Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas...



...from my family to yours. I'm so grateful for every one of you that has touched my life this past year...I hope your holidays are precious and filled with joy and fun (oh, and lots of yummy food, too!). Much love to you all! :)

Monday, December 22, 2008

Early Bird registration ends soon!!!

I hope you all know by now that the 2009 Hearing Loss Association convention, celebrating SHHH/HLAA's 30th birthday, will be right here in Tennessee...June 18th-21st, in Nashville, at the beautiful Gaylord Opryland Resort and Hotel!
If you haven't ever been to a Hearing Loss Association convention, I hope you'll consider attending this one. I attended my first HLAA convention in June of 2007 in Oklahoma City, OK. It was literally a life-changing experience for me. I had never been to an event with other deaf and hard of hearing people...at that time I had never even been to an HLAA meeting...and it was such a unique experience. For the first time in my life I wasn't different from everyone else...the people all around me had hearing loss just like I did. They didn't mind repeating themselves. They knew to look at me when they were talking to me and didn't all talk at once. They tried their best to include me in all conversations because they knew what it was like to miss out on the fun and they wanted me to be included. All of the workshops were captioned and interpreted so that nobody missed a thing. It was the first time I had ever been in an environment where I didn't have to struggle to keep up with what was going on around me and I just felt so at home knowing that I was in the company of people that understood what I was feeling because THEY HAD LIVED IT. I came home much more confident, more comfortable with myself, armed with new information about the latest technology, and blessed with many new friends. It was just an incredible experience!
Kicking off this year's convention will be keynote speaker Dr. Vint Cerf, the vice president of Google, who will be speaking to us on technology and hearing assistance, including the role of mobile, internet-enabled devices. The convention has quite a few workshops offered on many topics, including technology, relationships, health and wellness, and several others. This year there will also be several workshops geared specifically towards young adults between the ages of 18-35 on issues relating to them. When the workshops are over for the day, the social events begin. You will not want to miss this!!! You can find out more...including all the information you'll need to know to register and about the hotel...here. If you register before Dec. 31st, you can take advantage of the Early Bird discount...$50.00 off the registration price.
If you have any questions, PLEASE don't hesitate to ask...I would love to help as much as possible. I'd love to see every one of you there...if you've never been to a convention before, 2009 is the year to go!!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Well, pooh!

I was going to write a post for the one year anniversary of my activation and today was supposed to be the big day. The 22nd, I thought to myself...the big day. So I am tripping down memory lane, looking back in the blog to read what I had to say one year ago today, and pft, it was the 20th. I should have known...I kept thinking it was the Tuesday before Thanksgiving last year, and didn't know how in the world it could go from being on a Tuesday one year to being on a Saturday the next. I am sick, people, with a cold/sinus infection thing, and have been feeling really icky the past few days, so that's my story, and I'm sticking to it :). I knew it was bound to happen...with three little girls sick my number was bound to come up sometime. I am also in possession of one really sore eye...Claire was trying some High School Musical number or another tonight and poked me in the eye with her fingernail, scratching it pretty good. It's red and sore enough to be a constant reminder, but thankfully I can see with no problems. We were supposed to have family pictures made tomorrow but they were postponed...it's a good thing, I think, as I seem to be falling apart!
Anyhow, one year ago Thursday Susan put my shiny new electrodes through their paces one at a time and then, with the flip of a switch, fired them all up and sound flooded my brain for the first time in eight months. After a few seconds of outright hilarity at the way my new ear sounded, I was just awestruck by the wonder of it all...it worked perfectly, just as it was supposed to. It sounded different, yes...but I was hearing sounds. In the first few days I heard environmental sounds that I had never heard before and heard voices with a clarity that I had never had before. I was one of the fortunate ones that had exceptional results from the very beginning...I think because I was only without sound for a few months and the brain was READY to hear sound on that side again!! I have never looked back...it's a decision that I am so glad I made and would do it again in a second (although with both ears done to my satisfaction, I'm in no hurry to do it again any time soon ;)).
A lot can change in a year...I have gained so much independence, so much more confidence...I've gotten pretty good with the phone, pretty good at hearing the kids in the back seat (not always a good thing). It's gone by really fast...hard to believe...and I'm excited to think about all the exciting new things that it will bring me in the future! :)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Another tune-up! :)

I went to Vanderbilt today for another "tune-up", as I call them. Susan asked if I wanted to do both ears again and I told her that I thought we really needed to as my "good" ear was starting to sound flat. It's amazing that that little bit of sound that I had coming in with my new ear was enough to change the entire balance. She adjusted the good ear until we had it sounding clear and melodious again and then we got to work on the newer ear. I was VERY excited that while I wasn't able to raise the sensitivity in the lower frequencies, we made some pretty good gains in the higher ones. We were actually able to raise the overall volume a bit this time without it sounding too loud. Then we put the two ears together and found that the good ear needed some tweaking with the newer ear's adjustments, so we worked on it a bit longer, and voila! it sounded great!! I usually leave the office with a new map sounding great and by the time I get home it sounds scrambled and I am worn out...but this time we must have done something right, because I haven't struggled with it too much. I did start getting a little overtired in the middle of the day but a jolt of caffeine perked me up enough to keep going. I had a couple more appointments after that so I was moving too fast to get too tired!
In fact...I was listening to my John Denver CD on the way home...the one that I have nearly worn out playing it over and over and over and over again in the car between home and ASL class, home and meetings, etc...and I was hearing words to some of the songs that I hadn't ever heard before!! Awesome...not only are both ears working...they're working fairly well together at last!
I was changing from a sweater to a t-shirt this afternoon...the weather got warmer than I thought it would and managed to knock the magnet off my good ear, rendering me instantly deaf on that side. I was singing at the time (all the kids were gone so there was nobody there to tell me to be quiet) and I got a shock when I realized that I could still hear myself with my newest ear and it didn't sound too bad...that the volume only sounded a little soft and it was almost recognizable as a tune (of course, that's assuming that what I was singing was tuneful to begin with ;)). I have put off "one-on-one" time with the new ear, because I didn't get enough volume from it before for it to be useful in situations with the kids, etc. Now that it's getting loud enough that I can actually take the sound I'm getting and combine it with my lipreading skills, I think I'm going to try working it out by itself for an hour or so every day. The improvement today has made me so excited and has inspired me to try harder!
It's been a crazy week...we have some dear friends who are dealing with personal struggles, I've been back and forth a lot (going to Nashville again tomorrow, in fact...I'm about ready to move there!), and now Ellie is acting like she has the flu. The CDC says that flu hasn't hit Tennessee yet, so I'm not positive...will wait and see how she's doing tomorrow :).
I DO plan to write on the ALDA convention...I didn't mean to get this far behind! :)

Friday, November 7, 2008

Don't try this at home!

My eight-year old, Claire, asked me before I left for Chicago if I would eat lunch with her at school one day. I promised her that I would when I got home, so yesterday I kept my word. When I arrived at the school I was seated at the visitors' table, which coincidentally is the hooligan table...the table where the troublemakers sit. One particularly adorable little hooligan was sitting beside me and I kind of had my back to him, talking to Claire and her cousin Alexis, who were sitting across from me. Claire told me once, "I don't think they know you're deaf"...apparently, they were talking to me and I wasn't hearing them. So I turned around and the little one next to me had his shirt pulled up, navel exposed, in an effort to entertain me. I kinda rolled my eyes and turned back around. A few seconds later I felt a poke at my shoulder and turned around to find him waggling his tongue at me. I got out a half-hearted grin and turned back to the girls. Another poke a few seconds later, and he had his eyes rolled back in his head.
At this point I decided that action was called for...and I borrowed a clean fork from Claire and placed it against the side of my head...where it stuck. I had it at a bad angle and it fell off, but I had his attention. I tried it again, a little more balanced this time...and it stayed. His eyes grew to the size of saucers, and he said, "you must have a magnet in there!"
I affirmed that yes, I did...I didn't want him trying it at home, after all...and while I had the attention of the entire bunch I took the opportunity to explain how CIs worked and to teach them the "I Love You" sign (the little boy sitting next to Alexis promptly turned to her with stars in his eyes and flashed the sign like a pro). I told the little one next to me that he was sitting next to a bona fide cyborg, then told him that I needed to eat my lunch. I didn't hear another peep out of him for the rest of the meal...I think I won that contest hands down! ;)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

One year ago today...

