Category Archives: Observations

On Taking Things for Granted


My pretty ruby red Naida CI Q90 next to my Dark Sienna Harmony processor

You know, one of the reasons my posts slowed down here was because things just became … normal. I woke up every day, put on my CI processors, heard my world in a way that felt normal to me, and that was about it. Once you get past the early days where every new sound is a revelation and it’s just so freaking cool to HEAR again, there’s not much to say.  And, um, you kind of start to take things for granted.

This past Saturday I expected to be like any other day. I put on my right processor … beep, I can hear, good to go. (Actually, with the new processors I can switch them up and it doesn’t matter which ear they go on – another really helpful improvement.)  Put on the left, start applying my moisturizer, finish my moisturizer and hey, I can’t hear. WTF?! I took off the processor, pulled the battery off and put it back on, and watched the LED lights to see what happened. Usually I’ll see four flashes to indicate a full battery, and then a quick green light. This time I saw nothing for a long time, and then a solid red light that didn’t go away. Fuck.

I still wasn’t too nervous; I figured maybe somehow my battery didn’t recharge overnight. So I tried all the others, with the same result.

It’s funny how entitled I feel now – how dare I not be able to hear?! This is ridiculous and awful! And then I remember that it was my reality (only worse, because I couldn’t hear AT ALL) for so many months when I first went deaf.

Dave was still sleeping so I began quietly opening dresser drawers, trying to remember where I put my old Harmony processors, batteries and battery charger. I never expected to be using my backup processor so quickly but at least I had it. Since my left ear is much stronger, I put the new Naida CI on that ear and put the Harmony on my right. (Which meant I had to figure out which processor went on that ear; with the Harmony, if you put the wrong processor on the wrong ear, it will not work at all.)

I came downstairs to use the computer and see if other people had experienced a similar issue and if it was, indeed, a fault in the processor. It wasn’t too bad, really – I could tell that I was hearing differently on the right side but it wasn’t really jarring. But the house was silent, and once Dave woke up and came downstairs, it really hit home how differently I hear with the Naida Q90 versus the Harmony.

My right ear is weird – I have electrodes turned off on that ear, and high pitched sounds make me really dizzy. With the Harmony I was always turning the volume down or covering the microphone if there were sudden loud noises. It wasn’t until Saturday morning that I realized I hadn’t had to do that once with the Naida.

Dave pulled out dishes to feed the cats, filled the metal vacuum pot and put it on the stove to heat for coffee, coughed and cleared his throat … and I immediately had to pull the Harmony CI off my ear, look at the volume wheel and turn it down.  All of those high-pitched sounds were unbearably sharp to me, almost painfully so.

As I went about my morning, I remembered that my headpiece cable for the Harmony was frayed, which meant sound was cutting out every time I turned my head or smiled.  So I’d smile, suddenly hear nothing, after a second there’d be a loud WHOOSH of sound (because remember, the Harmony doesn’t activate ClearVoice right away), and finally the sound would moderate to a comfortable level … then I’d turn my head and the whole thing would repeat. It was maddening.

I thought hey, maybe I can wear the new headpiece with my old Harmony! I went upstairs to check, but the connections aren’t compatible. Then I remembered I’d received some old equipment from a fellow who had upgraded quite a while back, and there’d been a headpiece cable included. I never even opened it because my headpiece and cable for the Harmony is a one-piece unit. But I figured I’d check and YES, this cable worked with my Harmony! So I do have one functional unit using that cable and the new magnet headpiece that I wear with my Naida.

My email to Advanced Bionics was in vain because it was the weekend, but I did hear back on Monday afternoon. I have to admit I’ve noticed a difference in the Customer Service response compared to my early days of wearing a CI. The customer service reps often seem confused and not as knowledgeable as they used to be. The person who helped me asked for some information, which I provided, and then said she entered a processor replacement request, gave me an RMA number and referenced my old audiologist in Illinois, even though I’d just given her my new Michigan audiologist information. That really gave me pause. I corrected her, but come on, really?! This is pretty important stuff here!

I’m supposed to have a new processor in two business days but I’ve heard nothing since – no tracking information, etc. I don’t know if my processor will arrive already programmed or if I have to take it in to have the programming put on. (I know I could ask but eh, I figure I’ll know soon enough once it gets here.) In the meantime, I’m realizing how much I’d already gotten used to my new hearing. I can’t really use the ComPilot – it only works in one ear (the Naida) and everything sounds really uneven, so I prefer just to do without for now.  I’m back to wearing headphones and using an MP3 player at the gym.

And I know, boo hoo, poor me — “You want some cheese with your whine?” I am still a deaf person who can hear! Totally not complaining. But I can’t help but compare and realize how much I really did take my bionic hearing for granted, especially with the improvements since I upgraded. I guess it made more of a difference than I realized!


When Things Come Into Focus

Every day I have a moment where I go from being deaf to actually hearing sound.  It’s not when I first wake up – my cochlear implant processors are nowhere near my head at that time. Generally I get out of bed, grab a couple of rechargeable batteries off the charger, carefully pick up my CIs (I’ve learned the hard way that the cord connecting the headpiece to the processor is fragile) and carry them with me to the bathroom. Sometimes I put my CIs on right when I get out of bed, but usually I wait until I’ve had time to fix my hair. That involves sliding my hands up under my hair, against my scalp, and shaking to get the curls going and fix any areas that got pressed down or wonky overnight. If I do that when I’m wearing the CIs, I basically would fling them right off my head!

