hear at all on the phone. But using headphones, I got between 80% – 100% on these tests. I tried things that were notoriously hard for me, like prices, directions, answering machine messages, travel and numbers.

Then I went to www.manythings.org/pp/ and worked on the minimal pairs. You can click on each (similar sounding) word to hear it being said. Then they say a word and you pick what you heard.

I also listened to a page or two of the DaVinci Code book on tape. I read along with the book as I listened. This was much harder for me to understand; the voice sounded growly and raspy just like Dave’s. Maybe I need to find a book read by a woman!

All in all…wow. I mean, I just sit here and think about how this time last week, I couldn’t hear at all. I told Dave that even if I never heard any better than this, if it all stayed this way, I would be so happy. Having lost it all and then getting it back again, even sounding kind of strange like this does, makes you appreciate being able to hear anything you possibly can. I can’t say enough good things about my CI’s.

I also love being bilateral – each ear hears so differently and things really sound a lot worse with just one CI on. Once I have them both on, it blends together and sounds so much better.

Just sign me

Blissfully Bilateral and Bionic

Friday I’m in Love

…with my CI’s!

Starting back at the beginning…when Dave, Paige and I first got to the mapping room, my audiologist, Krystine, explained that she would set the volume thresholds on each CI individually. Then both of them would be turned on and we’d make sure the volume levels were compatible, stuff like that.

I was so excited as she opened the package and put my CI together! The processor and headpiece were each in their own individual box. The battery was in a plastic package; I guess it had enough power to last for a couple of hours but it wasn’t fully charged. We started with a SlimCel battery, which is smaller and doesn’t last as long, but is lighter on the ear than the Plus size. The T-Mic earhook was the last component, and that was also in a plastic bag.

She put the assembled processor on my ear, and it was very similar to a hearing aid except there was nothing inside my ear. The T-Mic curved around and down into my ear canal but I don’t feel it at all. I’ve really gotten used to having my ears open to the air the past couple of months…I don’t miss earmolds at all!

The processor on my ear was connected to her computer with a cable. Then she lifted my hair and started moving the headpiece around, trying to find the internal magnet it was supposed to connect to. There was nothing, I mean not even a slight connection. So she sat down and tried to remove the battery; the tool she was using wouldn’t work so she had to leave the room and look for another one. We waited about 10 or 15 minutes before she came back.

It was getting a little nerve-wracking, being so close and yet so far! While she was gone, Paige told me that her video camera didn’t have any power and there was no outlet to plug the cord in. Dave forgot the digital camera at home so there are no pictures or video of activation day. On the bright side, it was kind of a weird activation and probably wouldn’t have been fun to watch because it was so “start and stop” so I’m not even disappointed that we didn’t get video.

When Krystine came back in, she got the magnet out and then checked the marked drawers for a stronger magnet. Empty. She started checking other drawers, then desk drawers, everywhere…no magnets to be found. A lot of time had passed by now, nearly 35 or more minutes, and we still had not even started my mapping. Finally she gave up and said we would just have to hold it in place. She was able to do something with the computer that showed her when the headpiece was near the internal magnet. Then Dave came over, stood behind me and held the headpiece exactly in that position…what a fun job! His arm was pretty tired by the time we finished.

The next step was for me to listen to the tones and tell Krystine when the sound was “loud, but comfortable”. I was a little paranoid for this stage, because I didn’t want the sound to be completely overwhelming. So I’d say it was fine as it got just loud enough. Then Krystine would say, “It’s LOUD but comfortable?” and sometimes, “Let me try a little louder and see what you think.” I was kind of wondering if there’s a standard level most people like, and if I was way below that level of volume or something. A few times I would say “Well, yea, that’s okay, it’s not uncomfortable” and a couple of times it was definitely too loud, as in “making me wince” kind of loud!

We went through this for all the electrodes, and it was pretty time-consuming because if the headpiece moved at all, then I didn’t hear anything and we had to start over. There was also a lot of “try a little louder” situations, so it was kind of painstaking.

Then I left the left CI on my ear, but she disconnected it from the computer. She assembled the right CI and tried it with the original magnet, but again, there was absolutely no connection. So Dave fashioned a headband using the leather arm strap from my purse and wrapped it around my head (!) to hold the left CI in place while he held the right CI for the sound threshold section of the mapping.

The right side went pretty much the same way as the left. I should mention that I never had trouble hearing the tones – some of them had to be pretty loud before I noticed them, but I did hear them all and I never felt any vibrations in my head or had any facial twitching. I was really waiting for something like that to happen since my head vibrated so badly during the hearing aid portion of the CI assessment test back in May!

There was a lot of pausing as the CI headpieces slipped off or the headband dropped into my eyes (it was heavy). We took off the belt and Dave held both headpieces but his arms were shaking from fatigue at this point and they had to be so precisely positioned to work. We also tried using a shoelace from Paige’s shoe, tying it around my head. Nothing really worked for more than a second. Krystine told me that since she couldn’t find any stronger magnets, I would have to wear a headband for the next week to keep the CI’s in position. I laughed and said “Okay” but I was really disappointed. I didn’t think the headbands would really keep the CI headpieces from moving around, and I imagined it would be so frustrating constantly fixing them that I probably wouldn’t wear them.

She turned both CI’s on and I went “live”. I still can’t really find words to describe what the first sound was like…kind of like a loud, high-pitched buzzing. I realized that every time Krystine said something, I heard that buzzing. It didn’t sound like speech at all – there was no beeping or cartoon/helium voices. Then I said something and oh my GOSH. It was so loud, that buzzing in my head! I couldn’t even tell what I said or if it came out properly. I was trying to decide if I thought it was too loud or not, but in the midst of all this (me trying to explain to Krystine what I was hearing), the headpieces kept slipping out of place. So I would say, “Oh…I don’t hear anything now” and she’d check the computer, move the headpiece, and we’d start again.

