Monthly Archives: March 2013

Living With Someone Who Has Hearing Loss

I’ve written about this before, but it’s on my mind again because tomorrow marks 15 years (15 years!!) since the day Dave and I met in person.  Before I met him and started hanging out with him, I had really never been around someone with a hearing loss.  I learned the hard way that personally having a hearing loss did not mean I was automatically aware of how to communicate with someone else who was hard of hearing.  Kind of like how going deaf didn’t suddenly give me the power to understand and communicate in sign language.

I’m the only person in my immediate family with a hearing loss, so I grew up knowing they could help me out if I didn’t hear something.  All of my friends, boyfriends and my first husband had normal hearing.  I was 33 when I met Dave, so I’d had plenty of time to get used to having other people help me out when my own ears fell down on the job.  That was the first big eye-opener for me.

I’d hear something and turn to Dave.  “What was that?”  He’d shrug and say, “Beats me!”  I’d leave the water running in the sink, walk off and forget about because I didn’t hear it.  He didn’t hear it either; who knows how much water we wasted before one of us noticed the silent stream gushing forth from the faucet.

We’d go out somewhere, and I would actually have the advantage because I was better at reading lips.  The cashier would give me the total, and I wouldn’t really pay attention because I was used to the person I was with being able to hear and relay the amount to me.  Dave would be silent – he had no idea either.  I learned to be more vigilant, especially in noisy situations.  I couldn’t hear well, but I could read lips and thus became the ‘hearing person’ in that situation.  Talk about role reversal!

I was used to just talking, probably at a lower volume than normal since my own voice always sounds loud to me (whether I had hearing aids or CIs).  I didn’t bother to make sure Dave could see my face, or that I was even in the same room.  I’d get no response at all from him and I’d realize, “Huh.  What an asshole I am – I’m not even attempting to be considerate!”

It probably took a month or so for me to get used to this, checking my annoyance if he didn’t hear me at first – it was my fault, for not doing what I knew needed to be done for him to understand me.  It was so weird to realize I was really bad at being considerate and thoughtful when it came to communicating with the man I loved.  It truly was not second nature at all.

When we first met, my hearing loss was a little more severe than Dave’s but in the opposite ear.  So he wears a hearing aid in his right ear; I wore mine in my left ear (and the transmitter on my deaf right ear – they were wireless bi-CROS aids).  Dave just wears the one hearing aid and is profoundly deaf in his left ear.  So we got used to positioning ourselves so our good ears were next to each other.  We have a double computer desk and Dave sits to my left; when we watch TV or movies, I sit on his right side.  When we go for walks, I’m on his right side.  If we’re both in the car, he always drives (that way his good ear is next to me).  The only time I drive now is if I’m going somewhere alone – I’m getting a little spoiled, always being able to kick back in the passenger seat!  🙂  I contribute to our road trips by operating and translating the GPS system for him – half the time he can’t understand what it’s saying, and the other half of the time he chooses to be ornery and ignore the directions while yelling at Maggie (our Magellan GPS…you’ve named yours too, right?!) and telling her she’s crazy.

I learned that even though our hearing losses were a little bit different in severity, being able to read lips gave me the advantage in noisy situations.  I got used to being the one to help if he didn’t hear a question from the waitress or cashier or salesperson.

So over the years I learned the tricks to communicating with a hard of hearing person.  Make sure they can see you when you talk, and make sure you’re talking clearly…not too loud or soft, no exaggerated lip movements, not too fast or too slow.  Dave tends to leave his hearing aid out, especially in the morning, so I try to remember to look at his ear and see if he’s wearing it.  If not, I talk louder and stand right in front of him.

If I’m behind him, I’ll gently touch his arm to get his attention.  Sometimes this still scares the crap out of him, but I learned a gentle touch is better than a tap or grabbing his arm or something.  If there’s a really loud noise (coffee grinder, loud music), I’ll wait until it’s over before I talk.  Sometimes I can’t tell if he can hear me or not, so I ask.  “Can you hear me?  Am I speaking clearly enough?”  We both sometimes still do the deaf nod thing with each other, but by now we can usually tell when the other is faking and I, personally, derive great joy from calling Dave out on it.