Before I upgraded to the Naida Q90 processors, I had to brace myself for this moment. It’s overwhelming, going from total silence to a rush of sound all at once. My Harmony processors had a program called ClearVoice that would compress any steady background sound and kind of mute it. So if, for example, I had the fan on in the bathroom, my first sound would be the roar of the fan and then ClearVoice would kick in and the sound would get compressed down to a less overwhelming level.  If Dave were to come in and start talking to me at that point, his voice would be the main thing I heard and the fan would fade away to the background – hence the ClearVoice name. It helps you hear when background noise is present.

Even though I’ve had the Naida processors since the end of November, I’m still not used to the difference when I first put them on. I still inwardly cringe and wait to be bombarded with sound for that first few seconds before the compression program takes over. Now, though, what happens is this: I hear nothing for a second or two, and then I hear a beep. After that beep, I can hear. Generally I’m in a quiet environment so there’s not a whole lot going on noise-wise, but there’s always slight sounds happening even in a quiet room. It’s like everything gets clicked into focus, the difference between A and B in a vision exam where A is the blurry lens and B is the one that lets you read that last line on the eye chart.

But the way these processors activate each time I put them on is such a relief. There’s no overwhelming loud sound coming in first and then getting compressed. The first sounds I hear are already compressed. That alone is a huge improvement. But there’s also that beep, which (for me anyway) serves to prepare me for hearing. I focus on that and I know I’ll be hearing in a second. My little warning tone, I love it so.

Words Are Very Unnecessary

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

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

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

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

Well yes, I can relate to this.

Well yes, I can relate to this.

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

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

The guy stopped talking.

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

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

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

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

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

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



Re-post: Being Bionic

It’s been about two years since I first posted this, and I thought I’d re-post for those who haven’t seen it before:

I realized the other day that there’s a lot of things about having cochlear implants that I assume everyone just knows. When I first started this blog, I think my main ‘audience’ was other people with cochlear implants or who were considering one. As the years go by that’s no longer the case, and there are certain questions that I frequently get asked, so I figured I’d write a little bit about being bionic.

Just as a quick refresher, for anyone who doesn’t already know, I am profoundly deaf. I lost my hearing three separate times during my life, for reasons nobody has ever been able to figure out. So I didn’t grow up deaf (I wore hearing aids). When I lost my hearing the third time, in April 2008, it left me with no usable hearing – I don’t respond to anything on hearing tests, and there is nothing that I hear, even with hearing aids.

I received a cochlear implant in each ear in July 2008. Instead of thousands of little hairs in my cochlea waving around and helping me to hear, I now have a teeny strip of 16 electrodes that do the job. The sound is interpreted by my brain after it’s routed through an internal micro-computer to the electrodes. The signal is transmitted via the headpiece/antenna connected to a processor (also containing a micro-computer) that I wear on my ear; it looks like a big hearing aid. There’s a magnet inside my head, and there’s one in the headpiece that is attached to my CI processor via a wire. The magnets are of opposite polarity. I put the magnet headpiece up to my head, feel around until I can feel the magnet pull, and let go. It clings to my head via the magnet in my skull. Here’s a couple pictures:

My Left Side CI (purple metallic color) My Left Side CI (purple metallic color) A better view of the processor on the ear. A better view of the processor on the ear.

So that’s what I mean when I talk about “having CIs.”

I didn’t have brain surgery. I won’t get graphic (because I don’t know enough to!) but basically they make an incision behind your ear, along the curve, and then (for me, anyway) up and back a bit. They thread the electrodes into the cochlea and they shave/drill some of the skull to fit the magnet/radio antenna component, which is a couple of inches up and back from the ear. (I think this is slightly different for everyone, based on skull thickness.)

When I attach the magnet, it doesn’t hurt; I don’t feel anything at all. Once it connects, there’s a pause and then a woosh of sound as I begin to hear. (If the magnet is not attached, I don’t hear at all.) Now that I have a program called ClearVoice on my CIs, there’s another change as any loud, steady background noise (fans, etc.) gets suppressed.

If I run my fingers over my scalp, I can feel bumps – very, very slight on the right side and very, very noticeable on the left side. They did shave a bit of hair for the surgery, right behind my ear. Since my hair is long, it covered the shaved areas pretty well. For about 6 months after my surgery, I had my mom (a hair stylist) and my husband use clippers and keep the hair trimmed where the magnet connects. Your head stays swollen for quite a while and the less hair in that area, the better the magnet can connect.

I don’t wear my CIs in the shower and I don’t wear them to bed. I usually take them off if I’m going to nap, because the magnets get knocked off anyway when I lie back. I can get my CIs slightly damp (I don’t freak out too badly in the rain) but they aren’t waterproof like a newer offering from Advanced Bionics, the Neptune.