I listened for a little bit while she talked and did things like rubbing her hands together in front of my face and then in front of each ear. I needed to tell her if the volume seemed pretty much the same in each ear, or if one seemed much louder or softer. It was hard to tell until she rubbed her hands together by each ear (and wow, I heard it — amazing!) and then I realized they were both pretty much the same volume.

At this point, Krystine asked me to stand up (I thought maybe she wanted me to walk around, or do a balance test or something!) and she opened the desk drawer that my chair had been blocking. She pulled out some packages, flipped through them and grinned. “Magnets!”

Oh, sweet relief. She was finally able to put a stronger magnet in each headpiece! At first even then they didn’t want to stick, but we moved my hair enough that they finally made contact. I had been worrying that it might hurt or feel weird when the magnet connected, but I couldn’t feel it at all.

Right around this time my mom came in – she was running late and got there probably around 2:15 or so. Since it had been so hit and miss up til then, she really didn’t miss anything! She was very excited, asking “Can you hear??” and I know she was hoping I’d say that I could hear just like before. I had to tell her that I could hear sounds but it wasn’t like regular hearing and everything sounded strange. I still couldn’t find words to describe what everything sounded like. After a little while, I did start to detect a cartoon/helium type sound to voices but that didn’t last very long, maybe 5 or 10 minutes. Then voices started to form out of the buzzing. Dave’s was very, very deep compared to everyone else’s. My mom and Paige were hard for me to hear, but they both speak softer than most people.

At one point Krystine was out of the room and we were just sitting there, not talking. (I was trying to avoid talking as much as possible, because my voice sounded so distorted.) I realized that the rhythmic sound I was hearing was the clock ticking. I glanced up, watched the second hand move and matched it to what I was hearing. It formed into a real clock ticking sound and that was probably the first “normal” sound that I caught, since voices still sounded so totally bizarre.

That was about all we did for actual mapping. Then Krystine pulled over one of the boxes, to show me all the things I was getting with my CI’s. I had two huge boxes from Advanced Bionics sitting on the table, and she went through all the accessories, earhooks, attachments and literature with me. I have extra processors for each ear but they won’t be programmed until future mapping appointments. She told me that the program I have in each CI is called Hi-Res S (for sequential, meaning the electrodes fire in sequence, one at a time, instead of in pairs). I believe this is a softer program than Hi-Res P (paired).

Each CI processor has a volume control, and there are 3 programs stored within. The program I was using on mapping day was the middle position. If I moved the switch down, it was a softer volume and if I moved it up, it was louder. The volume control was in the 12:00 position for the sound volume I had said was comfortable. I asked if I should use the volume or the program switches if I wanted to change volume. Krystine told me to first switch to a louder or softer program; if that wasn’t enough, then go to the volume control.

I really didn’t have any questions at that point, so she told me that my homework was to read things out loud to get used to the sound of my voice. (Easiest homework I’ve ever had!) She also gave me a diary and pen set from Advanced Bionics, in case I wanted to write about my experiences, what I was hearing, etc.

We walked out at 2:50 pm so the appointment was just under 2 hours, instead of the 3 hours I was originally told.

I’m going to end this post with pictures of all the goodies I got and of me wearing my CI’s. I still have so much to say about how I’m hearing now, a couple days after activation, but I want to leave this just about activation day so I’ll stop. For the record, I chose 3 color groups for my color caps (removable covers for my processors and headpieces): I got Techno colors, Metallic colors and Sophista colors. Each set has 4 different colors. They gave me a set of processor covers for each the Slim batteries and the Plus batteries, so in all I ended up with 9 packages of Color Caps and Covers! I love them!! What I’m doing right now is wearing a Techno color on my right side, since that ear has to work sooo much harder (it’s been totally deaf for over 15 years, and mostly deaf for 42 years). It deserves the crazy colors! The other ear gets one of the solid colors that coordinates with the Techno color. I know, I know. But I don’t wear much jewelry so this is my way of being “girly”! 😀

My Left Side CI (purple metallic color)

My Left Side CI (purple metallic color)

My Right Side CI (Fire & Ice techno color)

My Right Side CI (Fire & Ice techno color)

View from back, wearing both CI's

View from back, wearing both CI's

Most of the stuff in one Advanced Bionics kit

Most of the stuff in one Advanced Bionics kit

I’m turned on (no, not like THAT!)

I CAN HEAR!

That is all.

LOL, I’m just kidding.  Well, not about the hearing part 🙂 but of course I have a lot more to say!

We’re leaving in about 30 minutes to go to my mom’s for dinner, but my actual activation appointment was just under 2 hours instead of the expected 3 hours so I wanted to put up a short post with just the highlights.  I’ll go into excruciating detail either tomorrow night or Friday.

The main thing is, yes, I am hearing things!  It all sounds so incredibly strange and I have been searching for a good way to describe it but … I really can’t.  But check it out…I can hear my keyboard right now as I type.  Too cool!

We spent about the first 45 minutes just trying to keep the magnet on my head.  I still have some swelling, plus I have really thick (curly) hair and the magnet in the headpiece wasn’t strong enough.  The audiologist (Krystine) couldn’t find the stronger magnets, so we alternated between holding the headpiece on my head and fashioning weird headbands to try to hold it on.  (At one point Dave used the purse strap from my purse and put it on my head.  LOL)  I was resigned to the fact that I was going to have to wear some kind of headband for the next week til my next mapping appointment, when Krystine decided to check the desk drawer near where I was sitting and voila, magnets!  I think they may end up making my head ache by the end of the day but I might be able to switch to less strong magnets eventually.