I woke up at my friend Shari's house, got dressed, and was at the surgical center in downtown Nashville at 6:30 AM. A couple of hours later, I was out like a light and my newest onboard computer was being installed. I woke up with an earache but it was quickly alleviated by some awesome pain meds and the nurses had me on my feet and out the door ASAP. I felt pretty good...in fact, we drove around Sonic on the way home for lunch.
I recovered quickly...I had a good bit of pain and soreness, but very little vertigo, which was a great thing in my book. Two weeks later I was switched on, and the rest, as they say, is history. I was able to not only hear but hear WELL straight out of the gate, with an incredible 96% speech comprehension in quiet score two weeks after activation. This implant has been incredible...in the past year it has simply given me my life back...plus more. I never dreamed I would hear as well as I do...some days I still hear tiny sounds and think, "I can't believe I'm hearing this!"...actually, MOST days I feel that way :). I can talk on the telephone...I can listen to the radio...I can hear music...I can hear my children talking to me all through the house. I am in awe nearly every single day at my gift of hearing...I definitely don't take this for granted...what a gift!
To all of you at Advanced Bionics...YOU ROCK...you have no idea what you have given me...not just hearing, but so much more...a second chance at life, as it were :). THANK YOU!!!!!
A shout out to my friend Wayne Roorda as well...BigBear, as many know him, had his bilateral surgery today! He seems to be recovering amazingly well...no pain at all, and feeling great! I am so thrilled for him!! :)

Saturday, October 25, 2008

A busy week ahead!

Sorry I haven't updated in entirely too long. It has just been so busy here! I'll try to keep it brief (BWAHAHAHAHAAAA!!!) and just sort of let you know what's been going on!
My newest ear is staying busy. I still don't get a lot of volume with it, but I am wearing it faithfully...if I have on one ear, I have on the other. I don't have much comprehension with it, but I have faith that that will come in time. I'm used to the two of them together now...I don't have the stress of having two sounds coming from two different areas anymore...they work together, which is awesome! I go for my next mapping on Nov. 5th, but don't expect a lot of huge changes, since things are sounding pretty good now :).
*I* am staying busy...I'm leaving Tuesday for Chicago, and have been trying frantically to get everything done before I leave! I finally bought me a winter coat last night. I have put it off for several years...I am not a coat person. I like sweaters and layers but can't stand being bundled in something heavy. However, after being told repeatedly that I would need a coat in Chicago, I found one at Wal-Mart that will do the trick! Thanks to all of you who supported Abbie to go to the ALDA convention. Not only is she going, but we are going to be roommates. There was actually a big mix-up about roommates, and I found out two weeks ago that I didn't even HAVE a roommate (we actually had to call to confirm that I still had a ROOM...a big mix-up!). I asked ALDA if they would put Abbie and me together if she was able to go, and it worked out perfectly. You KNOW there will be pictures! :)
I don't know if I have mentioned it on this blog, but I am the chairperson for the Local Host Committee for the 2009 HLAA convention here in Nashville. I really kinda consider myself just the co-chair, because I have some AWESOME help and they know more about this kind of thing than I do :). We have started having monthly meetings about the best way to get publicity, delegating who's doing what, etc., and our first one was this past week. We had a great turnout of volunteers and a really good brainstorming session. The national HLAA office is doing all the actual convention work...our job is to spread the word as much as we possibly can and roll out the welcome wagon when the convention gets here! :)
Might as well get some free publicity here! Here is the link to all things convention. If you want to present, information is there for presenters. Hotel and registration information is all there. Registration is cheapest before Dec. 31st. If you want more information than is shown here, please ask and I'll try to get it for you! :)
I am still taking my ASL classes on Tuesday nights. I really love them and have learned SO much! I will miss this week's class as I will be in Chicago by the time class starts, hopefully. The next class will be a Silent Dinner at a mall in Nashville and we will have an opportunity to get together with native ASL users and talk to them and learn from them! It will be on my hubby's birthday so I have asked him to come along with me...we'll go vote, have dinner, and then muddle through a night of signing together :)! (Hubby gets a new president for his birthday this year! What a treat!) ASL 1 will be over the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. I do plan to take ASL 2 if it's on a night I can go...I am really enjoying learning it. I make a lot of mistakes, occasionally some really funny ones...but I'm getting there!
If you're a person with hearing loss between the ages of 18-35, please go check out HearingLossNation. This is a new website that has been started by HLAA geared specifically towards young adults! The site has been up and running for several weeks now and we are trying to build membership now. I am TECHNICALLY too old for the "Young Adult" program but they are pretending not to notice for now, since I'm enthusiastic about helping them get it started :). If you've never joined HLAA, no matter what your age, it's a great organization...check it out. However, since more hearing loss is more common and therefore more accepted among mature adults, teenagers and young adults often feel much more isolated and different from their hearing peers. HLAA is trying to establish a community for young adults to hang out and get to know each other better and share their stories and experiences. Check it out! :)
Also, I thought this was noteworthy: (copied from HLAA's E-News)

"HLAA Members Lynn Rousseau and Cindy Dyer will be honored with the Oticon's 2008 Focus on People Awards in Denver, October 24, 2008. The awards are given annually to people with hearing loss who are voted exceptional among their peers.

Lynn Rousseau, Gainsville, Florida, won first place in the advocacy category for her work with HLA-Florida.

Cindy Dyer, Alexandria, Virginia, won first place in the Adult Category for her achievements in the field of photography and graphic design. Cindy is the graphic designer/photographer for Hearing Loss Magazine."

I got to meet Lynn when I went to Florida for the Walk4Hearing...and I am a huge fan of Cindy's blog. She is the one that took Abbie's pictures for the Hearing Loss Magazine...and her work is phenomenal! Check out her blog and congratulate her...tell her I sent you!!

Fall has definitely arrived in Middle Tennessee...I have been going through winter hand-me-downs, washing, shopping for necessities. I have GOT to take the girls shoe shopping when I get back from Chicago...they need new Sunday shoes. I love this time of the year...cool, but not cold...soup and sweater weather! It IS hard to get out of bed in the mornings but I swapped out our regular sheets for the flannel ones today and, while that won't make getting up any easier, it will sure be cozy sleeping at night!
OK...that's all I can think of for now...headed to bed! Will try to post from Chicago...if I don't manage to pull that off I'll fill you in when I get back! :)
Love you all! :)

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Can you help?

The end of this month I am planning to be in Chicago for the Association of Late Deafened Adults (ALDA) conference. I have wanted to check out ALDA for over a year now and had a rare opportunity given to me this year...I obtained a scholarship and my expenses are all paid. If it weren't for that, I wouldn't be able to go. I am so grateful for the opportunity...these conferences are a gold mine of information and support. The workshops are SO educational and informative and the support and encouragement of being around people who have stood in our shoes and understand where we're coming from is just out of this world.
I love these conventions, but they're pricey. I actually went to work at Wal-Mart last fall to fund this summer's HLAA convention without taking any money from my family's pockets. Nobody ever complained about the money I spent on it...but I just didn't want to take my family's vacation money or the like just for ME...I would have felt too selfish. I felt that every hour I spent at Wal-Mart was worth it because I knew that the convention would be such a huge payoff for me...the boost I get from being with people that "get it" is just unreal. When I found out that I had been chosen for one of ALDA's all-expenses-paid newcomer scholarships, I was ecstatic...what a great gift!!!
Abbie over at Chronicles of a Bionic Woman is trying to raise funds to go to this same conference. Abbie wants to go for many of the same reasons I do...to be encouraged and to encourage...but Abbie goes a step farther...she shares what she learns with us back at home. I've said before that of the Jen/Abbie duo, Abbie is the brains of the operation...she is able to break down some of the complicated information presented at conventions and bring it home and share it with the rest of us. She has posted on various topics on her blog such as Bluetooth technology, phone compatibility ratings, Web CapTel, and various bits of ADA information that I just can't wrap my brain around. She doesn't just take in this information for herself...she is out to share what she knows and help make the world a little easier for the deaf/hard of hearing people around her. Her blog is not only a fun read, but a wealth of information. She contributes so much to the deaf/hard of hearing world around her...and now we have a chance to give back! She is trying to raise 1,000.00 to cover her expenses to the ALDA convention...so far she is over halfway there. Her goal is to have it all by October 13th...we have a few more days...we can do it!!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Two out of three ain't bad :)

I got one video done Thursday night, and one done today. I would have gotten more done but I have had computer issues....grrrrrrrr. I have a brand new laptop that has been coughing and spitting and crashing all day today...ugh. I will try to get the third one up in the next few days...but I am not promising anything :)
For now...enjoy the first two! :)


Friday, September 26, 2008

YouTube videos are up!...

...here!