When I went deaf (almost five years ago now), Dave was so amazingly patient and thoughtful.  He never expressed a single iota of frustration over having to repeat himself.  He happily learned signs with me and was willing to try whatever I was interested in (we even watched a DVD on cued speech).  He never told me, “It’s not important; never mind.”  I think patience and kindness are so important – it goes such a long way when someone wants to communicate with you and you take the time to do what needs to be done to facilitate that.  No eye rolling, no exasperated sighs, no sharp tone of voice – just kindness and patience.  It’s easier said than done!

Now I’m in a weird position where sometimes I hear much better than Dave does, even though I’m technically deaf.  I have a much better time understanding people with accents, using the powerful combination of my cochlear implants and speech reading.  Many of Dave’s doctors have accents, and they share information we really need to know, especially with his Hepatitis C treatment coming up (it starts April 10th).  Whenever he has an appointment with a specialist or for anything other than a routine checkup, I go with.  I take notes.  I make sure he doesn’t miss anything, and that we advocate for whatever he might need.

It’s been 15 amazing years, and he has taught me so much.  It really all started the first time I realized this was going to be a different experience, dating a guy with hearing loss.  He was adding milk to my coffee, and he told me to say ‘when’ because he didn’t know how much I wanted.  He poured; I said, “When.”  He kept pouring, and I thought, What the heck?!  Why isn’t he stopping?!  It finally dawned on me…he didn’t hear me!  I yelled, “WHEN!” and he looked over, startled, just as the cup was about to overflow.  And so it began…my hearing loss education.  🙂

Little Accomplishments

On Friday Dave and I went over to our local Habitat for Humanity ReStore, since everything in the store was 20% off.  We scored a few great deals that saved us lots of money – 5 gallons of driveway sealer for $4, a brand new (in the box) toilet seat for $4, a bunch of stainless steel screening for $2.50 and some cove base to use in the downstairs in the entryway (a whole box of it for $2).  As we were leaving, I noticed a flyer for a demonstration the next day on Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paint.  I’ve heard a lot about it (kind of hard not to if you follow a lot of home décor blogs or Pinterest boards) but had never actually seen it, so I was curious.

So we went back yesterday, and at first we couldn’t find the demo.  There was no signage, so we walked through the whole store.  I couldn’t remember how long the demo was for, so I started to think maybe we missed it (we got there about an hour after it was supposed to start).  Finally, after walking the perimeter of the entire store and ending up back at the front, we noticed a table set up at the far end.  Bingo!

The women demonstrating the paint were really nice, and there were a few other people gathered around the table.  I positioned myself so I could see their faces, and then started asking questions.  Lots of questions.  It was awesome – I was able to find out everything I wanted to know, got to see examples of various ways to use the paint and wax finishes, and the demonstrators seemed happy to have lots to talk about.  We hung around for about 20 minutes, and then thanked them and moved on.

After we left the store and we were talking about the demo, Dave said, “Boy, you were talkative.  Really talkative.”  Then we kind of laughed, because usually I clam up in those situations.  We’ve been to lots of conventions with vendor/exhibit halls, and usually I just walk by and look, or maybe stand in the back and watch.  I never talk or engage the people in conversation.  When we used to go to candle conventions, I even knew many of the vendors because we ordered from them; even then, I was very quiet.  A big reason is because it’s so hard to hear in those situations; I really didn’t want to be in a position where someone was telling me all this stuff and I was doing the deaf nod, pretending to understand.  (Back then I had my bi-CROS analog hearing aids, which had no program to suppress background noise…it was all just LOUD.)  Part of it was worry that I’d be pressured to buy something, when I just wanted information.  Part of it was just my natural shyness and discomfort with making small talk/casual conversation.

After we started going to HLAA conventions, once I had my CIs, I started to come out of my shell a little bit.  I was still kind of shy, but I started to ask more questions, make eye contact (one thing I really avoided, since it invited conversation) and participate more in the product demonstrations.

Even though the ReStore was loud (lots of banging from things being moved around, as well as the general cavernous, echo chamber effect due to the building) I did okay as long as I could also lip read.  I didn’t miss anything, and I just had a blast asking all the questions I had about the paint.  I could see Dave periodically looking at me, kind of like, ‘Who is this woman and what has she done with Wendi?!’  I know this isn’t a big deal to most people, but for me it’s nice to shed some of that fear of starting a conversation with a stranger!