I was a little conservative when we set the sound thresholds because I didn’t want things too loud at first.  I could hear the beeps but it was kind of hard to determine what was actually “loud but comfortable”.  We did one ear at a time, and when she first went “live” with my left ear (the first ear) it sounded SO weird.  Kind of like someone tapping on a microphone every time a noise was made.  The sounds started falling into place more by the time we were ready to leave though.

My left ear sounds louder and has more bass sounds; my right ear is softer and much more high-pitched.  Together they sound equal in loudness though.

At this point, voices sound really robotic, almost like they’re being put through one of those voice scrambler things (like everyone is demanding ransom…LOL).  But every now and then I’ll realize I’m hearing something and understanding what it is…like the sound of the tires on the pavement as we drove home.  I also realized I was hearing the clock ticking in the mapping room!

I’m using Hi-Res S right now with 50% T-Mic and 50% regular microphone.  I have the program I’m using now, plus one that is softer and one that is louder.  And I got SO MUCH stuff…two boxes full of stuff that I need to go through.  I got tons of color caps (which I haven’t put on yet) too.

I still have some tinnitus but it’s way, way less than before.  Oh!  Dave put the car stereo on when we drove home.  I could hear the beat of the music but didn’t recognize the song.  So he put on a song and told me what it was (Nothing Compares 2 U by Sinead O’Connor) and yes, I understood what I was hearing.  The words weren’t clear but I knew she was singing.  I’m not sure I would’ve know what it was if he hadn’t told me though.  But still, being able to discern the beat already is kind of amazing to me!

This is just a basic start, and the real nitty gritty mapping starts in future weeks (I go back once a week for about 6 weeks, if I remember right).

Also, I was able to register Paige for high school – we went 30 minutes early and they didn’t blink an eye.  😀

Now we just have to get Eric moved into his dorm tomorrow and we can all relax a bit!

But right now, I am VERY VERY happy.  I can see I’ll probably need the volume increased a lot by next week, but I’m also not working with fully charged batteries just yet (I’m using the ones right out of the package and my right battery already went dead, LOL).

I have nothing bad to report at all.  Yes, it sounds completely weird and not like regular hearing (yet) but it’s also not aggravating like I worried it would be.  Instead it’s fascinating to me, because even just within an hour the sounds are changing and becoming more “real”.  It is SO COOL.

I’ll write more in a day or two, but for now…YAY!

The Week is Here!

Well, The Week is here. I thought I’d sit down and write this morning because I may not get a chance to again for a few days. Sometimes I try to have a coherent theme for my writing, but today it’s going to be a little of this and a little of that.

Humor
Dave and I had the house to ourselves on Saturday so it was just us for dinner. The kids don’t like anything with barbecue sauce so the only time we have it is if they aren’t here. We decided to pick up dinner from a local BBQ place and were discussing what to order. After Dave called the order in, he turned around and told me, “Oh, I changed my order. I got the combo, with catfish and …bullshit.”

I said, “You got the Catfish and Bullshit Combo?” (cracking up)

He laughs, says “NO! (trying the word again) Bullshit!”

I shake my head and tell him, “It still looks like you’re saying bullshit. What??”

So he thinks for a minute, then bends his arms and starts dancing around, flapping his arms like a bird. OH!

Me: “Chicken! Pulled Chicken!”

Dave: “Yes! Catfish and Pulled Chicken!”

I’d been watching his lips intently and I realized even though I now knew what he was saying, it still looked like he was saying “bullshit”. (Sorry for all the swearing!) So I pulled him into the bathroom and told him, “Say both words, and watch yourself while you’re doing it.” It’s hilarious – they really do look amazingly similar! Even though chicken has two syllables, you don’t really see them if you say the word casually. (I suppose you could really, really enunciate to make it noticeable but most people don’t talk that way.)

Very funny and very strange!!

Sleep

I did it! I have been sleeping in my bed for the past week or so…three weeks of recovery seemed to be the magic number. (Thanks, Abbie!!) First I used Karen’s suggestion, and used the neck pillow Dave had bought me. I couldn’t use it the way it’s meant to be used, kind of hooked around your neck from the back (it’s shaped like a horseshoe) because it was too big and pushed up against the backs of my ears, which was painful. So I laid it flat on top of my regular pillow. Then I laid my head on top of it, so my ear and the incision was kind of suspended over the open part of the pillow in the middle. This worked well for the first two nights; the only downfall was a slight ache in my neck from holding my head in a specific position all night long.

Then I decided to look for a really soft, fluffy pillow. Mine is a pretty firm foam pillow and it was just too painful to lay my ear flat on it; the pressure of my head against the pillow was too much. Paige and I went to Costco and I found the perfect pillow! It’s super, super fluffy and you can bunch it up any way you want. Best of all, I can sleep on this pillow with no pain at all, on either side. So I am highly recommending this pillow to any recovering CI surgery patients who are having a hard time with a regular pillow. It’s called the Cuddly Comfort Pillow and the package I bought has two pillows in it.

I just did a search to see if I could find a link to the pillows and apparently they’re only sold at Costco. (I can’t find a link anywhere, but they’re made by Sleep Innovations, the Memory Foam people.) It looks like they recently had a recall (in July) for possible metal fragments that might be in the pillow due to a mechanical breakdown, but I’m assuming they pulled all the suspect pillows because mine doesn’t match the recall number. (Nobody was hurt from these pillows, thank goodness!)