I have the first one captioned, and am working on the other two. I will try to get them posted here tomorrow night :).
I had my second map today. We set my first program at Hi-Res P, Fidelity 120...my second program was just a louder version of the first. Then I asked Susan to set my third program at Hi-Res S in hopes that a simpler program with less stimulation would be easier to adapt to, and when she started setting the levels on it I was surprised at how much better it was. We got to looking and it turns out that entirely by accident, we had set the programming at 50/50...which means that half of the sound was coming in through my T-mic and half of it was coming through the external mic on the implant itself. That has turned out to be MUCH easier to listen to, and we were actually able to increase my overall volume using that. Katie was in the bedroom tonight talking to her cousin Bethany on the phone and, just using the new ear, I was able to make out a few words here and there. I am thrilled! Not bad at all for 48 hours out! :)
The hardest part has been adjusting to the whole bilateral business. I had gotten used to the way my good ear sounded, and combining the two is taking a bit of doing. Factoring in that the two ears sound different, that it's been thirty years since my brain has worked two ears at the same time, and that one of my ears doesn't work exactly like the other one does, it has occasionally been overwhelming. Today I actually had some balance issues after my mapping...if I took one ear off, or turned my good ear down, I would get unbalanced...it was the strangest feeling! I had heard of people having balance issues with cochlear implants, but since I've never had them before, it had never occurred to me that I would. After being reassured that it was normal, I quit stressing over it and am just muddling my way through. I did take a long nap this afternoon...without ears...and woke up feeling a lot better. I had forgotten how discombobulated I felt the first few days with my good ear...I am feeling it with this one, too...and this time we're trying to work two at once. I may take a lot of naps in the next few days!
As far as the sensations I feel (and yes, DJ, I hear sounds with them, they're not just feelings) here's the odd thing: I only feel them when I wear the new ear alone. When I'm wearing it with the good ear, I don't feel them. This is SO totally different from the first time around when I couldn't wear the two ears together at all. I don't have another map for about another week and a half...so I will have time to adjust to what I have now. I am doing lots of listening therapy...I just love the Direct Connect cables. I plug right into the laptop and can listen to books on CD or music with no outside interference...it's so nice!
Will try to get those captioned videos up soon...watch this space! :)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Surrounded by sound!

Sorry it's taken me so long to get this post up. We went to lunch after activation and when I got home I started working on the video. That has been largely unsuccessful so far...the model of Handycam that we borrowed isn't compatible with Windows Vista (I am stating for the record that I hate Vista, argh) so I had to go kick the old laptop into shape, install the Handycam drivers on it, and upload video. The first time I did it it saved it into a movie the size of a postage stamp, which wasn't exactly what I had in mind, so now I am doing it again, and it is taking ALL. NIGHT. LONG. to do.
Then we all got ready for dinner, went out to dinner at our local Mexican restaurant and then went to church. Back home now, waiting on the video to upload, still. I will have to get it off that computer and over here on this one where I can edit it a bit in Windows Movie Maker and upload it to YouTube. Did I mention already that I hate Windows Vista? I can't even make my laptop file share or printer share. For crying out loud!
We got to Vanderbilt right on time this morning, and Susan was fairly busy so we ended up not getting back there until around 9:45. I had been furnished with a new processor, new coil, and new batteries, so that was a real treat...the only problem that we had was that AB had sent two processors, and in return they wanted me to send back the original left ear processor AND my beloved right ear processor, which I wasn't giving up, no way, no how. It was a mixup of some sort, obviously, so Susan got on the phone with them and sorted all that out, and then we got to work.
It was actually a little confusing when she started the tones...because I actually heard them before I felt them. I wasn't really sure if I was feeling anything until they started getting louder, and then I could feel the sensation. I wasn't too surprised at it...I had expected to feel something. It was nothing at all like the first activation when I only felt sensation and heard nothing. We went through the rest of the tones and I felt something with every one of them...again, not surprising. I was delighted that they had a nice sound quality to them though!
Then came the actual turn-on...I braced myself for the shock but it wasn't as bad as I was afraid it would be. I definitely felt the sound but Susan's voice was also coming through really well. We discussed it for a few seconds and then she said, "let me try something". I am not sure what she did...but with a few clicks she managed to eliminate nearly all of the sensation I had at that particular volume (several sounds had NO sensation at all...I tested them out by banging stuff on the desk in my own little personal science project, which was highly entertaining, apparently ;)). Then I told her to raise the volume, and the sensation came back, so she clicked again, and most of it dropped out again.
This is a HUGE contrast to the way it was before...before we took the first implant out, AB actually sent a rep to do integrity testing and he and Susan slaved over that ear for the better part of an hour, trying this program strategy and that, and never managed to make so much as a dent in the sensation. I have long accepted that for me to have been deaf as long as I have, a little sensation might be there at first that might take some getting used to...but what I had before was completely overwhelming. It got to the point that I chose to spend the vast majority of my time in total quiet rather than to wear the processor. This isn't that way...as of today I have some "normal" sounds that don't have an accompanying sensation. Granted, I have a very quiet program...my audiogram today looked to be in around the 70 dB level...but I am delighted to have real sounds! My own voice has no sensation at all, which hasn't ever happened before. It looks like I'll be starting small and working my way up, but I am THRILLED to be where I am now...this is a great starting place.
I actually wasn't able to wear the two ears together before...because they were so different. I couldn't handle the sensation on one side and sound on the other, so I gave up the sensation in favor of sound. I've worn the two together all day long today, and besides a slight headache, I have had no problems. Everything seems much LOUDER today...and everything just sounds different. The sounds I have coming in on the right and left sides don't match up very well and it is SO hard to get used to! I know in a few days the brain will blend the two together a little better and I won't even notice the differences...but right now I can :). I am sitting now hooked up to the laptop with two ears hooked up to two direct connect cables on the laptop (it has two headphone jacks...bonus!). I'm listening to John Denver singing "Looking For Space" on YouTube and marveling at how it sounds EXACTLY like I remember it (granted, I'm hearing most of it through one ear!) and trying to refrain from singing out loud (my people are all asleep and would not appreciate my efforts!). I am jumping in with both feet...I know that this time things are going to be different and I am going to do everything I can to make it work this time. I am determined...I am going to be bilateral...I want to be surrounded by sound!
OK...now that I have the video on the computer...YouTube is down...ugh! I'll get it up ASAP...promise :)
More posting soon!

Eight hours......

...yeah, yeah, I know I should be asleep...but I'm hyper. Eight more hours and we'll know...one way or another. It's anyone's guess what I'll hear...pray for me!
I'll update as soon as I'm able...and we will video the whole thing, so stay tuned...perhaps this time I'll be able to figure out how to upload video a little faster than I did last time! :)
Eight hours...after almost two years of wondering and waiting, the clock's ticking down. I hope I'll be able to sleep at all tonight...

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Quick update....

(you know me well enough to know this will be another epic, right?)
Five more days until activation...*whew*. I'm quite frankly a basket case about it...this could go either way. We will tape it, and I'll probably post it no matter what the results are, although how fast I do it depends on how quickly I remember how to upload it from the camera :).
Interesting side note...I was briefly concerned as to whether or not we might have issues getting to activation! A rumor started yesterday that Nashville would run out of gas this weekend...and people were lined up six and seven deep at pumps last night...in some areas cars were parked on the road in line. I think that most of the stations here in town are either low or out of all but the premium stuff, and more isn't expected for another couple of days. We tried to get a little last night for our monster van and the BP down the street was rationing it...eight gallons to a customer! It is just insane! Our little car is full and we very rarely drive the van much during the week...so we are good to go...no worries here!
Our second ASL class on Tuesday was just as much fun as the first...this time everyone got a little more relaxed and we got to know each other a bit better. We actually stood around and talked a bit afterwards and just had fun hanging out. This coming Tuesday we're supposed to go up to the League in downtown Nashville for a project set up by the Deaf community called, "Deaf, Deaf World". Talking is strictly prohibited...sign only! You know how hard that will be for me!?!? Very limited sign vocabulary and a biiiiiiiiiiiiiiiig mouth...perhaps I should tape my lips together?
OK...a couple of items of interest: First up: Got a funny story about your hearing loss/deaf/CI adventures? Val Blakely and Rachel Chaikhof are teaming up and putting together a book...proceeds to go charity. Go here to read more! Believe it or not, I can't think of a single funny story, although I know there have to be millions of them. Maybe my hubby, kids, or mom can help me remember! Deadline is Sept. 30th...so hurry!

And this from Brenda Battat, director of HLAA:

"In our Labor Day mailing to you about how frustrating air travel can be, it looks like we hit a hot button! Many of you wrote back complaining about lack of access. People told us stories about missing announcements at gates, missing their plane, or missing on board announcements that would have saved them from missing their connections. Some people are so frustrated they are ready to sue.

Well, we hear you! We are working with the US Department of Transportation (DOT) who tell us they are not receiving enough complaints. They think people with hearing loss are doing just fine with the airlines. Let’s send them a message and let’s make it loud and clear so they can hear us!"

There was a form attached to the e-mail to register your complaints with the DOT, but I couldn't figure out how to attach it to Blogger, so here is the next best thing: the official DOT form. I have only flown alone a handful of times, and haven't yet had any trouble. Thanks to a tip from Laurie, when I fly alone I go to the counter and ask for a pre-boarding pass for people with disablities. That way I am guaranteed that I can get a seat where I can see the flight attendant and hear what she's saying. I do tell the attendants that I'm deaf in the event that something urgent comes up, but I haven't ever had a problem.
HLAA has a webpage that deals with airlines and advocacy, but it seems to be down, so when they get it back up and running I'll post it :)
My Claire has a birthday today...eight years old...and we are taking her out for her birthday tonight. She is in love with my iPod Shuffle so I got her her own little mp3 player...pink! We asked her where she wanted to go and she picked Red Lobster. Expensive tastes that little girl has! :)
Gonna get off here and get ready...have a great weekend, all! :)

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

ASL Classes...Part 1!