In non-hearing-loss-related triumphs, I actually picked up Maxie, our former-feral mom cat.  If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll remember an entry I wrote where I worried about how we’d get Maxie and her two girls, Alice and Grace, into carriers when it comes time to move.  Although they’ve been living indoors with us for almost seven years now, we still can’t really pick them up.  In all other aspects, they’ve become regular domestic cats (although it took a few years) – we pet them, they come to us when we call them (and also just for attention), Maxie has progressed to sitting on my lap if I’m laying down or sitting on the couch; the girls (we still think of them as kittens even though they’re now seven) are more shy, but Alice has occasionally jumped up on the couch with me, and Grace will lay next to me in the morning if I’m still in bed and Dave has gotten up.

But picking them up, or manipulating them in order to trim their nails or get them into a carrier?  Hell no.  With Maxie, as soon as you run both hands along her sides, she slinks to the ground, out of reach, and runs away.  The younger girls don’t even let us get that far!  Well, a couple days ago Maxie was sitting on my desk chair and I wanted to sit down.  With our fourth cat Sabrina, it’s no big deal – I just pick her up and deposit her somewhere else.  (She’s the only one, besides Maxie, that ever sits in my chair.)  Well, Maxie was pretty comfortable and I figured if I slid my hands along her sides, it would freak her out and make her jump off.  I was shocked to see her stay in a sitting position, so I figured what the heck…let’s try this.  I leaned over, slid my hands underneath her and lifted her to my chest (not a long distance, since I was leaned over her back).  She started complaining, making this moaning kind of meow she does when she sees an outdoor cat on the deck.  I kept talking to her and deposited her on the floor; the whole time she kept her ears erect and her tail perky so she didn’t have her usual physical signs of distress.

Dave watched all of this in shock, then immediately began to praise her.  And that little stinker just strutted around, tail held aloft, as we petted and complimented her on her bravery.  I haven’t tried it again but the next time the opportunity presents itself, I will…hopefully we can do this enough that she’ll finally realize we aren’t trying to hurt or trap her when we do it.  Yay, Maxie!

march 21

On Hold

My house is so clean right now.  Seriously, it’s cleaner than it’s been in…I don’t even know how long.  That’s one of the benefits of having a realtor pay us a visit, as part of our fact-finding ‘Can we afford to sell this house and move to Michigan’ mission.

To cut right to the chase, the answer is…no.  Not right now, anyway.

So yeah, we cleaned and furniture-rearranged and decluttered for the past week just to have our hopes dashed.  And that’s disappointing.  To be honest, though, we weren’t totally surprised.  Dave was actually happy with the number she gave us because our Illinois suburb is still showing drastic hits in real estate prices, with foreclosures everywhere that are driving down the value of the houses in our neighborhood.  I know the market is supposed to be coming back, but we aren’t seeing much of that here in our area, unfortunately.  Still, though, the outlook wasn’t quite as bleak as he was thinking, so that’s encouraging.

In the back of my mind, I kind of hoped she’d come in, ooh and aah over our house, and maybe say she had a buyer who was looking for something exactly like this at a number even higher than the number we have to have.  I know, I know…it was silly of me, but I couldn’t help but dream a little.

If things had worked out, we planned to get the house on the market to take advantage of spring, when buyers (supposedly) come out more so than in the winter.  I was hoping to be moved to a more affordable place in Michigan by August.  Sadly, the number the realtor quoted us was less than what we owe on our mortgage, so obviously this still isn’t a good time to sell.  It’s not far off, so that’s a silver lining, but with all the fees and costs associated with selling, we have to make enough to pay off the mortgage and cover those fees and, gee, it would be nice to have a little bit left over to put down on a new (cheaper) house.

We got some good input, and we did still have projects we wanted to do that will definitely help us when we do sell.  So instead of freaking out and being negative about this setback, I’m going to focus on the positives.  I am one of those people who believe that things happen for a reason, and I was surprised to hear Dave echo that sentiment yesterday.  (Usually he calls it ‘magical thinking.’)  As we talked things over after the realtor left, he said, “This might just mean that the right place for us in Michigan isn’t ready yet.”  And I kind of believe that.  I can look back through all kinds of disappointing low points in my life and see how, even though it sucked at the time, I needed to follow that path to lead me to something that was ultimately good.