In any case, I’m still recommending them because they are awesome! My son got the other pillow to take to college with him and he absolutely loves it – he is a big fan of soft pillows. My daughter will get mine when I’m done with it and can go back to my regular pillow. Normally I like a little more support than this gives, but for right now, nothing feels as good on my ears as this does. It’s so nice to sleep on my side again!

Petunia
I have to give a shout out to Miss Petunia, my stuffed animal that was so graciously sent to me by Roxy. Roxy and I were chatting one night at Hearing Journey and she told me that she found sleeping on a stuffed animal was the best way to keep pressure off either ear. The support is just right on the back of your head. It sounded funny but kind of logical, and she offered to mail me a stuffed animal! So sweet.

So Petunia arrived, and seriously, I could not have slept without her. Now that I’m in bed, she has a place of honor in the bedroom but has been retired from active duty. But for those first few weeks, every time I lay down I would lay on top of her. She was the perfect amount of support! I would lay with her head peeking over the top of my head, so I’m sure it looked pretty hilarious.

Wendi & Petunia
Wendi & Petunia

Healing

I don’t think I’ve read about anyone else having to do this, so I’m going to mention it in case it happens to other people who have surgical glue instead of stitches or staples for their incision. I assumed this glue would just…I don’t know, dissolve after a while or something. When I went for my post-op check, the doctor mentioned putting peroxide on the incisions every now and then. I think that was supposed to help get rid of the glue, or maybe to keep things healing well…I have no idea. There were still big sections of glue that I could feel and it was kind of freaking me out. When I washed my hair, my fingers would bump up against this big barrier and it just felt really strange. Once the 3 week mark arrived, I decided it wasn’t necessary to still have this glue on my head…after all, other people had their stitches removed long ago! So I asked Dave if he would do the honors.

It took about an hour to get the remaining glue off both ears. It was a little painful at times because my hair is growing back, and had started growing over the glue. Dave was really, really gentle though and it didn’t hurt nearly as much as I thought it would. Once it was all off, there was a lot less pulling/tugging/tightness and it really did feel a lot better.

Dave took some pictures at that point, so we could see how I was healing. The funny thing was, he gave me his camera so I could download the pictures into my computer. As I was cropping them later on, I was slightly horrified because my ear really still looked kind of bloody and raw. I thought, “Wow, I don’t think I’m healing as well as I should be.” It was bugging me, so finally I mentioned it to Dave.

“Honey…do you really think I’m healing well? I know the doctor said I was, but in these pictures my ear still looks gross and bloody.”

He said, “What?! You can barely even see the scar! What do you mean?”

So I showed him the pictures and he cracked up. It turns out he still had pictures in the camera from the day we took my bandage off and first took photos of the incision. Those were the pictures I thought were recent. Way to give me a heart attack!

Here are some actual recent photos, 3 weeks after surgery:

My right ear, 3 weeks later
My ear, 3 weeks later
Left ear, 3 weeks later
Healing ear, 3 weeks later

Tinnitus
My tinnitus has changed a lot in the past week or week and a half. It’s coming equally from the left and right side now. There are still periods of it being very, very quiet and other times I get this screaming, extremely loud sound that makes me want to clutch my head in agony. (Thankfully it never lasts for very long.) But the biggest change has been the actual sounds, or noises if you will.

My tinnitus used to just be vague sounds, like the ocean roaring, beeping or buzzing. Now it’s beginning to actually sound “real”. Somebody knocking on a door, and I mean, it sounds exactly like that. I hear the plucking of guitar strings, and it sounds like actual music (although not a whole song). The main thing I hear right now sounds like an organ, very bass sounding. I hear what sounds like something dropping into the water, or drips of water. And jungle noises. Seriously. It sounds like a National Geographic special, with animal noises! I’ve actually laughed out loud over my tinnitus recently, because it’s just so ridiculously lifelike and weird. Sometimes I wish I could record this, so people can experience what goes on in my head all day long.

Activation
I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I think I’m more nervous and scared about activation than excited. People will say, “Oh! Aren’t you excited?? In a few more days you can hear again!” And no, I just haven’t even really been thinking about it. It’s actually the furthest thing from my mind right now. I think I’ll be more focused on it after activation, once the kids are set as far as school goes. Then I can focus on what I need to do for my hearing.

I just have no idea what to expect, and it’s hard to let my mind go there for very long. Since I had such a vibrotactile response to my hearing test during the CI assessment, I’m worried that the CI’s will just vibrate my head to the point where I can’t tolerate it. Those hearing aids they had me wear were like torture devices. I couldn’t hear anything but my head vibrated so much I couldn’t even keep my eyes open. They made me completely dizzy and nauseous.

So I guess I’m just avoiding thinking about it, and I’ll let the experience be whatever it is. Once I know what I’m dealing with, then I can move forward and work on the areas that need work as far as hearing goes. There’s just too much unknown right now for me to know how I feel about it all.

Smiles
I’m going to finish this off with pet pictures. Who doesn’t like to see pictures of cats and dogs?! These are the furry members of our family:

Toby, our Cockapoo

Toby, our Cockapoo

Sabrina, our fluffy girl (also called Beanie)

Sabrina, our fluffy girl (also called Beanie)

Alice (Ally), Grace (Gracie) and Maxie, our feral girls (Maxie is the mom)

Alice (Ally), Grace (Gracie) and Maxie, our feral girls (Maxie is the mom)

Sugar, our partially-deaf boy cat

Sugar, our partially-deaf boy cat

Frank the Guinea Pig

Frank the Guinea Pig

Cruiser the Guinea Pig (and me)

Cruiser the Guinea Pig (and me)

Golden Birthday

Paige turned 14 this morning at 5:37 a.m., so it’s her Golden Birthday!  I never heard of a Golden Birthday until I had kids (in other words, I didn’t celebrate it myself).  If you don’t know what it means, it’s the year that you turn the age that equals the date of your birthday.  So mine was the year I turned 28; Eric’s was the year he turned 3; Dave’s was the year he turned 27; and Paige’s is this year, since her birthday is August 14.