I took SEE (Signed Exact English) waaaaay back in 197something when I was a little bitty thing. There wasn't a lot of need for me to use it, as I could hear well enough with my hearing aid to get by in a mainstream school environment (if I remember right, I didn't even get a teacher's aide until second grade). Signing is one of those "use-it-or-lose-it" things...very easy to get rusty...and it is an ever-evolving language as well. Years of neglect has made me way past rusty...I had forgotten all but the most basic signs. I've had an interest for a couple of years now in re-learning and have even picked up a couple of books on the subject. I have learned quite a few signs from Deaf and hard-of-hearing friends and it has just made me interested in learning more. I couldn't take the ASL 1 class last year because of a scheduling conflict, so I was thrilled when it fell on a Tuesday night this year...I am totally free on those nights :).
Tonight was the first class, and I am going to love this. There's the teacher, nine women, and one boy that looks to be around 20ish or so (definitely outnumbered). Two mothers with CI kids, one grandmother of a CI child (although she doesn't look old enough to be a grandmother!) and quite a few teachers' aides for a local school make up the bulk of the class. There are a handful that are there just because they want to learn the language, but most of us have a connection to someone who is deaf and/or hard of hearing and are working on communication skills. I am the only deaf member of the class...so that will be kinda interesting :).
We talked about the history of ASL...the different kinds of sign (SEE, cued speech, Pidgin Sign, etc), syntax, customs, body language, etc. We learned quite a few signs, but mostly we just covered it from an informative point of view tonight. We have a good group...everyone loosened up fast and we all had a good time...and I am looking forward to the next nine classes!
I really think we have a good teacher...Jackie started learning ASL in 1992, I believe she said, and has a college degree in it. She works for a video relay operator as an interpreter, so she has had a lot of experience and is just a gold mine of information. She will occasionally take a sign from the book (a newer edition is coming out this month, I believe) and say, "that's not how they sign it now...here's the short form" or something to that effect, and I like that. I know it will take me a long, long time to get either fluent or really comfortable with it...but I feel like she wants to help us get a really good grasp on it so our communication skills will be the best they can be.
This class ended up being my birthday present to me this year...I turned 37 today. It was a great way to spend the night. It is in a small town outside of Nashville that has nothing but a Sonic, but y'all know me...Sonic is all I need, really :).
The new ear is still healing great...I sleep on it all night, every night, stitches and all, and no pain. The incision occasionally gets kinda sore and the skin over the implant gets tender occasionally...since he moved it up it's taking a bit of getting used to again, but that won't last long :).
Off to bed...night, all! :)

Saturday, September 6, 2008

A first!

This morning I woke up late...entirely too much so, honestly. It's dark and cloudy outside and the weather was just right for sleeping. Usually, that's a bad thing...my morning headache is always worse than usual when I sleep like that. However, this morning I woke up with NO HEADACHE AT ALL...and I was sleeping on my new ear when I opened my eyes!!
The past few nights I've tried sleeping on the new ear but I think that fear more than anything kept me from it. Last night I was laying on my "good" side and was NOT sleeping well...when suddenly I realized that I had just flipped over and was sleeping on the new ear. I panicked a bit at first...and had to think about it for a second...was I in pain? how did it feel? and then realized that it felt fine...no worries...back to sleep!
So it's healing well on the outside, which is a great thing in and of itself. However, the really big thing here is that I wasn't able to sleep on that ear before surgery without pain and headaches! This is huge! I have already told several people that as far as I'm concerned, this surgery is a huge success, because when I touch my ear, it feels like a perfectly normal ear...for the first time in two years. No pain, no pressure, no anything. I was actually really lucky this time in that I had very little swelling (the magnet from my good CI sticks to the magnet site already), no numbness, no facial nerve stuff, no taste disturbances. The newness will wear off in a few days, I'm sure, but I keep touching that ear, expecting, I think, that something will happen and it will be like it was before, but no...this time around, it's different. That was the main reason I went through it all again. The discomfort the first time around drove me absolutely up the wall, and at one point I just wanted it OUT...I didn't care if they replaced it or not...I would have been happy if they had just taken it out. I had a hard time asking for help though, because I thought that most of it was just me. Ever heard the old story of the Princess and the Pea?
Well, I'm one of those people that are sensitive to almost everything, I'm not sure I could feel a pea under twenty mattresses...maybe a couple, though ;). Things bother me that the next person's not even going to notice. I thought that I was just going to have to deal with it until I had my second ear done and they were SO different that I knew the first one could be improved on. And the improvement is amazing...there is no comparison between the way it was before and the way it is now.
I am STILL refusing to get my hopes up that activation will be different than it was before. A couple of people have told me to "think positive" and "be optimistic" but I prefer to be realistic. I didn't have hearing in that ear for years. We know for sure that there was no hearing from the time I was four years old and onward, and the loss might have started even before then. The brain just wires itself differently sometimes over long periods of time. If I do get hearing this time around instead of sensation, believe me, I will be the happiest person on the planet, but I am not setting myself up for that. Instead, I've decided that this time I'm going to try my hardest to push through it. I have a new inspiration...a 14-year old girl named Amanda. Amanda had never had any hearing at all when she was implanted at age 14. When she was first activated, she only had twitching in her eye...no sound at all. That would have been enough to make me throw in the towel the very first day...ugh, I could not have stood that at all...but she managed to stick with that and she is now hearing some sounds with no sensations. Granted, my brain's a lot older than hers is, but she has inspired me to try harder to work with unfavorable circumstances. My attitude is a bit different this time around...my primary motivation was to get the pain out of my head, and that has been accomplished...I am THRILLED with that!!! Anything beyond that will just be icing on the cake!
I will need to really set a plan of action and stick with it...as I've mentioned before, I have a very low tolerance for uncomfortable things...but I want to make this work if there's any way I can do it.
I LOVE my new ear! At one week post-op...I can say that I'm SO GLAD I did it again! It has already been worth it! :)

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Brain dead!

...that's how I feel :). These pills that I'm on have slowed my brain down to a crawl. The past few days I haven't done much besides sleep, play on the computer, and read...anything requiring serious concentration has been out! I took the pills faithfully for a few days...the first day I fell asleep and let the medication run out and was sorry when I woke up in a lot of pain. I resolved then to just take them as prescribed and not feel bad about it. The first few days were really rough...somehow or another, my "good" CI ear got banged or scratched or SOMETHING during the process, and it was too sore to sleep on, so I didn't have a "good side"...I ended up trying to sleep flat on my back every night those first few nights, and that was tough. Last night was the first night that the "good" CI side was comfortable enough for me to sleep on it...and I crashed hard...slept for about 11 hours straight! I am not feeling the need for a nap today :)!
Taking the turban off was WONDERFUL...it took the pressure off and everything felt SO much better! I didn't take a good look at the incision until about 24 hours later, though, when I washed the hair for the first time...it looks identical to the way it did the first time around. He apparently didn't even bother preserving hair this time...he shaved himself a nice little landing strip on my head. I whined a bit to several of my CI buddies but am getting no sympathy from any of them, as they all think I got off entirely too lightly with my last surgery, when Dr. Haynes didn't shave anything at all!
The incision itself isn't too painful...the bony area around it and my neck are bruised and battered a bit, though, and that's where all the soreness comes in. When I took the turban off at 24 hours post-op, the swelling started...at 48 hours the side of my face was just huge and it stayed like that for probably a couple of days. Yesterday it was better, and today the swelling's gone. I still have some bruising behind the ear and the stitches are still visible, but other than that everything looks relatively normal. The site of the implant itself is incredibly itchy, for some reason. I have had a lot of issues with itching...painkillers seem to do that to me as a matter of routine...but most of it has settled down except for that area that houses the implant. I am assuming that it's because of the skin stretching and everything healing in there, but it makes me nuts. Abbie suggested that I get an ice pack for it, and that helped a lot...as long as it's cold, it doesn't itch. Dr. Haynes left a couple of stitches out this time where I could obsess over them...I think he is testing my patience. So far I have been able to keep my hands off them...I'm afraid of messing something up. We'll see how long that lasts! With my first CI surgery there were stitches all up and down that ear and I finally had to cut my fingernails so I'd leave them alone...they were just too much temptation.
Family and friends have been bringing dinner and hubby has been making sure I have everything I need, so it's been nice to just be able to relax. I'll probably get out for church tomorrow night...that will be the first time I've gotten out all week. I have been lucky not to have any really bad vertigo this time...I just get a bit unsteady when I first get up, but after that I'm good to go :). I still get tired very easily, but a lot of that has been due to not sleeping well...and the pain pills...once I get off those and get into a more regular sleeping pattern I think I'll feel a lot better!
Activation is Sept. 24th at 9 AM...three weeks from tomorrow! I have mixed emotions about it...but I'm mostly looking forward to it...it will be interesting and informative, for sure :).
OK...enough drugged drivel...thank you all for all your support and well-wishes over the past few days! Your comments have meant so much and have cheered me up tremendously! I love you all! ((hugs))

Friday, August 29, 2008

On the road to recovery! :)