So!  Looking on the bright side, this gives us time to finish up the more fun projects we hadn’t gotten around to.  I like painting and redecorating, and both bathrooms need to be updated with new paint and tile in the shower area.  We’re also going to go through the rest of the upstairs and get rid of the bright colors that I love so much.  Bye, orange hallway.  Bye cranberry red accents in the kitchen.  And that’s okay – I’ve had those colors long enough that I don’t mind switching to something more neutral.  The realtor mentioned beige with white trim being a big hit (in all the damn foreclosures that the banks are going in and redoing, and then listing for less than the market value…thanks a lot!) but we are going to stick with the Autumn White that we already have in the living room.  It reads as light beige in certain light and sometimes has a very light peach or warm note in the color when the sun is shining on it.  It’s neutral enough that it shouldn’t freak anyone out, and it will go well with the kitchen cabinets, hallway, etc.

We can’t afford to do major work, like replacing the cabinets and windows, but we’re planning to refinish all the cabinets and at least freshen them up.  I think that, with the new paint, white trim and updated bathrooms, will still be a good step in the right direction and all within our budget.  The downstairs is already beige with white trim and that was, by far, our biggest project.  It’s good to know that’s out of the way!

Staying here a while longer means we’ll still be near my mom and my kids, and of course that’s a good thing.  We weren’t planning to move too far, just a couple hours away, but it’s awfully nice to be close by too.

We do love this house so it’s not like it’s agonizing to stay here.  I just don’t love the mortgage, which we really can’t afford any longer.  But we’ll come up with something to help us through, and hopefully the real estate market will continue to pick up a bit in the next year or so.  The number we were quoted was a little over $80,000 less than the number the house appraised for back in 2007 so that was a slap in the face but, again, not completely unexpected.  (And the 2007 number was really just for the upstairs – we have a raised ranch – because the downstairs was still one big workshop at the time.)

That’s another thing I didn’t like – she mentioned that appraisals were still quite low, lower than they really should be, and that can completely shut things down.  So even if you get a buyer at, say, $200,000 then you still have to have the house appraised…and if the appraiser says your house is worth $150,000 then the buyer’s loan won’t go through.  She also mentioned that appraisals for FHA and VA loans (which are very popular in our price range) stick with your house for six months.  Ugh.  Then there’s the inspections – the buyer will surely get one, and our village requires us to get (and pay for) a village home inspection, and you have to fix whatever they find.  Since we have NO extra money, something like that gives me cold sweats.  I mean, as far as I can tell there’s nothing wrong, but who knows what an inspection might turn up?!

So…bright side:  we don’t have to deal with the stress of selling right now.  No worrying about appraisals, inspections, keeping the house immaculate for showings, hoping and praying for a buyer for months (or maybe years) on end.  I’m really glad to be avoiding that for a little while longer!

Chin up, deep breath, we can do this.  And hey, our house is so freaking clean right now.  It’s kind of cool that most of our spring cleaning is already done!

To Each His Own

Paige is home for spring break this week, although it’s not technically spring yet (and the weather here in Illinois reflects that).  She requested a week of just hanging out and relaxing, with home-cooked meals, so the biggest excitement so far this week has been a trip to the beauty supply store.

I bought GVP Sculpting Mousse, which I’ve never tried before, and Paige was checking it out.  We both have curly hair, but hers is long, full and gorgeous, with more of a slight wave on top and then super-curly curls on the bottom.  For the past three years I’ve been really into the “curly girl” method of hair care, and I spend a lot of time over at NaturallyCurly.com reading forums and keeping up on new products and ways to keep my hair healthy, and the curls curly instead of limp or frizzy.  Paige, however, just isn’t that into the mechanics of her gorgeous hair, and I can tell it frustrates her when I get a little overzealous.

She tried the mousse, and we both exclaimed over how good it smelled (she called it Pina Colada, I called it Coconut Cream Pie).  After she put it in her hair, I said, “Oh, now you have to scrunch it up to get the curl going.”  I started to scrunch the bottom of her hair and she backed away.  “MOM.  I don’t want that.”  I kind of froze and realized that I’m the one who really likes to scrunch and get my curl going; Paige prefers more of a beach wave and doesn’t necessarily want the tight curls that come so naturally to her.