I find it really difficult to do anything that requires lying back if I have my CIs on. The weight of the processor pulls it off my ear and if the magnets bump into anything, they slide off. This makes going to the doctor and the dentist a bit of a challenge (especially the dentist), and makes things like yoga and sit ups fairly tricky unless I take my CIs off. I have a contraption that helps keep the processor on my ear so I can use that, but after a while it makes my ear ache…plus it’s really hard to put on!

Because I don’t sleep with my CIs on, it’s a catch-22. It’s very easy to sleep because I hear nothing at all, hence nothing wakes me up … but it’s hard to wake up if I have to be up at a certain time. I use an alarm clock that can do a few things: it can connect to a light and flash it to wake me up (this would never, ever wake me up), it has a very loud alarm that can be made higher- or lower-pitched (this would never, ever wake me up), and it connects to a little disc that you can slip under your mattress or pillow, which vibrates/shakes the bed when the alarm goes off. THIS wakes me up. Boy, does it wake me up!!

The cochlear implants didn’t cure my deafness; I will always be deaf. Thanks to my CIs, I have a foot in the hearing world and a foot in the deaf world, which is pretty cool.

My CIs use rechargeable batteries. (This is different by brand – I use Advanced Bionics CIs.) There are two sizes – a smaller SlimCel and the larger Plus, which lasts longer. I started out with the Slims because the Plus size was too heavy for my ear, especially while I was healing. After a while, my left ear was able to handle the Plus size but up until about a month ago, I wore mainly Slims on my right ear. Now I just use a Plus on each ear, and the batteries usually last me the entire day. If I’m staying up really late, I might need to switch them out. With the Slimcel, it was getting to where I had to change batteries at least once, sometimes twice. (I need to get new batteries, since these are now four years old!) I keep two backup batteries in my purse, and I have four on my charging station that are always ready to go.

When my batteries die, there is no warning. With hearing aids, I could usually tell when the battery was about to go…my hearing would get slightly worse. Now, you could take the CI off, slip the battery off and then back on, and see how many lights flash on the processor. (Four lights means it’s fully charged; one means it’s almost depleted.) But as far as just wearing it and having the battery die, it just goes. I mean, one second you hear and the next you don’t. It’s a little weird, but I’m used to it now.

The CIs have enabled me to hear things I didn’t hear with my hearing aids. Before I lost all my hearing, I wore bi-CROS hearing aids because my right ear was completely deaf. So I wore a ‘transmitter’ on that ear, which looked like a regular hearing aid, and it wirelessly transmitted the sound coming in on that side over to the hearing aid I wore on my left ear. Now I actually hear things in each ear, which took some getting used to. I always used to position people on my hearing side, the left. It took a long time to stop placing myself in position to hear (sitting or walking with people to my left, that is). I never used to be able to tell what direction sound was coming from. It took about two years to start to really be able to do this with my cochlear implants, but now I can often discern which ear “heard” the sound. It is very, very cool!! I also hear more high-pitched sounds, things I never knew even made noise…like bubbles popping, for instance. I have still never heard a mosquito or fly buzz. I suspect my hearing loss is such that I just will never hear that.

I do have some electrodes in the higher pitches completely turned off (two or perhaps three). This is different with everybody – we all have different reasons for our hearing loss. When I hear the higher tones, it makes me very, very dizzy. I can’t tolerate it at all. I think this is probably why I have trouble on the phone. Many people with CIs use the phone, but for me it is very difficult. I can understand computer voices (the voicemail menu, for instance) but when a real voice kicks in, I often struggle to comprehend what I’m hearing. I have a phone that captions the conversation on a screen for me. There’s a bit of a delay, and many times the words are captioned incorrectly, but it’s definitely better than nothing! I can handle a very short conversation but I no longer use the phone about 95% of the time. I stick to texting and email. I think missing those higher pitches makes it harder for me in that situation, since that’s what helps us understand voices.

Same with the TV – I do still need captions when I watch TV or movies. It’s hard to explain, but unless I can see a face and read lips, it just sounds like…sound. If it’s very quiet, the person is not speaking quickly and their voice is very clear, I can sometimes follow along. But there’s almost always some kind of other background noise – music, laughter, gunshots, what have you — that get in the way of understanding what I’m hearing.

I’m not disappointed by this, or apologizing for it. I mean, my gosh—I’m deaf, hearing via a little computer I wear on my ear, and I can talk a bit on the phone and hear music, television and movies. So I still need some help with captions – so what? I was going to be happy even if all I heard was environmental sounds…anything other than 24/7 tinnitus and no real sound other than the crazy noises in my head. So I’m extremely pleased, thrilled even, to be watching TV with captions and cautiously, sparingly, using the telephone.

After I had the surgery, I could not hear. I had to wait a month before I wore the external parts (the processor and magnet headpiece) and got them ‘activated’ so I could hear. This is different with every CI clinic; some places do activations a week after surgery, some wait longer than a month. I was glad to wait a month because my ears were definitely too sore to wear the processors before that. I really did need that time to heal. My skull was still swollen even a month later and I had to use really strong magnets to keep the headpieces in place (I’ve since switched out to lighter magnets).