I would have updated sooner, but last night after the surgery I was just about unconscious. I went to the pre-surgery holding room around 1 and went through all the routine questions, the bloodwork, the IV, the oh-so-adorable compression stockings. Around 1:50 they informed me that Dr. Haynes was in the building and started pushing my bed towards the OR. The anesthesiologist was walking beside me carrying a syringe, and I asked him, "Did you already put that in?" and he answered, "yep, sure did". I told him, "Funny, I thought it worked faster than that!" and he just grinned. About five seconds later, he turned around and said, "Now it's gonna work!" and right when he said that, my arms and legs turned icy and then my brain went numb. I laughed and said, "Yep...it's working". I remember him wheeling me into the OR and seeing a machine with letters on it. They allowed me to keep my processor on all the way into the OR, and the last thing I heard them say was "Breathe into this mask". I heard them say it, though...cool!!
The surgery started around 2:30 and I was out by 4:30. Apparently I slept all the way through recovery and all the way upstairs to the room I was in. The first time I remember waking up I asked hubby what time it was and he said "6:20". I told him that I was in a lot of pain, and told him we needed to get home...HearingJourney has a CI chat every Thursday night, and my muddy brain determined that I should be there at all costs. About that time the nurse shot my IV up with morphine and I was out like a light again. I woke up around 7 and told him that we REALLY NEEDED TO GO HOME. He said, "Are you ready to go? to which I responded, "let me sleep another five minutes" and crashed again. Then I woke up at 7:40, and this time managed to stay awake long enough to throw clothes on, be violently ill, and climb into a wheelchair for the ride to the car. I told hubby to stop and get me a drink somewhere (I had a Sprite during one of my alert moments, but was too sleepy to enjoy it or find the straw without help). I suggested that he stop down the road a bit, since downtown Nashville traffic can be crazy...then I fell asleep again. I woke up at the Sonic in Murfreesboro long enough to order a Mocha Java Chiller, but fell asleep AGAIN with it in one hand and my BlackBerry in the other. Every now and then someone would send a text message and the buzzing would wake me up. I'd get a drink and then peer groggily at the BB to see who the messages were from, but I literally could not read 'em...too zonked. When we got home I realized while getting out of the car that the Java Chiller wasn't meant to stay with me...ugh! It still wasn't as bad as it was after my first surgery...I was sick nearly non-stop for several hours that time...but this time I was loaded up on Antivert, a scopolamine patch, and Zofran...so I had at least a LITTLE help...it could have been much worse!!
I had intended to visit the HearingJourney chat room as soon as I got home, but instead I crawled into bed, jeans and all, and went to sleep again. I woke up around 11 looking for medication, then took some and headed back to sleep. I tossed and turned all night long...the surgery was done on the ear that I usually sleep on, AND the turban I was wearing was so tight that it was making my other CI ear very sore. The best way for me to sleep with no pain was flat on my back...but I can't sleep that way! I finally woke up around 9 this morning and have spent the day taking it easy, playing on the computer, reading magazines, eating chocolate and DRINKING COFFEE. I took the headwrap off around 7 PM...it was SO TIGHT that it was really adding to the whole pain thing. I felt better almost immediately. My hair looks absolutely horrible, though! I was allowed to wash it after 48 hours last time. I forgot to ask him how long I should wait this time, but I'm going to wait until it's been at least the full 48 before I do anything.
I have just a little vertigo, not much...the pain has settled down a bit since the turban came off. The surgeon said that he didn't see anything wrong with the previous one when he took it out...but he told hubby that he thought that giving it another shot was the thing to do as sometimes a reimplant changes things regardless of the problem. He told me yesterday morning that he was moving it up higher on my head as well...it was a bit lower than the other one and I had problems with the processor rubbing on it when I was still wearing it. I haven't dared to really try to find it just yet...there's a big knot on my head but I don't feel like messing with it right now :).
I was so groggy the early part of today that I couldn't write anything...I had a horrible time typing, because my fingers, eyes and brain were not working together at all! Think they're slowly starting to play nice again now that all the post-surgery stuff is washing out.
I'm posting some pictures in the Picasa Web Albums...check them out! :) Some of them are BAD...I simply COULD NOT stay awake! I'll probably post more over the next day or so...stay tuned!
Thanks for the prayers and well wishes and all the cups of coffee consumed on my behalf yesterday! It meant so much to have you all behind me! Again, I apologize for not posting sooner...I intended to do it last night but I couldn't even type an e-mail...too zonked!
I love you all! :)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Counting down the hours....

...until re-implant surgery. Right now, it's just a little less than 24 hours to go. I have to be in Nashville at 8:20 for a pre-op appointment, then drive over to Baptist Hospital for my surgery at 2. This will make my third venue for as many surgeries...I am slowly becoming familiar with every hospital in town! ;)
I saw Dr. Haynes last night at an open house for the Nashville League for the Deaf/Hard of Hearing and talked to him for a few. I asked him if he thought the surgery would be shorter because he wouldn't have as much drilling to do, and to my surprise he said that he didn't think it would be much different time-wise. He said that because of scar tissue, possible bone regrowth, and the time to actually remove the implant, it would work out about the same. I don't remember exactly how long it took last time (I was zonked when I woke up) but seems like it was about 3 hours or so. I will try to at least post something letting everyone know I'm home, but since it will be later in the day I imagine I'll be ready to hit the sheets when I get home! If something goes crazy I'll get my husband to contact either Abbie or Laurie...so if I don't post anything, check out their blogs :).
The Open House was neat...the League has a new CEO and it was great to get to see her again and talk to her, even if it was just for a short period of time...she had so many people to talk to!
While I was talking to Dr. Haynes, I got called away briefly, and when I turned back around, I did a double take...he was talking to a really special blast from my past. Ann Sitton was my very first full-time audiologist. I might have seen another one here or there at the very beginning, but Ann was the one that I saw on all my visits to the Bill Wilkerson Clinic in Nashville...when I was four years old. Ann was the first one to read me the classic "hot dog", "baseball", "sidewalk" and "cupcake".
"Miss Sitton" made all my earmolds and ordered all my hearing aids and I just LOVED her. She hasn't changed a bit, although I personally have gotten quite a bit taller since then. When I started losing the rest of my hearing back in March of 2006 I had my mom call her to see if she approved of our local audiologist's recommendation that we should get Dr. Haynes to implant me...and she heartily approved, which made my decision that much easier. I hadn't seen her in probably 14 years...the last time I saw her was when Will was a year old and I needed a new hearing aid. Soon after that we got a local audiologist and I didn't need to make the drive to Nashville anymore. It was GREAT to see her and catch up just a bit...Dr. Haynes filled her in on the implant situation and I got to talk to her a bit about my involvement with Advanced Bionics and HLAA.


Speaking of which, last night I got to spend some time with two awesome people from the HLAA national office! Nancy Macklin and Chris Sutton are in town checking out the Gaylord Opryland Hotel for the 2009 HLAA convention! I met Chris in Reno but had never met Nancy before. I went to the hotel to meet them and we hit it off right away. After a few minutes of visiting and "horsing around" (there is a picture to go with that...but it's not on my camera) and walking through the ENORMOUS HOTEL we located my car (it was in a no-park zone so we were relieved it was where I left it) and got in the car and headed for the League. Nancy and Chris got an impromptu tour of I-24 East...I took a wrong turn somewhere and was headed back towards my house for several miles before I realized my mistake! We all enjoyed a good laugh over that and then turned around and headed back the other way. We have nominated me "Person Who Should Not Drive The Airport Shuttle Bus" at next year's convention. Honestly, I even got lost in the hotel, so I suspect I will need my own personal tour guide at the convention. I wonder if they would pay for me to spend a few days there at the hotel getting the lay of the land a bit?
Nancy and Chris went to the League open house with me, then we and several of the Nashers went to Logan's for dinner. We ended up staying there until around 11 talking about convention stuff! Then I drove Nancy and Chris back to the hotel and headed home. I am SO looking forward to working with them over the next year and seeing them at the convention in June! :)
About to hop in the shower, then it's off to Mexican and church...then to drink that last cup of coffee before bed. Nothing to eat or drink after midnight...*sigh*. Thanks SO MUCH to all of you who have commented here, e-mailed, or posted on HearingJourney.com...I have such an incredible support system. I'm VERY grateful in particular to my family and to Laurie, Abbie, Sam, and Gloria...they listened to my concerns and encouraged me to try again...without them I might still be trying to get up the nerve to do it! Will catch you all on the other side...love you all!!
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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Weekend at Abbie's! :)