Paige with her non-scrunched curly hair

Paige with her non-scrunched curly hair

This happened a lot as my kids were growing up.  When they’re babies, you think of them as little versions of you.  (Or at least I did!)  I imagined all the things I’d do with them as they grew up – all the books from my childhood I couldn’t wait to share with them, all the activities I enjoyed so much.  Eric came along first, and as he grew from a baby to a toddler I started to get an inkling that he wasn’t going to share in a lot of my interests.  I spent a lot of time coming up with crafts we could do together, but it didn’t take long to realize he didn’t have the attention span for most of them.  He hated getting his hands dirty, so clay, ‘goop’ (the cornstarch and water stuff) and even finger paints kind of freaked him out.

Eric, fascinated and disgusted by Goop

Eric, fascinated and disgusted by Goop

By the time he was three, it was obvious he preferred pretend games.  He loved action figures, transformers, trains, anything where he could create a little world for his ‘guys’ and their vehicles.  This bored me to tears, although I’d gamely sit down and try to play along.  (My dad was much better at this!)

By the time Paige came along, when Eric was four, I was so used to not bothering with any kind of craft or painting activity that it took me a while to realize she might actually like it.  By the time I started her on crafts, she was old enough to just want to do it herself.

Crafty Paige - "Thanks mom, I'll do this myself!"

Crafty Paige – “Thanks mom, I’ll do this myself!”

Same with books – I envisioned sitting with her and introducing her to Laura Ingalls Wilder when she was old enough.  That day came, I brought out the books I’d saved from my childhood…and Paige was not interested.  “Eh, they’re kind of boring,” she said, as she turned back to the books she preferred (on animals and babysitting).  I couldn’t believe it!  How could neither of my kids enjoy Laura, or A Wrinkle in Time?!  It was just another lesson for me – they aren’t me.  They each had their own interests, separate from me.

I know my own mom must have seen this with me – I was quiet and shy, while my mom was outgoing and the life of the party.  I preferred to stay alone in my room, reading, while she implored me to give friends a call to see if they wanted to hang out, or go to parties, or anything to get me out of the house.  I would spend hours writing letters to pen pals or just listening to music in my room.  I know she probably thought I was sad and lonely, because I imagine she would have felt that way if she was alone as much as I was as a kid.  But I liked it – I’m really an introvert, and it exhausts me to be around big groups of people after a while.  We were just different.  When I was a kid, I kind of felt bad, like I wasn’t the type of daughter my mom wanted.  Now that I’ve grown up and had my own kids, I can completely see where she was coming from.  It just takes a while to realize that these little people you created will grow up and be so separate from you, with totally different personalities and interests.

So now I just try to enjoy my two very different, very individual children for the people they are.  They introduce me to new interests, and they tolerate me when I slip up and forget they aren’t younger versions of me.  (No more scrunching, Paige — I promise!)

My all-grown-up, very individual kids

My all-grown-up, very individual kids

Sometimes the World Sounds Like Charlie Brown’s Teacher

I have a confession to make:  I don’t have speakers for my (desktop) computer.  Well, I mean, I have them but I don’t have them hooked up.  In the fall of 2012 we completely changed our computer desk situation, and we went from this:

Our 'Command Center' before -- mostly shows the top of the desks, but trust me, it was huge!  (Two massive desks next to each other.)

Our ‘Command Center’ before — mostly shows the top of the desks, but trust me, it was huge! (Two massive desks next to each other.)

to this:

The two-person computer desk that Dave made

The two-person computer desk that Dave made

(And the ‘before’ picture doesn’t show the full glory of the hulking behemoths containing our two desktop computers, two printers, etc. etc. which extended completely through the dining room and halfway into the living room.)

When we made the change, Dave waved my computer speakers at me and asked if I wanted them hooked up and, if so, where did I want them?  I looked at the nice clean desk and decided I didn’t need the speakers.  I use sound so little with my computer, and if I do use it, I almost always wear headphones so I don’t bother everyone around me with what I’m listening to.  Now I have no choice but to use headphones if I want to hear anything on the computer — no big deal.

Part of the reason I rarely watch videos (the main reason I’d need to hear sound) is because I’m still used to thinking I can’t.  Back in the day, our (dial-up) internet connection wasn’t all that great and you just couldn’t properly watch a video – it was all stuttery and half the time wouldn’t fully load.  Those days are long gone, but I am the embodiment of the expression ‘old habits die hard.’  Every time I click on a video and it looks fine, I get a little thrill.  Look at me with my fancy computer!