This is the first time in a while that there seems like such a big change between this year and the last.  There are periods in childhood and adolescence where you notice a change year to year, but not a huge one.  It really seems like Paige became a young woman in the past 12 months, though.  My baby is really and truly growing up!

Paige wearing the support socks they gave me in the hospital!

Paige wearing the support socks they gave me in the hospital!

She’s still got some of the same traits and interests as when she was younger; she still loves animals, making lists, and decorating.  She seems to have outgrown her obsession with Fall Out Boy and the color purple.  She wears her hair straight now instead of the natural curls she was born with.  We went out today to pick out her cake (plain cheesecake) and she wore platform shoes that made her tower over me…in fact, she towered over Dave in those shoes!

She’s still caring, thoughtful and quick to help in whatever way she can.  When Dave couldn’t be around 2 days after my surgery, she stepped in and cheerfully refilled my water glass and made me lunch.  She spent those first few days sitting out in the living room with me, reading her books and magazines, close by in case I needed anything.

She’s still a teenager and talks too fast for me sometimes, but she has infinite patience if I don’t catch what she’s saying.  She’s also a top-notch fingerspeller so if nothing else, she will start spelling the word for me until I catch on.

Paige and I have a lot in common and she’s the person I grab if I want to do crafts or a cooking project.  She loves interior decorating and choosing colors.  And reading!  The girl can while away the whole day with a book.  She likes to play tennis, play solitaire and board games with the family.

It’s hard to believe that my youngest child is now entering high school.  I can remember the day she was born like it was yesterday.  It feels like she should only be 3 or 4 years old right now!  I remember waking up with mild contractions around 3 a.m., August 14, 1994.  I got up and walked to the couch in the living room to continue reading Stephen King’s “The Stand”, which I was about halfway through.  I realized after a few pages that my contractions were getting much stronger so I started walking around to see if they would go away.  Uh, no.

By 3:30 my parents were at the house to watch Eric and we were on the way to the hospital, which was 5 minutes away.  Paige was born just over 2 hours later.  The midwife caught her, placed her on my tummy, and she stayed there with me for most of the time until we went home at 9:00 that night.

Now I don’t need to tuck her in, pick out her clothes, or hold her hand when she crosses the street.  She doesn’t need bedtime stories or songs.  But she still cries on my shoulder when she’s sad and still talks to me about her day.  She still watches my face for approval and reassurance.  She still needs her mom, even though she’s growing up and away from me.

Happy 14th birthday, my sweet baby girl!

Someone Saved My Life Tonight

Fifteen years ago today, Dave received a bone marrow transplant from his sister.  CML leukemia was ravaging his body, had taken his hearing and his balance.  He was dying.  And thanks to his sister and the gift she so generously gave, he is alive today.  It really is a miracle, and I thank God every day for sparing his life.

Dave getting his bone marrow transplant

Dave getting his bone marrow transplant

Laurie, if you are reading this…THANK YOU.  From the bottom of my heart.

Happy anniversary, David!

Working for the Weekend

You know, I managed to make it to 43 years of age with very few different jobs.  I think this is partly because of my personality and partly because of my hearing loss.

Anyone that’s followed my blog for a while probably knows that I’m a worrywart.  I’m one of those people who likes stability and resists change; in other words, you would never see me working for a temp agency where I had to get used to a new workplace, co-workers and job duties on a regular basis.  I like to settle in and stay for a while, thank you very much!

I think the biggest stressor for me as far as employment has been the telephone.  Second to that would be customer interaction.  From the moment I turned 16 and started looking for jobs, my main goal was to find one that didn’t require me to use the phone.

As a high school student, I considered and then discarded the possibility of being a waitress (I’d get the orders wrong) or working in any kind of fast food environment (again with the orders).  Receptionist – no way.  One of my friends worked in a pizza place, taking orders…nah, that’s telephone work.  Even just looking for a job was horrifying to me, because I had to call to inquire about the positions I saw in the classified ads.  Not only did I have a hard time hearing on the phone, but I also have a general phone phobia and just hate it – I get tongue tied and incredibly nervous if I have to make a phone call.

I finally got my first job, working at Baskin-Robbins ice cream, because my brother’s friend worked there and put in a good word for me.  He gave me a number to call about the job, and I had my best friend do it for me.  She had an amazing phone presence (which I really envied) and just loved talking on the phone.  They thought she was me so I easily got the job!  😆

It wasn’t too bad for a first job; I had to interact with customers but my lipreading skills helped quite a lot.  There were two major downfalls:  First, I wasn’t really trained.  They showed me how to scoop ice cream (duh), pull the replacement tubs of ice cream from the back room, and do the end-of-night clean up if I was closing.  I was never taught how to make specialty items like malts and floats.  Luckily back then (late ’70s or maybe it was 1980) they didn’t have very many fancy ice cream concoctions like they do now.  The other downfall was the scheduling.  I didn’t have a robust social life but I did have a bit of one, and this job just killed it.  They would make a tentative schedule and then change it all up if the weather was warmer than expected.  So I’d assume I was off for the evening and they’d call me up at home and want me to come in.  Sometimes it was fine but other times I’d already have plans so it really messed things up.