To activate the CIs, the audiologist will hook you up via a cable to his/her computer. (They take the battery off the CI and replace it with the cable.) You listen to beeps and tones and tell them what sounds most comfortable. At first it all sounds weird and robotic; some people just hear beeps instead of actual sound. As days go by, your brain adapts and you begin to hear things in a more normal way. Voices sound strange, like Darth Vader or the chipmunks.

I go back periodically for “mappings,” where I get connected to the computer and the audiologist adjusts the volume and fine-tunes electrode-related things. In the beginning I went every week, then every month, every 6 months, every year…now I just go when I feel I need an adjustment because my hearing seems off. I can get future improvements via the computer programs they put on my processor, without having my internal component replaced.

The surgery usually makes you lose whatever residual hearing you had. This was not an issue for me – I had no hearing to lose – so being deaf during recovery was just more of the same. But you don’t have to be completely deaf to get a CI – you just have to score low enough, wearing a hearing aid, on the hearing test. (How low your score needs to be depends on insurance and/or the clinic.) It used to be that you had to be pretty much deaf to get one, but over the years that threshold has changed and now there are many people who still have hearing and get a CI in order to improve upon that hearing and be able to hear voices again. There are many people who have a CI in one ear and wear a hearing aid in the other. Incidentally, Dave has looked into getting a CI because he is completely deaf in his left ear and wears a hearing aid in the right. He gets his medical coverage through the VA, and right now he tests too well with his hearing aid on to qualify for a CI for his left ear.

Styling my hair can be a little bit of a pain – I have this cord running from my ear back a couple inches on my head to the magnet. I can’t run my fingers through my hair to fluff it up or smooth it out without catching on the wire. I take my CIs off to style my hair, and I have to be careful when I put them on to keep the wire from flattening a big section of hair. (This is a girly thing…I’m sure guys don’t have this problem!)

View from back, wearing both CI's View from back, wearing both CI’s

I don’t try to hide my CIs. I think they’re really amazing and I like to show them off. I very rarely get asked about them. I never notice people looking at them although Dave has said he’s seen people behind me looking at my head (I have colorful covers on the magnets). Only once have I had someone ask me about them; it was in Target, and a lady walked past me and then doubled back. She asked if I had cochlear implants and we began talking; it turned out that her daughter had a CI as well. I also saw one guy with a CI at my daughter’s school her senior year. (She won an award and they had a breakfast for the kids and their families.) Afterward, when people were mingling, I saw him talking to somebody and it was very easy to see his CI. When there was a lull in the conversation, I went over to him and we talked a bit about our CIs. I never did this with people who had hearing aids! 🙂

I just realized how absurdly long this is, so I’ll wrap it up. I know I didn’t cover everything, so if anyone is reading and has a question about what it’s like to have CIs, I’d be happy to answer (if I can…I’m not really up on the technical aspects of things, for instance).


New Restaurants and First Impressions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Stressful Dreams

Last night, I started back to work at my last out-of-the-house place of employment.  In my dreams, that is.

I have this dream every few months, and it’s always alarming and stressful.  I find myself back at my old job, with no clue who any of my co-workers are or what my job now entails.  There were some new twists in last night’s dream, though.  Initially, I realized I was very late for work – it was around 9:15 and I was supposed to start at 8 am or so.  I was completely panicked because I couldn’t remember my boss’s old phone number so I could call to let her know I was still coming in.  (It was my first day, you see.)

Then the dream changed and I was at work, but hadn’t seen my boss yet and I still had to explain that I’d been late.  Then I got the bright idea to just walk into her office and look at the phone number on her phone.  So I got the number, and somehow I needed to use my computer to call her (I know this makes no sense – do dreams ever make much sense?!) … but I realized my son had installed some kind of software that completely changed how my computer worked.  Everything I clicked brought up some kind of menu or performed an action that just left me clueless, and I was getting more and more frustrated with every click.  (This last bit cracks me up because he really is always light years ahead of me in terms of apps and computer stuff.)

This dream seems to have replaced the high school dreams, as far as stress-related dreams go – you know, the ones where you have an exam you never studied for, can’t remember your locker combination, can’t remember how to get to class, etc.  Now I dream that I have to go back to this job I haven’t performed since early 2001, re-connect with all the people that worked there and/or meet new co-workers, try to remember how to do everything, plus catch up with all the ways things have changed since I left.  I’m glad I don’t have these dreams very often!

I’m not feeling stressed in real life at all these days, so I’m not even sure where this is coming from.

I’ve talked about recurring dreams before, but there’s one ‘theme’ I’m pretty sure I’ve never mentioned:  the ‘can’t go to the bathroom’ dreams.  (Maybe I’m the only one that has them.)

I’ll have a dream that I have to pee (sorry, there’s just no other way to say it) and either I can’t find a bathroom or, when I do find one, I can’t actually use it.  It might be some kind of public bathroom – all the toilets next to each other in one big room, or maybe the only unoccupied toilet in a public bathroom is one that has no door.  There’s always some reason I can’t actually use the toilet, and most often it’s because they are all occupied or there’s no privacy in some way.  I know what’s happening here – my body is stopping me from, well, wetting the bed.  (No, I’ve never had a bed-wetting problem in my life, but I definitely have had to wake up in the middle of the night to go.)  Isn’t that weird, though?  I don’t wake up right away and just go use the facilities … instead, I incorporate it into my dream and torture myself for a while.  So fun!