I took a little trip over the weekend...to New Jersey! I had been really missing Abbie and my hubby kindly suggested that I go visit her. He didn't have to ask me twice :). We started planning this trip about a month ago but it took this long to find the right weekend...we had church activities, Katie's birthday, the beginning of the school year, and the Nashville HLAA elections filling up the last few weekends. We settled on the date and on July 28th I ordered my plane tickets! :D
I got to Philadelphia Friday afternoon around 3:30 and by the time I had located baggage claim (thanks to the kindness of strangers) and located my bag Abbie texted me to say that she was just around the corner from the airport. She pulled up in that incredible inedible eco-egg of hers and we had ourselves a hug party right there before throwing the bags into the trunk.
She took me on a brief tour of South Philly (with doors locked and bated breath) then we got on the freeway and headed for Cherry Hill, NJ. We met Wayne Roorda and his wife Lili for dinner at the Mandarin Buffet there. The buffet was huge and I lost count of how many plates I had and how many fortune cookies Abbie got before settling on the perfect one! We headed home from there and I got to meet Abbie's mom and her wild baby Bella! Bella is an adorable, feisty shih tzu furball who gave me several hours of careful consideration before deciding that I was acceptable company for Abbie...she and I bonded over about half a slice of zucchini bread that I allowed her to confiscate from my plate. Abbie's mom, Abbie and I stayed up way late that night talking and laughing before heading to bed!
Saturday Abbie and I went out to brunch at one of New Jersey's famous diners...can't remember the name of it. I had a hard time choosing what I wanted to eat...I was torn between the omelets with home fries and the french toast...so I ended up with the french toast and a side of home fries. The "side" was ENORMOUS...I probably only ate about half of it...and yummy...I'm a huge hash browns fan :).
After that we headed out to Woodbridge, NJ to the mall there to meet one of our CI buddies and one of my very favorite people, Sam Spritzer. I first met Sam through his blog in the spring of last year. He and Laurie were some of my first buddies to go bilateral and they were some of my biggest cheerleaders, first when I was trying to decide whether to go for the second implant and then when I was going through all my insurance drama. He and Abbie and I got to be good buddies when all of our blogs were listed on the Advanced Bionics blog list last fall and we all joined the HearingJourney family. I've known him so long that when we met for the first time it wasn't at all like meeting a stranger...I knew him on sight and felt immediately almost like he was part of the family. After the initial flurry of greetings and hugs and inadvertedly knocking magnets off (one of the hazards of hugging a CIer), we decided the quietest spot to sit might be outside so we found a comfortable spot and talked for a while, even engaging in some listening therapy with Abbie's Bluetooth (which is really, really cool, and I have decided that I need one). At some point I volunteered the fact that I needed coffee (I actually attempted to sign it but that didn't go so hot) so we headed back in and found the Starbucks. We sat there for so long that it was a wonder they didn't toss us out...then we shopped for a bit. Shopping progress was slow...we actually spent more time trying to watch where we were going than shopping, since it's hard for three deaf people to walk and talk at the same time :). At least it didn't feel awkward...this is the way our lives have always been and we are comfortable with it and can find the humor in it. We finally left Sam in the parking lot outside the mall after making him promise to consider coming to the Nashville convention next year! It was such a great visit...I'm so glad we all managed to get together!
We went out to another Chinese buffet for dinner afterwards but French toast, home fries, and Starbucks were still sitting fairly heavily in my stomach so I couldn't eat much. Abbie's mom and her neighbor Jan came with us and we had a great time sitting and visiting. After a couple of hours of that we dropped off Mom and Jan back at the house and then headed out to Point Pleasant to the boardwalk! I hadn't ever been on a boardwalk before...carnival rides and places to eat and games and lemonade stands :). We skipped all the rides and headed out to the Atlantic. I dropped my bag and my Birks at what looked like a safe distance from the shore (it would have been a disaster if they had been washed out to sea!), rolled up my jeans, and headed into the surprisingly warm water.
It was a special occasion for both of us because neither of us had heard the ocean since our activations. The last time I had been to the ocean I was in possession of one CI with issues and one dead ear...I didn't hear it at all. The time before that, what I heard with a hearing aid was just a roar...all the sounds blended together. This time was different...we could hear the water as it crested and rushed towards the shore...could hear the soft "pshhhh" as it dispersed along the sand and headed back out to the ocean...occasionally, a wave coming in would meet one on the way out and there would be a loud splashing sound as they collided together...that crash was always enough to make me stop talking and turn to look. We could also hear people's voices as they walked on the beach, a few radioactive birds as they flew overhead, and the chirping of Abbie's BlackBerry and a couple of patrol cars back on land :). I had heard the ocean before...but never like this. And to be honest, the last time I heard it, I didn't appreciate it like I do now...I had no idea that soon all the tiny hair cells in my cochlea would be gone...that the one ear I'd depended on for years would soon be useless, hair cells replaced with a shiny curling electrode array. I didn't know how much I was missing until I stood there beside the ocean at Point Pleasant and heard the virtual orchestra of sound...amazing :). It was incredible to be there with Abbie...because she understood exactly what I'd lost, what I'd regained, and everything in between. We kinda joked that anyone else would have been looking at their watches and heading for the car after about ten minutes of listening to water...but we must have been out there about an hour, just taking it all in. This Southern girl gets cold when it gets below 80 degrees at night during the summer, and it was a bit chilly, but we had come prepared with sweaters and the night air felt perfect. We finished our excursion by walking down the boardwalk and purchasing a huge pretzel and large lemonade from a friendly *cough*, polite *cough* vendor before heading back to the car.
The next afternoon, running on mostly coffee and very little sleep, we climbed the Barnegat Bay Lighthouse. By the time we got to the top, we were both too exhausted to do much more than throw ourselves on the railing and huff and puff and admire the view in between gasps. We both made some rash vows to get in shape (I've already forgotten what mine was) and then tottered back down all nearly 300 steps (it was much easier going down but I felt like I had gotten off a merry-go-round when I hit the ground at last!). We never did regain momentum after that...we loaded up with Sonic burgers, with Diet Cherry Limeades (Abbie had never had Sonic before so I got to introduce her to my favorite Southern treat!), and Dunkin' Donuts coffee...to no avail...we were worn out. We headed back to the house and attempted to make conversation but were too dazed to talk. It just seemed too early to go to bed on our LAST NIGHT TOGETHER so we pulled out the laptops and got our synapses firing a bit. We both idly threatened to blog but it was probably a good thing we didn't...it wouldn't have made much sense. We finally agreed at midnight to call it a day.
The next day I had to be at the airport at around 11:30 so we attempted, albeit grudgingly, to get up and moving and out the door. Reluctant to put me back on the plane, we drove at snail speed all the way to the airport, even stopping for coffee, but luck was against us; there was no wait at Dunkin' Donuts, traffic was nonexistent, and we didn't get lost even once...got there in plenty of time. I started sniffling as Abbie pulled away from the curb and sniffled all the way through the check-in and security. I found my gate and got my preboarding pass FOUR MINUTES before boarding...I got preboarding pass, sat down on the floor by the door, and then announced it was time to get on the plane! Good-bye, Jersey...I miss ya already! :)
I miss Abbie terribly already...the Nashville convention seems so far away! I'm so grateful that we live in an age where we can stay in touch with IM and our phones...the distance between us doesn't seem quite so far :). It was hard leaving that girl...when she asked if I'd consider letting her adopt me as a pet and perhaps we could raise my kids via webcam, I had to choose between laughing and crying and the laughing only lasted about a second before the tears took over! it was a great weekend...one I won't ever forget! :)

Monday, August 11, 2008

Wow!

I really, really, really didn't realize that it had been that long since I posted anything until last week. Then I noted the date of that last post and thought, "wow...too long!" I had a few things that I wanted to wait about before I posted, so I decided to just hold out.
First of all, surgery is confirmed for the 28th...I have all the paperwork and everything. I have to be there at like 8:30 in the morning but the surgery is not until 2. I can't believe I will have to be coffee- and food-deprived for so long...grrrrrr!! Anyway...hard to believe that two weeks from Thursday it will be over and done with....hooray! :)
I spent Thursday night in Nashville with Laurie! She came down for her quarterly Governor's Council meeting and invited me to come stay at the DoubleTree with her. We went to PF Chang's for dinner and then stayed up and talked for a while. I had picked up a brand new Hewlett-Packard laptop on the way there so we played with that for a while...I love a new toy! :). We were IMing with Abbie and she suggested we download ooVoo. After we did that we were up WAY too late...we were having too much fun to go to sleep!!! I went to Laurie's meeting with her on Friday morning. It was at the League for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing in downtown Nashville, and there was a class they were offering that I wanted to take so I signed up for it while I was there. I will be taking Conversational ASL on Tuesday nights starting on Sept. 9th and going through Thanksgiving, I think. I have been wanting to learn it for a long time and last year the schedule didn't work so that I could go....this year, thankfully, it works out fine! The first class will be 12 days after my surgery...I am assuming that I will be driving by that point *crosses fingers*. This is just a Level 1 class...they will offer Level 2 in the spring. I want to learn as much as possible before the HLAA convention next summer!
Saturday was our monthly HLAA meeting. We had the officer elections this month and I was absolutely thrilled to death when they voted me in as president of our group! When they nominated me last month I was so excited about the possibility...especially with the convention being here next summer it will give me so many new opportunities and will introduce me to so many great new people. HLAA is trying to get more young people involved in the organization and is trying to make next year's convention more "youth-friendly". I'm a member of a group that was put together by HLAA to try to reach out to young adults. Funny thing is that I'm technically too old to be one of the "young adults"...for categorization purposes, they are calling the 18-35 age group "young" and I will be 37 in September! If you read this blog and you're deaf/hard of hearing and under 35, please let me hear from you...I need your input on several things...thank you! :) I am also the new webmaster of the Nashville HLAA website...does anyone have any tips for working with Bravenet? I am having a time with it (too blonde, perhaps)...I am looking for other web hosting sites that are easier to use for when our domain expires in the spring!
The past few weeks have been busy with various home things...the girls are starting to school this week and next and I'm trying to finish rounding up our home school materials for the high school kids. The rest of the month looks equally busy...it will be a relief when September gets here and we can settle into some sort of routine!
OK...off to finish my grocery list and head out to the store...will try to update a little sooner next time! :)