I had a couple of close calls with the ice cream – one guy ordered a malt on a day when I was the only one working, and I had no idea how to do it.  I had to explain that to him, and I gave it a try but when he tasted it he gave it back to me.  (He was very nice about it.)  I gave him his money back and apologized profusely!  Another time a lady came in to pick up an ice cream cake and wanted it personalized.  I had no idea how to write on the cakes – nobody ever showed me that – and again, I was alone.  I winged it and it came out really well, thankfully!

I didn’t last more than a few months there – after they kept calling and wanting me to come in on my days off (and being really shitty if I didn’t do it) I had my friend call up, pretend to be me, and quit.  That’s right…I had somebody else quit my job for me.  😳  What a relief that was!!

School was about to start back up so I didn’t worry about working again for a while.  Then I got a job at a store called Venture.  I can’t remember if I was working there during the school year but I’m pretty sure I was – this would have been my senior year of school.  I got this job because my boyfriend’s mother was the manager in charge of cashiers, so she already knew me and let me know when there was a job available.  I didn’t have to call about the job and the interview was really easy.

Venture was like K-Mart or Target, but their “thing” was that they had no numbers on the cash registers.  They were totally blank; they wanted the cashiers to be proficient enough at ringing the numbers up while looking at the items that they didn’t need to glance at the keypad.  This was before the days of scanners; every item had a department number, item number and price that had to be punched into the register.  I was sent for 3 days of training at headquarters before they let me loose on a cash register.  Holy cow, I was terrified.  You had to be FAST and accurate – looking at the price tag while you punched in all the numbers with your other hand and didn’t look at the cash register.  Plus there was a lot of customer interaction, obviously.

Every checkout line had a telephone, which you could use to page a department if you had a problem or an item didn’t have a price tag.  We also had to use it if someone used a credit card to pay for a sale that was over $50.  In that case, we had to call the authorization center, give them the credit card number and expiration date and the total amount, then wait while they authorized it.  They’d give us an authorization number we had to write on the sales slip.  (This was back in the days of knuckle busters, and every charge had to be written up on those rectangular slips.)

WELL.  I’m sure you all can imagine how much I loved doing that!  Most of the time I could never understand the questions they were asking me at the call center, and I usually couldn’t understand the numbers being said to me for the authorization number.  Luckily, in those days people mostly paid with check or cash.  It was kind of rare to get a credit card, and even more rare for the sale to be over $50.  Sometimes I would ask if they could possibly pay another way (ha ha…it cracks me up that I did that, but I actually did get people that changed their payment method).  Sometimes I’d hear everything just fine and I’d breathe a sigh of relief as I completed the sale.  Other times I’d understand nothing, and just write a bunch of numbers that I thought sounded right.  It was awful.

Items without price tags were another horror.  I’d have to wait for a call from the department and hope I could hear them, because they’d be reading me 7 numbers and then a price to enter into the register.  After I’d been there for a while, I just started asking people what the price was, if they knew.  I’d enter in generic department/item numbers and whatever price they told me.  I did that partly to keep the lines moving and partly because I couldn’t hear on that darn telephone.

I stayed at this job for a while, around a year or so if I remember correctly.  I liked the people I worked with, I was fast and efficient with my actual job duties, and usually enjoyed talking to the customers.  I only remember one incident where someone was really mean to me because of my hearing loss.  A woman had four place mats stacked together and she absolutely freaked out when I asked her how many she had.  She was yelling and saying that she already told me that – she must have been talking to me when I had my head down, looking at the numbers on the price tag.  I was already not having a good day (although I can’t remember why, whether I wasn’t feeling well or what) and having this lady scream at me over something so silly was just the last straw.  I showed her my hearing aid (which nobody could ever see; my hair covered it), told her I was hearing impaired, and then started to cry.  It was so embarrassing!!  My manager saw and came over – she sent me to the break room to compose myself and took over my register.  After that I was a little wary of people and it kind of soured me on working with the general public, to be honest.

I stayed with that job through high school graduation and the following summer.  My mom was really bugging me to get a full time job and I did look in the paper, but everything seemed to require phone work.  A few weeks after school ended, I got a phone call out of the blue from someone at the main office of the high school district I had attended.  The district offices were located in the rival high school, actually, not the one I had attended.  They had a keypunch machine – remember those?  They used long, rectangular shaped cards and you used a machine to punch the rectangles into them.  Then they stacked these cards and put them into a huge computer and it would run the program.  (I know, I know…I’m really dating myself here!!)  Their keypunch operator was on a temporary leave of absence and they needed someone to cover for her.  I’d taken a class called “Office Machines” my senior year and apparently my teacher recommended me for this job.  It kind of scared me since it was so totally out of the blue, but it also intrigued me so I said yes.

For a while I worked both jobs; the keypunch job was full time and I worked weekends and some nights at Venture.  Once I realized the keypunch job would last for a while and I wasn’t going to be fired immediately or something, I decided to quit Venture.  And yes, I did quit that job myself.  😀  It was on good terms, since I only left so I could work full time, which wasn’t an option at Venture.

The keypunch job was a dream come true.  I worked in a small room with no other people around, and I loved the keypunch machine.  I was a fast learner and they started teaching me other jobs – I’d help with typing, filing, making copies, etc.  I never had to use a phone because I was kind of a floater – I moved from desk to desk doing whatever job they needed me to do.  I worked with all older ladies who were really kind and friendly, although it was funny because I had to walk through the halls of the high school periodically.  I started in the summer, when school was out, but when it started back up again in the fall the hall monitors would sometimes yell at me, thinking I was a student walking the halls during class time!