The other reason is that I still need captions, and almost nothing is captioned online.  The Youtube translation/captioning that they offer on most videos is horrendous – have you ever tried it?  It’s laughably bad; sometimes not even one word is properly captioned.  If you have a few minutes and want to see a great (hilarious) example of it, watch the video below.  What they did was act out a short little script, and let Youtube do the automatic captions.  Then they took the words that Youtube came up and re-acted the skit using those words.  They do it a third time as well, and besides being hilarious, it’s a great example of how bad the captioning really is.  The skits aren’t that long, and it’s worth a viewing.

I tried to embed the video, but it isn’t working, so right-click on this link and open it in a new window:  http://youtu.be/23H8IdaS3tk

Sort of in this category is another funny Youtube channel – Bad Lipreading (http://www.youtube.com/user/BadLipReading).

Since I lipread, this really fascinates me and cracks me up.  They have videos with and without captioning, and I can only understand the captioned ones.  (Luckily the captioning is spot-on for these.)

Even though I can test amazingly in a sound booth with my CIs on, it just doesn’t translate to the real world for me.  (Probably because the real world isn’t in a sound booth!)  I’m sure it also has to do with the type of hearing loss I have and the fact that I have some of my high frequency electrodes turned off in my CI programs.  For whatever reason, if I’m watching TV or a movie, or listening on the phone, I need to see faces or have captions to make sense of what I’m hearing.  Otherwise it’s like Charlie Brown’s teacher:  “Blah, blah blah blah.”  I can hear it, but it’s just noise.

There was a truly hysterical scene in an episode of Louie, where Louis CK is calling in an order to a deli and he can’t understand the heavily-accented man who answers the phone.  I tried to find a video of it and I can’t find the whole clip, unfortunately.  This is just a trailer for the episode, and it cuts out one of the best lines in the exchange, but it still illustrates really well what it’s like for me to talk on the phone.  (The video is short , but you have to put in your birth date since the show is rated MA.  Which is weird, because the trailer has nothing Mature in it, but whatever – watch it, it’s funny!  Be warned though, it’s not captioned…but I’ll explain it in a sec.)  I can’t seem to embed this one either, so (again) right-click and open it in a new window:

http://tinyurl.com/bycm2qt

So, he’s ordering orange juice and the guy says, “Pulp?”  And the scene proceeds, as so:

“Pulp?” –Deli guy

“What?” -Louie

“Pulp.” –Deli guy

“Is there a – do you have a synonym?” –Louie

The guy then says something more, like, “The orange juice, do you want pulp in it or not?” and then Louie finally gets it.  In the full scene, though, the ‘Pulp?’ exchange went on longer and at one point Louie mutters something like, “It’s just NOISE, I don’t…” and I was yelling at the TV, “Yes!!  I know what you mean!”  (By the way, he also orders 15 bananas and ends up getting 60…haha…another example of how easy it is to mis-hear things!)

So yea, that’s how it is for me and Dave.  Give us captions on everything, please and thank you!

Resistant to Change

When I was younger and more adaptable, technology just didn’t seem to advance at the rate it does now.  I started out with vinyl records:  albums and 45s.  Eight track tapes came along briefly, and I was the proud owner of a stereo with a turntable on one end and an 8 track player on the other.  Cassette tapes had longer staying power, and I especially loved my (large) tape player/recorder with silver buttons on the end that pushed down to record, play, rewind and fast forward.  And we can’t forget my transistor radio!

These old standbys were there for my entire childhood up until I was a young adult.  In high school, the Walkman became popular but that wasn’t a big change…just a smaller receptacle.  I could handle that.

My brother and me with our grandma - back in simpler (groovier) days.

My brother and me with our grandma – back in simpler (groovier) days.

Then CDs came along.  It was 1985, I was married (first time) and in my first apartment when I decided it was worth the money to buy a CD player.  I wasn’t sure they would last, you see.  I had already experienced the war between Betamax and VHS and knew that some technologies just didn’t stick around for long.  (I also waited until I was married to buy my first VHS player…with my first-ever remote control, which was connected to the front of the player with a wire.  I believe it cost around $500!)  I was still young and adaptable, and welcomed these new-fangled gadgets, finding their interfaces to be intuitive and easy to use even without an instruction manual.