Friday, July 18, 2008

Slacker! :)

I've been called a slacker lately...I've neglected both of my blogs! Sorry about that...it has been a bit nutty here. Good news first...yes, it seems that the August 28th surgery date is a go. I still have not heard THE FINAL WORD but I e-mailed them the other day and they said that the date isn't the issue anymore...it's deciding how to bill everything to insurance, etc. and then deciding where to ship the new implant for surgery. Location has still not been determined, apparently...or if it has I haven't yet heard...but I don't really care, as long as it happens :). I was informed that the first implant was apparently still under warranty (I don't know what the warranty time period on internal components are, but it hasn't been two years yet) so replacing it shouldn't be an issue insurance-wise. So...all is great on that front...now we wait for August 28th!
The two teenagers were at church camp last week...and this week Will has been gone to his buddies' house about two hours away. I am driving to pick him up tomorrow...I'm looking forward to it...a couple of hours alone in the car with the CD player blasting and a Diet Cherry Limeade from Sonic in tow. I rarely get time alone and when I do I enjoy it. Of course the return trip will involve three loud teenage boys who will make obnoxious sounds and will not want to listen to my music but will want to play theirs at top volume. Maybe I'll find a new favorite recording artist (ha!).
It's been an interesting past few days...at our last HLAA meeting I was nominated for an officer position (elections next month) and appointed webmaster of the Nashville HLAA website (don't feel like you have to go over there right this very second and check it out...I don't have access to it yet!). In Reno I met some people that work for HLAA that asked if I would be interested in being involved with the convention next year in Nashville...and I was ALL OVER THAT IDEA...I have been wanting to be involved ever since I joined HLAA last year. The organization itself and the people in it have inspired and encouraged me SO MUCH over the past year...and I have wanted so much to be able to give back and to help other people the way it helped me. Well...it looks like that wish is coming true...they have offered me opportunities to be VERY involved in the next year. I'll fill you in here and there as things move along...it promises to be an interesting...and busy...year :).
I keep being amazed at the CI moments I have with my one good ear...it's amazing. Tonight we had a singing at church and before it got started my mother-in-law was talking to a woman in another part of the building. There weren't a lot of people there, but I could hear what she was saying to the lady she was talking to...from probably thirty feet away. Of course, my mother-in-law is not a whisperer by nature...her voice does carry well...but the fact that there was so much distance and that I heard her so well was just amazing. At any other time in my life that would have been just unthinkable. I have also been practicing listening in noise...when there's a lot of background noise I make a concerted effort to listen to one voice here and there to see how much I pick up. Of course, it depends on who's talking, how loud, male or female (I tend to do better with men's voices), how far away, how loud the background noise is. However, I'm always tickled to be able to pick up as much as I do...this is a new skill...after more than 30 years!
OK...I'm off to bed before I bore y'all silly. Nighters all...I'll try not to be such a slacker from now on :)! *hugs*
*Edited for Cynthia: I could hear every word my mother-in-law said. The lady she was talking to, I couldn't hear, although if I watched her I could read her lips and understand what she was saying. No, I didn't get their entire conversation, but if they had all been talking as loudly and clearly I probably would have gotten most of it :)

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Some good news! :)

I may have a surgery date! For now it looks like it will be on Thursday, August 28th....at 1 PM (it is not 100% definite at this point...but I'm being optimistic). I wish it were sooner...but that's OK...July is really a busy month and I have a lot to do to get the kids ready for school (they start August 8th). The way that day falls, hubby will only have to take one day off work...it's the long Labor Day weekend...I should be ready for him to go back to work on that Tuesday after the surgery (I'm being optimistic and hoping that I don't have a repeat of the vertigo I had with this ear last time!) I have issues with the time already...I will be allowed no coffee and nothing to eat and I anticipate being very irritable...but still...I'll gladly take it :)! That will give me plenty of time to sleep until around 9 or so and get to the hospital on time, even if I do accidentally take the scenic detour.
I heard my first negative comment the other day...someone suggested that I might be expecting too much from a revision. I'm going to go through this again...one more time...and be done with it. In terms of hearing, quite frankly, I was not surprised with what I got the first time around. My audiologist was actually against implanting that ear first, because I had been deaf for over 30 years in it and already had a strong vibrotactile response. During the CI evaluations I was required to put a hearing aid in that ear and listen to the tones to establish that I couldn't hear with that ear. When the first tone came on it was all I could do not to yank the hearing aid out of that ear...the vibrations just about blew my head off. Some people do get sensations with their CIs...it's possible my brain may have just rewired itself a bit differently after being deaf for so long. CIs, as near-miraculous as they are, have their limitations...a stubborn brain is hard to work with. And, you know...if that's the case, that's OK...I'll know for sure that that's what it is and can decide if I want to aggressively pursue trying to hear with all that pounding going on. But that's not the main reason why I'm doing this.
The main reason I'm doing this is because something is obviously not right inside my head. When I first had the surgery done I first had to deal with the incision...when that healed up I figured I was good to go. Unfortunately, I always felt a lot of pressure inside that ear, and that hasn't improved...in fact, it's gotten worse. There are a lot of nights that I have a hard time finding a comfortable position to sleep in and then once I do, I often wake up tossing and turning to find a great spot to sleep on. It's on my sleeping side and it's just too hard to deal with. I didn't know for sure that that wasn't normal until my second ear came along and was incredibly different...that ear is a joy...no sensation at all...if I could only learn to sleep on my right side!! I have no idea what's going on....but I am almost positive that taking the implant out and repositioning it will stop that pain and I will be able to SLEEP again! This girl takes her sleep very seriously!
If by some chance repositioning the implant gives me "normal" hearing...I'm not denying that would be awesome. However...frankly, I am not optimistic. There is a chance, though...and we're going to take it. If changing the implant's position even a millimeter or two makes any difference at all in the sensation I feel...it's worth trying :). But as far as expectations go? I have none. I just wanna be able to sleep again...all night...without waking up with a headache! I think I can expect that to get better...THAT is what my expectation is. I know it's a bit odd and all, but hey, people, this is me we're talking about...I am nothing if not a bit off-beat :).
Will let you all know if anything changes...but for now, August 28th it is...I'm ready!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

The lecture circuit! ;)