This job made me realize I loved office work – I preferred to be sitting down instead of standing at a cash register all day.  There were no crabby customers to deal with.  It was just me and my machines.  I ended up working for the high school district, on and off, for two years.  The keypunch lady took 2 or 3 leaves of absence and then the other secretaries all started having hysterectomies, and they would be off for at least 6 weeks at a time.  There were periods of a month or two where they didn’t need me, but then they always called me back eventually.

Finally though, I realized I needed a steady full time job that gave me benefits.  This coincided with the end of the many leaves of absence people were taking, and I was about to be permanently let go anyway.  I did try to get a permanent job in the attendance office but my problems with the phone prevented me from getting it.  I also was told to try for one of the secretarial positions but they required that you take dictation and know shorthand, which I didn’t.  (Can you imagine me taking dication?!  Ha)

One of the secretaries told me to apply where her daughter worked, at McMaster-Carr Supply Company.  I’d never heard of it before, but it was supposed to be a great place to work, with awesome benefits.  So I applied to be a file clerk (again…looking for the job with no phone work).  It took about 3 months of me checking back to see if they had considered my application, but finally they called me.  Although interviews made me nervous, I usually did well on them.  I can lipread well enough in a face to face situation and once I get going I can talk to pretty much anyone.  I had to interview with 2 or 3 people and got the job, which thrilled me.

I stayed with that company for 10 years!  I moved from filing to word processing after a year or two.  We used Wang word processors, which I thought were amazingly cool.  The phone usage was really minimal – I worked under the direction of a manager who was pretty controlling and she usually handled the phone…I was happy to let her do that!  I stayed on there through 1994 and only left after Paige was born, so I could stay home full time with her.

I think the hardest job hunt I had was when I went back to work full time, after my first husband and I split up in 1996.  All of my real experience was in office work, but it was pretty much impossible to find an office job that didn’t require you to use the phone.  I worked briefly in the Accounting department at Dominick’s, a local grocery chain.  That was my worst working experience ever.  They never trained me for the job, and I couldn’t even tell you now what my duties were.  It had something to do with calling vendors about something.  The girl before me walked out so she wasn’t there to train me, and nobody else in the department had time to.  My manager was a pompous jerk who just wanted me to figure it out as I went along.  I had been really misled in the interview because they made it sound like working with forms and paper, adding machines, etc. but never the telephone.  It turned out to be major phone work!  I never did make a phone call; when I realized what it really was (and the huge, massive pile of work the girl before me had left which nobody was going to train me on) I left my ID badge and a note telling them I quit, and I left.  That was the only time I ever just walked out on a job as an adult; usually I would stick with a job even if I didn’t like it, figuring it would get better over time.  I never regretted leaving, either!

Then I spent a few panicked months wondering how on earth I was going to support myself and two little kids, plus make enough money to pay for daycare.  I called about a job at a small pad printing company that I never even realized was so close to my house.  It was a job processing the paperwork for shipments so I would be working in the warehouse area, in the shipping department.  But it was strictly a paperwork job with no phone work, and I really love that kind of stuff.  Things that most people would find monotonous really don’t bother me.  I got an interview and kind of hit it off with the Human Resources manager.  She was asking a lot of questions about my computer skills and then took me for a walk around the company (which was much bigger than it looked from the outside!)  They were a division of ITW (Illinois Tool Works) and the pay and benefits were more than I ever thought I would make (although measly by today’s standards).

She told me that she didn’t think I’d like the job I was applying for – it was in the warehouse, with all the guys, kind of a dirty job.  Turns out she had been looking for an administrative assistant, partly because Corporate was pressuring her to transition to a computer and she had no idea how to use one.  I told her about my phone problems, because one of the requirements was to cover the switchboard when the switchboard operator was at lunch or on vacation.  That really terrified me.  She took me to the switchboard and had me sit with the girl for a bit.  I could kind of hear, and she said they’d get me an amplifier for the headset.  So we agreed to give it a try and see how things went.

I started that job in 1997 and stayed there until I got laid off in 2001.  I won’t go into gory details but working the switchboard was so incredibly stressful.  The switchboard was also a receptionist type position, so I had to greet people that came in and call the people they were there to see.  The lobby area was huge, cavernous, with a waterfall to one side so hearing in there was really difficult.

I was probably not the best administrative assistant because I avoided all the phone calls I possibly could.  Luckily I wasn’t in charge of setting up events or travel (which really required a lot of phone work).  If I could, I would walk over to someone’s desk to ask them a question or talk to them, rather than calling them.  The company started using email after I’d been there for a year or two, and that really made things easier.

When I left, things were getting weird because my boss had been gone for a while – she took a medical leave of absence.  So I had no manager to assist, and the Accounting department kind of took over the Human Resources duties.  After a while they just decided my position wasn’t needed anymore; I ended up training somebody in Accounting and she had to do both her job and all the HR stuff.  (I don’t envy her!)

I received a good severance package and unemployment benefits as well, so I looked for another job and started selling the candles I had been previously been making as a hobby.  The candle business started taking off, doing far better than I ever expected, so when my unemployment ran out I just turned it into a full time business.

The joy I felt when I set up the website with NO phone number on the contact page can’t even be explained.  It was such a nice feeling to know I had control over whether I had to use the phone or not.  When I set up the contact form, I explained why we don’t use the phone and gave a fax and email contact in its place.

Finding a job (that doesn’t require a college degree, which I don’t have) that doesn’t require use of the phone has always been really stressful.  Now that I’ve been my own boss for the past 7 years, I can’t imagine going back and working for someone else.  It’s been hard, because the monthly income fluctuates and there’s no guarantees as far as how much money will be coming in.  There’s no insurance coverage or retirement plan (we spend every penny that comes in).  But since I stopped working outside the home and stressing myself out every day, my health has improved and so has my state of mind.  We aren’t rich, and probably never will be, but it’s still worth it to me!