Casually veering toward a less TMI topic, I’ve also had recurring dreams about our indoor cats (the former-feral ones) getting outside.  This is guaranteed to get me worked up because we can’t pick these cats up, so if they really do get outside somehow it’s not like I can go scoop them back up and bring them in, like I can with Sabrina.  The dream I had earlier this week, though, changed things up a bit.

In this situation, Dave and I were at some kind of medical appointment having to do with our respective hearing losses.  (I suspect this came from a visit we had earlier that day from a Caption Call rep, who needed us to fill out forms verifying our hearing loss in order to keep our caption phone.)  We were in a medical building, sort of like a hospital.  And I was carrying Maxie, our former-feral mom cat, in my arms.

As we walked around, I realized I was getting some looks from people.  Maxie was kind of squirming around and I had to keep talking to her to calm her down.  Finally I told Dave, “You know, we probably shouldn’t be in here with her – I think someone’s going to ask us to leave.  We should probably go home.”  So Dave took us out a side door (to get us out of the building right away), but we were nowhere near the parking lot we’d parked in.  We had to walk and walk, forever it seemed, along a road.  Maxie got agitated every time we passed any kind of animal outside, and I was getting more and more worried that she would leap out of my arms.  The stress finally woke me up (and then I was so relieved to realize it was just a dream).

Hopefully tonight will bring a stress-free slumber, and I will not be worrying about our cats getting loose at my old place of employment, while crossing my legs and hopping around, trying to find a free (private) toilet.  Sweet dreams!


Old Cats and Small Portions

Sabrina, the oldest of our four cats, is around 13 years old now.  It’s hard to believe because she still looks the same as she did when we adopted her in 2005.  We actually got a discount on her adoption fee because she was ‘old’ already, at nearly four years.  Ironically, we went in with firm intentions of adopting a kitten, and then old lady Beanie won me over with her sweet personality.

Sabrina, our fluffy girl (also called Beanie)

Sabrina/Beanie, years ago…looking the same as she does now.  😉

So anyway, she’s getting up there – nearly 68 in human years, according to this chart the vet gave us a few years ago.  For the past couple of weeks, we’ve noticed she’s having trouble jumping onto the couch and our bed.  A couple of times she’s leaped and then gotten smacked squarely in the chest by the couch, so now she’s unsure of herself.  She’ll sit in front of the couch, start to crouch for a jump, then spring up and put her paws on the couch instead.  Kind of like how I used to run toward the vault in gym, then flinch and stop right before I hit the springboard.

At night, I’m sometimes woken up by a thump against the bed.  The first time this happened, I awoke and instinctively reached over for Toby, our dog.  Toby, who died a couple of years ago, did this exact same thing when he started aging.  He’d jump up, kind of flump against the side of the mattress, then slide back down to the floor.  When you’re in bed, sound asleep, it is VERY startling and it will instantly wake you up.  Even though I can’t hear anything at night – he could have been barking at me, for all I know – I immediately woke up when I felt the impact against the bed.  That’s how it felt when Sabrina started doing it, even though she’s much smaller than Toby.

For a while I’d just wake up, get out of bed and pick her up.  (She likes to sleep between me and Dave, with her head and paws on the left side of my pillow, above my head.)  Then I mentioned it to Dave, and he engineered a brilliant solution:  he brought up the hassock from downstairs.  It’s about six inches shorter than the bed, the perfect height for Beanie to jump onto.  As he placed the hassock at the end of the bed, he sighed and said, “I’ll bet I forget this is here and trip over it in the middle of the night.”

Guess what happened the night before last?  Poor Dave.  Hopefully his toes will survive until he gets used to the new bedroom furniture.

* * *

I have just a little, bitty pet peeve to sound off about:  food portion sizes.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a recipe boasting something like ‘Only 279 calories per portion!’, then you read the recipe and see they’ve divided it into seven miniscule portions.  THAT DOES NOT HELP.  Either you eat the one tiny portion and a million other things to keep from starving, or you eat four tiny ‘portions’ in order to get a decent amount of food, feel satisfied, and eat nearly 900 calories instead.  It’s crazy.

I was already aware of that trick on packaged food – you’d see, I don’t know, something like one bean burrito in a package, read the calories (“Oh, 300 calories, not too bad”) and then realize it says there’s two portions in the one-burrito package.  So you eat the whole burrito, for 600 calories, and feel kind of piggish because damn, you ate twice the serving size.

Recipes, though, are just as bad.  I just made a recipe that consisted of some veggies and eight ounces of pasta.  We don’t have soup or salad with dinner, and with a pasta meal we don’t have a side dish – that’s it.  Dave might have a piece of bread with pasta, but I usually forgo it.  I know one serving of pasta is two ounces (ridiculously small) but we usually eat eight ounces of pasta between the two of us – sometimes we have leftovers if there’s a lot of extra stuff mixed in.  I looked at this recipe and saw it was calculated at NINE SERVINGS.  Less than two ounces per person.  And it’s meant to be the main dish of the meal.  I call bullshit.