And again, things stayed as-is for a long while.  I could handle this, no problem.  Telephones started to change a bit – first there was the rotary phone (oh, it took so long for the dial to rotate back from 9!) and then touch-tone, which was awesome.  Then it got a little confusing…you had phones without cords, and then phones you could take with you in your car (huge…about the size of a brick).  Sometimes the names were interchangeable…wireless phone, car phone, mobile phone, cordless phone.  Eventually the cell phone became popular (and smaller every year, it seemed) but for while I would still hear people call them car phones or mobile phones.  It took me a while to understand the difference between that and a simple cordless phone that you kept in your house.  This was when I started to back away from the whole phone thing…I had hearing aids at the time, and the original cell phones just didn’t work with hearing aids.  You were also lucky to find either a cordless or cell phone with a volume control; without that, I couldn’t hear at all on a phone.

I had a volume-control phone (touch-tone, with a cord) that I used growing up; I also had a square box type of amplifier that used a battery.  It went over the listening part of the phone handset with a strap.  It wasn’t perfect, but I could use it on phones that had no volume control (which was most of the phones out there at the time).  Once cell phones started becoming popular, I just didn’t even take the time to learn about them because I couldn’t hear on them.  It didn’t take long for me to be one of the only people I knew who didn’t have a cell phone, and certainly had no idea how to use one.

When DVDs became popular, that wasn’t a difficult change.  The technology was pretty easy to understand, and you could do so much with a DVD that you couldn’t with a VHS tape.  (And no more rewinding, praise God!)

But advances in music moved so quickly that I quickly fell behind.  We never used Apple products, so when MP3 players became popular, especially the iPod, I was completely baffled.  I didn’t understand how to get the music on the player, and most of them were so tricky to use.  (I still don’t really understand them, to be honest.)  All my music was on DVDs and I didn’t want to take the time to convert them to MP3s and transfer them and blah blah blah…and I didn’t want to pay again for music I already had.  (I already went through that once when we upgraded to CDs from albums, and it was annoying then too!)  I didn’t have an iPod, so I wasn’t even sure where to get music from since the iTunes store seemed to be the only option.  I kind of threw my hands up and stopped trying to understand it all.

Computers…well, I did okay with those.  I wasn’t one of the super-early computer users, but I was geeky enough that I had a computer in ‘91 or so, with DOS as the operating system.  I remember Windows being introduced and just being blown away by it.  I happily upgraded as each new version came along, and I did my own work on my early computer (I can remember paying $200 for 2 MB of RAM…which gave me six whole megabytes, woo hoo!)  I added a modem when they became popular, and learned how to connect to the internet and use newsgroups (there were no browsers back then).  It was fun and I liked the challenge of learning it all.

When browsers came along, I made a homepage at Geocities and started learning HTML.  I wrote our first business website in Notepad, after taking an online HTML class.  I kept up pretty well, learning about CSS and JavaScript…and then things just took off, and left me in the dust again.  It was a huge deal for me when I redid our site last year and converted it to CSS – it’s probably still very basic compared to other sites out there, but I did it myself and I can make my own changes when I need to, so I’m proud of it.  But I feel very ancient now when it comes to understanding how websites work.

I had to have Dave explain Bluetooth to me over and over, and it still confused me.  It took me a long time to understand Android and my (hacked) NookColor tablet and how to get around; what applications were and how to use them.  I learned, but it’s nothing like it was when I was in my 20s and happily teaching all the ‘old ladies’ I worked with at the time how to use an electric typewriter, telex machine, Wang word processor, fax machine (oooh, fancy technology for the times!!) and Xerox copier.  At 48, I’m probably now the same age those ‘old ladies’ were back then.  And it terrifies me to think of re-entering the workplace with young people using all the social media and apps and software and who knows what.  I can’t believe I’ve reached a point where technology befuddles me.