Post-Op Visit

Today was my post-op visit.  I haven’t seen the doctor since I woke up in the recovery room on July 22nd.  While Dave and I were in the waiting room, one of the receptionists looked up, caught my eye and asked me if I’d seen the doctor since my surgery.  I hesitated for a second, wondering if I understood her correctly.  Dave hadn’t even realized she was talking to me so I couldn’t check with him.  So I called out (I was sitting across the room while she was sitting behind the glass window at the reception desk) and told her I’d seen the doctor on the day of surgery, at the hospital, but not since then.  She seemed surprised but nodded and went back to whatever she was doing.  I sat there and alternated between being really proud of myself for lipreading a totally unexpected question like that, and wondering if maybe I should’ve been to see the doctor sooner.  It’s been 2-1/2 weeks since my cochlear implant surgery, at this point.

We only waited for a couple of minutes in the exam room before Dr. Battista came in.  I wasn’t sure if I should sit in the regular chair or on the exam table, which was kind of like a fancy reclining chair more than a table.  I sat in the regular chair.

The visit was really short and to the point.  The doctor asked how I was doing, and I told him I felt great.  I explained that I never had any dizziness/vertigo or nausea, and told him the only real side effect was that dead area in the front center of my tongue.  He said it should get better but that it might take a while, and I told him it was fine with me – I can still taste on the back and sides of my tongue, so it really doesn’t bother me that much.

He checked both of my incisions and said they’re healing perfectly.  He didn’t need to take out any stitches or anything but he did tell me to periodically put peroxide on the incisions.  That will help dissolve the glue and keep things healing well.  I got the go-ahead to resume normal activities, including weight lifting with my exercise DVDs.

He asked if I’d set up the activation date and told me he was really excited for me.  We talked a little about expectations and I told him I knew it would be a lot of work, but I’m up for it and really looking forward to it.  I am!  I get more excited every day at the thought of activation.

When we left, we stopped back at the reception desk.  The girl told us there was no co-pay for this visit (yay!) and I asked her about having extra people at the activation.  She asked how many people so I told her Dave (obviously), and then possibly my mom, Paige and Eric.  It all depends on if Eric is home or out at a friend’s, and if I can register Paige early, before my appointment.  If they let me do that then she and my mom can come along.  They said it should be fine so maybe they have bigger mapping rooms they can use.  The ones I’ve seen aren’t that big and I wasn’t sure they’d have room for up to 4 people along with me and the audiologist.

I warned my mom that the mapping takes 3 hours and might be boring after a while.  I think she really just wants to be there for when they initially turn things on, and I don’t blame her.  So if she comes along, she might not stay the whole time.  Paige has already offered to videotape some of the activation for me with her video camera (if she’s there, of course!)

The actual day of activation and the next day are going to be so amazingly hectic that I might not get to write an entry until Friday, the 22nd.  I’m hoping to at least write a quick paragraph or two that I can post on the evening of the 20th!  We’ll be leaving the house at 11:20 am and going to the high school to try to register Paige.  If it works, I’ll register her and then we’ll go over to my mom’s (she lives a couple blocks from the high school) and have her follow us to the doctor’s office since she’s never been there.  If they won’t let me register Paige, then we’ll drop her off at my mom’s and explain what they need to do so my mom can take her to the high school.  We need to be on the road by noon to get to my appointment by 1:00.

My appointment lasts until 4:00 and then there’s an hour drive home (or back to pick up Paige at mom’s).  Then dinner and finalizing the packing with Eric.  This will be his last night at home before he moves to his dorm.

I need to drop Paige back off at the high school at 8 am the next day for freshman orientation (which apparently I don’t attend) and then come home so Dave and Eric can load up the car with his stuff.  Then we’re off to the university, which is about an hour away.  I have no idea how long it will take to get him moved in but I do plan to stay and help him get his stuff organized.  Otherwise he will live out of boxes and crates for the whole year.  🙂  My mom is picking Paige up at 12:30 for us since I doubt we’ll be back by then.

So…depending on how long it takes to get Eric moved in and how tired we are when we get home, maybe I’ll even get a chance to write on Thursday night!

I told him I wouldn’t cry and embarrass him when we leave, but he just laughed at me.  He knows I’m going to cry like a baby.  I think it’s good I’ve got so much other stuff going on all at once so I can’t dwell and freak out about the fact that my baby boy is leaving home.  Wah!!  😦

Paige is SO excited about starting high school.  She’s thrilled that she has so many cool electives to choose from and has all kinds of clubs and activities she wants to check out.  It’s going to be fun to watch her go through the next 4 years and see her interests change and evolve.

It’s really hard to believe it’s August 8 already.  Sometimes it still feels like July.

Finally, on a last, totally unrelated note…I am having such a hard time cooking dinner this summer.  Usually I love to cook, but all summer long I’ve been very “meh” when dinnertime rolls around.  We’ve been ordering out a lot more than usual, which is not good for our budget or our waistlines.  I can’t put my finger on why…usually I don’t care to cook when it’s hot because it heats up the kitchen even more.  I guess everything just seems like it will be so heavy…most of my recipes are more suited to winter and fall weather.  All of the light things I can think of, like stir fry and stuff, the kids don’t like.

Usually though, I can work up some kind of meal that satisfies all of us and enjoy myself in the process.  This summer I just kind of dread dinner and have no idea what I want to make.  It’s so weird!  Is there such a thing as dinnertime depression?!

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