I have to recalculate just about every recipe I make, and turn it into a normal-human-being portion size.  I have my ways of saving calories – a little less cheese, plain fat-free yogurt instead of sour cream, less butter, less oil – and the calories become manageable while the food stays tasty.  I would rather eat one 600 calorie portion that will fill me up.

I know it’s not that big of a deal, and I know it’s a scam the recipe sites use to make things look low-calorie, and I know how to get around it.  But I don’t want to get around it.  I want them to stop being idiots.

Okay – I’ve unfolded my arms and stopped scowling.  I feel better now.  I’m off to make some creamy zucchini soup for lunch … using the recipe that I’ve changed to four servings instead of six.


How to Pet a Cat

You know how they say that no two snowflakes are alike?  The same goes for cats.  We have four, and woe unto you if you try to approach and, consequently, pet them incorrectly.

Maxie is about nine years old, we figure.  She was as wild and feral as they come when we trapped her in the spring of 2006, nursing her two kittens who, we found out later, weighed just a pound or two less than her.   All these years later, she’s mellowed out and is the most approachable of the three.

MaxieCat - How can you resist that face?

MaxieCat – How can you resist that face?

To pet Maxie, just hold your hand out to her.  Let her approach you, sniff your hand.  I keep my fingers curled in toward my palm; it seems to be less aggressive.  Maxie will take the reins; she likes to decide where she wants to be petted.  If you move your hand toward her, she’ll get a little nervous.  If you take it a step further and start petting her any which way you wish, she’ll duck her head out from under your hand with a little look of annoyance.  Hold your hand still.  Let her come to you.  First she’ll rub her cheeks along your knuckles; every now and then you’ll feel her teeth scraping too but don’t worry, she won’t bite you.  Then she’ll duck her head down and push it against your hand; at this point it’s permissible to run your knuckles from her nose up between her ears.  Bring your hand back and hold it still.  Always remember, Maxie likes to be in control.

Maxie has two daughters and they both live with us.  We originally thought Alice was the runt; she was so tiny, much smaller than Grace, and seemed to constantly be the last to eat.  She was the most shy of the three, running from the room every time we entered.  Even once the other two girls were comfortable upstairs, where we spend all our time, Alice would lie flat on the top step, peeking over the edge.  She’d observe but never participate.

Ally-Kat, and part of her long, long tail

Ally-Kat, and part of her long, long tail

Then Alice found her voice.  She grew.  And grew.  She outgrew her sister, then her mother.  Now, at seven years old, she’s muscular, sleek and beautiful, a true tuxedo cat with the longest tail we’ve ever seen.  And that voice!  After we heard her meow, we wondered if her dad was Siamese.  Her meow is loud and piercing, and she’s persistent.

Alice, or Ally-Kat, is always just out of reach.  She’ll come up to you, meow loudly, wind in and out of your chair leg as you sit at the computer.  When you reach down to pet her, she’ll step just far enough away that your fingertips can’t touch her.  If you stretch your fingers, she’ll sidle further off.  To pet Alice, you have to move.  You’ll end up crouching over, following this cat as she constantly steps just ahead of you but meows as if to say, “Why aren’t you petting me?”  Petting Ally-Kat involves a workout.

Her sister, Grace, was a spitfire as a kitten.  And I mean that fairly literally; at one point I was just sure we could tame these wild little balls of fur, and I sat in an enclosure with her.  I crooned and beckoned, trying to get Gracie to sit with me.  Instead, she backed into a corner, back arched, fur at attention as if she’d been shocked.  She hissed and then she spit at me.  I’d heard the term ‘hissing and spitting’ before but never, EVER have I had a cat actually spit at me.  I was so scared of this little kitten that I had tears in my eyes; I couldn’t get out of that enclosure fast enough.  I was sure she’d claw my eyes out.

When we took her to the vet just a week later, the vet tech swooped her up and pressed Gracie to her chest.  “Oh, but you have to cuddle them!” she crooned, as Gracie froze in her hands.  I had to turn away; I couldn’t watch this poor girl get ripped to shreds.  Luckily, the unsuspecting young lady set Gracie down before she got her wits about her; she’d been so stunned by being picked up that she was temporarily immobile (and docile).

Gracie, or Baby Grace, was such a ball of fur that she looked much bigger than her sister as a kitten.  Over the years, she’s stayed small and petite; she still looks like a kitten, really.  We took to calling her Baby Grace because of her size, and it stuck.  She’s been the most suspicious of the three, the longest to hold a grudge.  If you reached your hand out to her, she’d bat at you (and sometimes connect … those claws are sharp).  For the longest time, the easiest way to pet her was to approach her when she was on top of our armoire.  It’s in front of the window in our bedroom, so she’d shrink against the window as she got petted.  She wouldn’t run away, and sometimes she’d start purring, but she always seemed nervous.

Baby Grace in one of her favorite places, the downstairs window

Baby Grace in one of her favorite places, the downstairs window

Baby Grace is the only one that still runs away when we come into a room (although if she’s sleeping on our bed, she’ll usually stay there).  If she’s at the patio door watching birds or squirrels, and you come into the kitchen, she’ll run off with her tail held high.  She’s getting better, though.  Sometimes I can crouch down and call to her, and she’ll stop in mid-run.  She’ll turn and look at me, think about it for a minute, then saunter back toward me.  She’ll rub her side along my leg, sometimes let me pet her.  Then she’ll head off again, at a slower pace.