All of this came to mind because the past three days I’ve been switching from Windows XP to Windows 7.  And yes, I know that Windows 7 is now old news…but it’s bright and shiny for me.  As with everything else, I resisted the change.  I knew a lot of the old software I used wouldn’t work on Windows 7 and I didn’t want to have to learn it all over again.  It took me forever to change from Office 97 to Office 2007, for crying out loud!  I’m using Quicken 2002, QuickBooks Pro 2001…I used to use Eudora for my email until just last year (many years after they stopped making it) until I forced myself to switch to Thunderbird.  Even that makes Dave chuckle…he does all web-based email now.  I do use Gmail, but I like being able to organize with folders for all the email lists I’m on.  So I stubbornly keep two email programs going.

Not only did I have to learn a new operating system, but I had to learn a new program for working on the business website.  Yes, I can still make changes using Notepad but with the site being CSS now, it’s easier to use software.  I was using HomeSite, which I loved, and now I’m learning Expression Web.  And it’s okay…slow going, but I’m learning.  It’s just so much harder than it used to be!

I’ll hear Dave and Eric talking about Gingerbread, Jelly Bean and Ice Cream Sandwich and chuckle to myself.  It took me a while, but now I know they’re talking about different Android OS’s.  So I’m not throwing in the towel, and I’ll still stubbornly try to keep up with the times.  But man, things used to be so much simpler.  Give me a cassette tape and a Walkman and I’m good to go.

However…you won’t hear me complaining about TiVo.  Now that’s some new technology I welcomed with open arms!

Creature Comforts

I think I’ve mentioned this before, but every time we watch a movie or TV show with an apocalyptic sort of setting (mainly where there’s no electricity), I always think, If I were in that situation, my CIs wouldn’t work and I’d be deaf.  Of course, I’m deaf either way but you know what I mean – I wouldn’t be able to hear, ever.  Unless the electricity came back and I could recharge my batteries, that is.  Even Dave would be in a bad way – he could use his hearing aid only until his batteries ran out (and we could no longer find a store that carried them).

Or, in the case of the tsunami in Indonesia and other countries near the Indian Ocean (we watched The Impossible last week…what a great movie!), we definitely would be screwed because our hearing instruments would be ruined by being in that water (assuming we survived, of course).  I actually told Dave, “Wow…if that was me I’d be deaf and practically blind, because my contact lenses would definitely get washed out of my eyes in that situation!”  (I am very, very nearsighted – if I didn’t have contacts/glasses that could correct my vision, I would be legally blind.)

It’s just this weird little thing I do; I have no idea why.  But the other day I got myself all worked up over something similar in The Walking Dead.  In that show, most of society has been infected by a virus that turns them into zombies; the survivors are banding together (or fighting each other, in the recent storyline) and we see them doing things like going into abandoned stores and looking for food and supplies.  So you figure it’s been a while, right?  At least a year, maybe more?  Well, I noticed that only one person on the show seems to wear glasses.  And, come on, I imagine a lot of people in real life need glasses or contact lenses…is it really possible that every character on the show but one has 20/20 vision?  What do they do if they wear bi-weekly contacts (like me) and need more?  You can’t exactly order them or go to the doctor.  What if a zombie chases them and they lose their glasses?  What do they do – they can’t really replace them, after all.  I know it’s silly and it’s TV and it’s a zombie show, don’t take it so seriously, omg, but it still drives me crazy.

That’s the kind of thing I’d get a kick out of watching —  instead of all the fighting and warring factions and all of that, I’d like to see how people deal with the reality of living in a world where all the things we take for granted are suddenly wiped away.  This doesn’t apply to The Walking Dead, by the way.  I love the way they handle the show and keep a mix of personal stories and violence, actually.  I’m thinking more of shows like Jericho (which was canceled a few years back).  The scenario was that nuclear bombs went off across the US and the people in this small town in Kansas don’t know why they suddenly have lost power and are cut off from the rest of the world.  I was hoping they would focus on the real-life “How do we deal with this?” scenarios, but instead they spent too much time focusing more on fighting.  The first few shows were promising, though!

I guess it wouldn’t be very fun to watch people stumbling around on The Walking Dead because they don’t have glasses anymore.  But Dave did get a good joke in, after I was done with my mini-rant.  He pointed out that if, in fact, I was in a zombie apocalypse and no longer had contacts or glasses, I would also be shambling along with my hands out in front of me, just like the zombies.  I would fit right in!

Paige as a zombie for Halloween...guess it runs in the family!

Paige as a zombie for Halloween…guess it runs in the family!

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