There are two times of the day I can pet Gracie:  first thing in the morning, and at bedtime.  It’s a little ritual now; when she sees me get into bed and grab my Nook tablet, she joins me.  She cautiously walks up toward my face, then rubs her head against the tablet.  Then she goes a little crazy, head-butting my hand, purring; I can pet her with abandon.  She ducks her head down, as if she’s going to do a somersault; sometimes she stretches out along my leg, and I periodically reach down to scritch her under her chin (her favorite).  Baby Grace is a love bug during those two times of the day, and I’m waiting hopefully for her to realize she can get petted like this all day long if she wishes.

Our oldest cat, Sabrina (Beanie, aka Beanie Baby) was in residence for about ten months before the girls joined the household and rocked her world.  Beanie is the sweetest, friendliest cat you could ever hope to meet.  If you come to our house, you’ll meet Beanie.  She’ll stomp toward you on her squat little legs, look you right in the eye and meow softly.  She’ll stare at you, wearing you down, until finally you give in and pet her on the head.  Beanie loves being petted, even on her stomach.  She’s so docile and loving; sometimes she purrs so loudly that we have to turn up the volume on the TV.  (If we’re watching TV, she’s almost always sitting with or on one of us.)

Beanie’s a little weird about sniffing your hand, though.  She seems to have a sensitive sniffer, and often seems offended by smells; she’ll recoil at an extended hand.  This is a common thing to do, offer your hand to an animal so they can sniff it first, and it might look like Beanie is slightly repulsed by your presence.  Don’t be fooled, though; she loves everybody.  She just doesn’t necessarily like the way they smell.

Beanie often seems put out by the fact that she’s so far below us, walking on the floor when we’re apparently up in the heavens.  She’ll follow us around and meow pitifully, or sit on the floor in the bathroom while I do my makeup or brush my teeth, staring at me sadly.  Finally, I give in and pick her up; I carry her around the house with me, or I put her on the counter so she can watch me.  She settles in happily and starts purring; no more meows, no more sad looks.  Beanie really needs to just be carried around the house in a sling, the way I used to carry the kids when they were babies.  To make Beanie happy, all you have to do is pay attention to her.

Beanie wants to know why she's on the floor like a CAT, geez.

Beanie wants to know why she’s on the floor like a CAT, geez.

And don’t make her sniff your hand.


Snippets from a Sunday in November

I’m planning our Thanksgiving menu, which currently consists of ridiculous amounts of food for the four of us.  I don’t care; leftovers are one of the best parts of Thanksgiving.  I calculated how many pie crusts I need and how much butter; I nailed down an appetizer.  After all that planning, I was horrified to realize I forgot to write stuffing on the list.  Stuffing, one of my favorite components of the meal!  (Shakes head, wonders about self.)


I’m still counting calories over here, a month and a half later.  I’m happy to report that I am WAY less bitchy and obsessive than I was when I did Weight Watchers; I’m also losing weight more consistently (slowly but consistently) and not doing the thing where I feel like I’ve starved myself all week and then gained two pounds, you know?  That was always discouraging.  I’m giving a big thumbs up for ease of use.  Just be careful how you set it up, if you do use it.  I did the thing where I put in my current weight and then how much weight I wanted to lose per week, and let it calculate my calories for me.  (As a side note, it yelled at me when I said I wanted to lose two pounds a week.  “THAT’S NOT ENOUGH CALORIES PER DAY, CRAZY WOMAN!”  Being short sucks sometimes.)

What happened, though, was every time I updated to a new, lower weight, it would also lower my allotted number of calories per day.  Since I’m super-short (barely 5 feet 1 inch), my calorie count was inching down to just over 1,000 calories per day.  I was starting to get lightheaded at points, so I did some reading and apparently a woman of my age and size needs 1200 calories just to keep the ole body functioning.  Anything less and my body thinks it’s starving, which defeats the purpose.

So I switched things around and set my daily calories at a fixed 1200 per day.  That seems to work for me; combined with exercise, I’m losing about a pound a week with no hunger or lightheadedness.

On a related note, one of the things I love about the site is that you can enter your own recipes in and use those calorie counts.  I was being lazy and using someone else’s calorie count for homemade honey wheat bread, which was something like 125 calories per slice.  (Homemade bread has more calories than store-bought, but the better taste is worth it IMHO.)  I finally got off my butt and entered Dave’s bread recipe in and was ecstatic to see that it’s only 80 calories per slice.  And that’s with a slice even bigger than the ones I was giving myself before.  So yay, homemade bread.

Still no idea if it’s helped my cholesterol levels (they screwed up my blood test on Friday and I have to go back tomorrow to have it re-done) but there’s been a positive effect on my high blood pressure.  I’m not sure if it’s the exercise (probably is), but it was 110/60 at my doctor’s appointment on Friday, and I was a nervous wreck.  I get nervous just looking at the building my doctor works out of; once I set foot inside my heart just starts pounding.  Usually my BP is about 135/90 or a little higher, so when I told Dave what it was on Friday he was ready to check me into the hospital.  If it stays low, maybe I can even go off medication.


If you’re looking for a stocking stuffer for someone who cooks, I highly HIGHLY recommend a Recipe Rock.  I’m not linking to one because I’m not trying to make any money off referrals or anything, but if you do a search it’ll come right up.  Seriously, I use mine every day.  Just don’t lose the little magnet ball ‘cause, you know, you need that to make it work.

This is the Recipe Rock I have ... love the red color!

This is the Recipe Rock I have … love the red color!


We’re having a weird November day here – we woke up to temperatures in the 60s and lots of wind, and then some big storms moved into the area.  Of course, I’m missing all of it – it seems like nearly every time a big storm comes through I’m au natural (aka deaf), either because it’s nighttime and I’m in bed, or because I’ve taken a shower and I’m waiting for my hair to air-dry (usually one or two hours).

I got out of the shower and Dave excitedly told me about everything I missed (our bathroom has no window so between being deaf and not being able to see outside, I was clueless).  He described how the wind was so loud it sounded like a train, and showed me our neighbor’s back yard, which is festooned with pieces of siding that flew off the house next door.

A little while later, while it was still raining and windy but not tornado-like, he grabbed my arm and pulled me toward the patio door.  There was nothing there except a leaf plastered to the glass outside.  “Aw,” he said.  “Goldie was here just a second ago!”  (If you remember, Goldie is the outside/feral cat who lives under our deck and rebuffs our advances.)  Dave went back to the living room to finish watching his football game.

I dug around and found a cat carrier; during a break in the game, I showed it to Dave.  “What’s that for?” he wondered.

“Well, in case Goldie comes back and it gets really nasty, she can walk into the carrier from outside and at least be safe from the weather.”  I knew how ridiculous it sounded even as I said the words, but I gave him a hopeful smile.

I may not have been able to hear it, but I do believe that man laughed uproariously.


Hearing With My Eyes

Dave and I headed back to the VA hospital on Monday for his dermatology appointment.  During his Hepatitis C treatment, a spot on his back started to change and the doctor wanted him to have it looked at.  It was always a little gnarly-looking, but during treatment it would randomly bleed and it developed more of a cauliflower shape.  (He’s had this mole-like thing for, he figures, around 20 years or more.)

I was a little worried, I admit; being the worrier that I am, I had frequently Googled ‘skin cancer’ and I was pretty sure that’s what he had.  The doctor came in and we talked for a bit; our conversation was going so smoothly that neither of us bothered to fill her in on our respective hearing losses.  We usually don’t mention it unless we’re having trouble hearing/understanding somebody; at the hospital, that would usually be a doctor or nurse with a heavy accent or tendency to talk to us while they’re looking away (writing or typing or whatever).

The dermatologist took a look at Dave’s back and casually said, “Oh yeah, that’s a basal cell carcinoma.”  Before I could freak out, she went on to say that it’s really common, easily treated and usually isn’t the type to spread.  She proceeded to look over the rest of his body and found one more spot that she said was a very early stage of basal cell carcinoma, on the top of his head.

As this was all happening, I was following what she said very easily.  She didn’t have an accent and she spoke clearly.  I really felt like I didn’t have a hearing loss at all; it’s very easy to get lulled into thinking you’ve reached a point where you don’t need accommodations anymore.

She explained that she was going to take a biopsy of the thing on Dave’s back, and we’d get the results in about a week; depending on how invasive it was, he’d either have it scraped off or cut out.  Then she turned away and slipped a blue mask over her mouth.  After that, it was like 70% of the conversation dropped away for me.  I could keep up by catching a word here and there and guessing at the content of the rest of her sentence, but it was so much work.

At one point, she turned away completely and asked a question.  I could tell it was a question by the inflection in her voice, but I hadn’t understood even one word of what she said.  Dave gazed at me over her shoulder, raising his eyebrows in a “What do I say?!” kind of way.  He hadn’t caught the question fully himself.  I had to shrug and mouth, “I don’t know!”  Finally he started telling her about our canning adventures; he had guessed that she’d asked what our plans were for the day and apparently he guessed correctly, because she continued the conversation with no ‘What the heck?!’ expression on her face (what we usually see when we respond inappropriately to an unheard question).

I could follow her a little better when I knew what the subject of the conversation was, but I was still having to work very hard to keep up.  If she had asked me a question directly, I would have definitely told her I was deaf and hearing with cochlear implants, and needed to see her lips.  But she slipped the mask off fairly quickly and, once again, our conversation became 100% clear to me.  She went on to zap Dave’s head with liquid nitrogen (he was not pleased!) and gave us instructions on taking care of the area where she took the biopsy.

The whole experience really made it clear how much I still use visual clues to ‘hear.’  I can go for so long with no problems because I spend most of my time with Dave, and I can carry on a conversation with him from another room – I’m so used to his voice, I don’t need to see his face to understand.  My cochlear implants work so well in most situations that I can get lulled into feeling like my hearing is 100% normal with them.  Then I have a situation like the one at the dermatologist’s office, and I get served a little slice of humble pie.

It’s all good – no complaints here; believe me, I will never complain about my cochlear implants!  I just need to remember that my eyes are just as important as my ears in my whole hearing experience.

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