Tuesday morning found us up and at 'em again...Gloria met us down in the lobby at *ack* 7:30. She came bearing coffee, though, so that helped ease the transition into my day. We took the rental car since we were checking out and wouldn't be back the rest of the day, and Evelyn and Norm followed us in their car.
Advanced Bionics has a very special "lecture circuit" called the Connect to Patients Series. Cochlear implant recipients are invited to come in and share their stories with the employees. This gives the employees a chance to see what valuable work they're doing. From my perspective it was tremendously exciting because it gave me a chance to say THANK YOU. What these people are building goes far beyond being just a product. I have many important products in my home...running the gamut from microwave to laptop to television to washing machine...but this one, the product in my head, is irreplaceable. It has not only given me back hearing but it has restored confidence and given me a new outlook on my life. This isn't just a product, and the work these people do is hardly mundane...it is life-changing. What the speaker series does is gives us a chance to show HOW important the work is that these people are doing...hopefully this sends them back to their jobs inspired and encouraged. We were asked to speak at 9 and 10:15 at the production facility in Sylmar, and at 2 at the office buildings in Valencia.
Here we are in front of the gorgeous hibiscus plants at the production facility in
Sylmar: Evelyn, Gloria, and Jen :)
As we walked through the production facility, we ended up in an office for some reason (I can't even remember why) and a flash of pink caught my eye. MELODY!!!!!! We were some of the lucky first people to see Miss Melody in any version other than cartoon. She and Buddy were miniaturized and just adorable!! Evelyn and I modeled with the two little ones. Melody made her first public debut at the AG Bell Conference in Milwaukee last weekend.
Evelyn, Buddy, Jen, and Melody
Our speeches went very well. Evelyn and I are two very different people, and that was reflected in our speeches. Evelyn is crisp, graceful, and polished, and I'm a bit of a cutup...a plain old laid-back country girl who doesn't do formal speeches...I do better if I just get up there and talk to my audience. We made a good team...complemented each other well. We had very attentive audiences...they were great listeners and several came up afterwards to talk for a few minutes. They really made us feel welcome and quite comfortable...I got into my groove about three minutes into the first speech and really enjoyed myself after that. It was so easy to tell how grateful I am and how much my implant has changed my life...I tell people about that all the time...that's second nature. We were asked to touch on our experiences with HearingJourney.com and share some of the friendships we'd made there...and that, again, was easy...the people that we've met there have become family, and we just wished they could have all been there with us!
After we did the two morning talks, we drove to Valencia to the offices at Mann Biomedical Park. Our escort, Jennifer, was waiting there for us with lunch. We sat and visited with her for a few minutes before heading down to our last speech. After the last one was over the photographer asked if we'd do an impromptu photo shoot outside, and so we did that...it was so much fun!
Gloria, Jen, and Evelyn...before the last speech in Valencia :)
It was hard cutting the apron strings in Valencia...I said goodbye to Beth Anne and Evelyn and Norm there at AB, and then drove Gloria back to her hotel before saying goodbye to her. I felt like I had known these people for a very long time, and were so comfortable and at ease with them that it was really hard to leave. Factor in that I was leaving my comfortable world of being with other deaf and hard of hearing people for a week and heading back into the hearing world...it was a little hard to make the transition. It was the hardest leaving sweet Evelyn because we live so far away that it will be hard for me to see her on anything even resembling a regular basis. She is in California and I'm in Tennessee...what a stretch! Thankfully...we are only ever an e-mail away...and she's going to try to make it to Nashville next year for the HLAA convention, so I have that to look forward to!
When I left there, I drove west...to Oxnard, California, where I met my friend Debbie for dinner at the Olive Garden. I have known Debbie for...oh...five or six years, maybe. I met her on a web forum years ago and we have kept up with each other here and there over the years. She lives in Santa Barbara, and I really didn't have time to drive that far up north, so we met in the middle. She got on my good side immediately by bringing a box of See's Chocolates...my favorites, butterscotch squares! Those are a rare treat...See's is only available on the west coast, and shipping's pretty expensive, so I rarely get enough to hurt me. Debbie and I hit it off right away, despite the fact that I made her wait over half an hour...I took a wrong turn (!?!???!!!) and got on the entirely wrong freeway and it took me much longer to get there than it should have (I'm prone to that, and have seen many a "scenic route" that way). We sat and ate and visited for about two hours and then we said our goodbyes and I headed for my hotel.
Debbie and Jennifer, Olive Garden, Oxnard, CA
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I had told several people that this was a big trip for me...a trip of many firsts. It was the first time flying with a CI, the first time flying alone, the first time renting a car. I have traveled alone before, but Los Angeles was probably the biggest city that I've driven in alone. I found my hotel, returned my car, and navigated my way through LAX...alone. I know people do it every day, but this was all new to me...and what a great confidence builder when I navigated my way through downtown LA and found the Gateway Sheraton myself! My aunt Sonia had treated me to a night's stay there...it was a huge treat to be right there at the airport in such a gorgeous hotel on the last night of my trip. I got to bed fairly early and totally crashed. I honestly don't remember anything between hitting the sheets and waking up the next morning...I was out like a light!
In the morning...one last treat before heading home. I had posted on Facebook that I was in California and Kauan Tyler's mommy Iz asked if she could meet me for coffee before my flight home. I accepted excitedly, and she, Kauan, and Mel met me in the lobby of the Sheraton at around 10 Wednesday morning. I was surprised and honored and grateful that her husband Carlos had taken the morning off work to come along and be our escort so that he could help her with the kids. I really wanted to meet them...I have followed their stories on Iz' blog...this way Iz, Mel, adorable baby Olivia and I forged a fast frienship over coffee and tiramisu at the Urth Caffe in Santa Monica while Carlos took Kauan for a walk. They are a delightful family...and they are moving east, so I'm hopeful that I'll get to see them again sooner rather than later!!
I was tickled that Kauan let me hold him. He is all boy....VERY active...and I had to enjoy my cuddles quick because he was ready to be off and running again.
Kauan, Jen, Iz, and Mel
Kauan and his mommy
Jen and Iz...she stood on the curb for this picture...and she is taller than I am here!
We had to rush through our goodbyes in the parking lot of the Sheraton because I had them drop me off at the valet pickup area so I could get my car and the valet told them to keep moving :(. I was just so glad that I got the chance to meet them...what a precious family!
I returned the rental car with no incident (a very tiny scenic detour, but what else is new?) then took the shuttle to the airport. I was a little nervous about navigating LAX but quite frankly the Southwest hub of it was really easy to get through. I did set off the security alarm at the airport...because I forgot to take my BlackBerry out of my back pocket....and I left my medical alert bracelet in the security scanner and the guy behind me in line had to catch me and send me back to pick it up. I found my gate with no problem, grabbed some lunch, sat down and worked some word finds and texted Abbie, Valerie, and Laurie while I waited. I actually knew someone who was on my flight back home...a doctor that I took a trip to Michigan with for an Amway convention several years ago (I've sold Amway...actually, I think I've sold everything, ha!). I ended up sitting next to the sweetest young couple who was on their way back from a missions trip in New Zealand, I think it was. They had never heard of cochlear implants and you know me...I was all too happy to educate them, and they told me a bit about their trip :). They made the flight back relaxing and about as much fun as it could be for as loooooooong as it was!
My flight got in at 9:30 that night...and after driving to Sonic to grab something to eat (I was starving) I got home around 11:00. Most of the kids were asleep, but I got kisses from the ones that were awake and then I stayed awake until around 1 telling my husband about the trip until he couldn't stay awake anymore.
It was an amazing trip in so many ways...I got to meet so many people, share so many experiences, and make so many memories...a trip to remember always!
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Friday, June 27, 2008

Sylmar!

Several months ago, when we started getting serious about our plans to go to Reno, I mentioned to my friend Gloria Garner, who is a Web education specialist at Advanced Bionics, that while I was out west, I would love to travel just a little FURTHER west and visit the Advanced Bionics production facility in Sylmar, California. I knew that the plant did tours and basically just wanted to know what days of the week, what hours, etc. that they did these tours, and I would just mosey my little self over there and check the place out after the convention was over, or perhaps before, just whenever.
However, Gloria dreams big...and before I knew it, she had turned my little road trip into a full-fledged plant tour. First the Bionic Ear Associates were invited, then the invitation was issued on several Yahoogroups lists and on HearingJourney.com. In my opinion, that was even better...not only would I get a tour, but I'd have folks to hang out with! A few weeks before this tour, I got an invitation from Advanced Bionics: would I be interested in being Advanced Bionics' guest and speaking at this tour? to the tour group? and the CEO of the company?
WHOA! This was big!! However...it sounded like a tremendous opportunity, and I did what I usually do...jump straight in and worry about the logistics later. YES, I said...I would LOVE to do that!
My enthusiasm was literally doubled, perhaps tripled, when I found out that my friend Evelyn was going to be there...and she was to be another speaker at this luncheon!
So that is how Evelyn and I came to be standing in front of this sign at around 10 AM on Monday, June 16th, at Sylmar Biomedical Park in Sylmar, CA. (click any picture to bigify)
We went inside and were properly greeted, hugged, and name-tagged. Then we met the rest of the tour group and were divided up into two groups. The tour itself was incredible. We got to see every part of it from production to packaging. The same exacting care was shown at every stage of production.
This picture shows the machines where some of the metal components are laser-etched (my lack of technical knowledge and my pitiful recall will be sorely obvious from this point on). No touching of the components are allowed except through these huge long rubber arms, which, quite frankly, look just as funny hanging out of the machine as they do in the pictures.
Each implant is X-rayed through two layers of sterile packaging before it leaves the facility to make sure that it is just right. The white boxes contain brand new HiRes 90k internal components. That's one expensive pile.

Through this window you can watch the workers assembling the electrode array by hand. They work under microscopes and with tweezers.
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There is a TV screen in the hallway where you can watch one of the workers' work under her microscope. The tweezers are in the bottom corner. They are bringing up a tiny wire that will be spot welded by the welder (the pointy thing at the top).
The workers have to go through a gowning room before they can start work. Shoes, gowns, face masks, gloves, shower caps. No makeup is allowed in some areas. No dust allowed! This is precision work, folks!
This fella is putting a Platinum Series processor through its paces before it leaves the plant.
I frankly have no idea what this man is doing, but look at him: his shoes have coverings and his arms are chained to the table...at least it looks that way. These are all anti-static measures...zapping processors is not a good thing.
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So, after the tour was over, we all went outside and there stood Mr. Jeff Griener, president and CEO of the Advanced Bionics Corporation. We all posed for a group shot with him and then went back inside to the luncheon. When we were going in, Evelyn's sharp eyes noticed something I didn't...there were POSTERS with OUR PICTURES on them! Photo op time!

A few minutes later the group fixed their plates and sat down to eat and Gloria informed Evelyn and me that it was showtime! Monday's talks were to be brief...about five minutes in length...and focus on the HearingJourney.com community. Evelyn and I are both moderators there, which means that we are some of the official greeters and cheerleaders and we read every post and keep an eye out for any issues that might come up. In doing that, we have been just blown away by the amazing people that we have met and been privileged to not only get to know, but become almost like family to these folks. We shared some of our interactions with some of these people with the group to help them understand the sense of community that the online forum provides.
Here, I'm speaking, the cameraman is recording *ack* and the girl in the black shirt is interpreting in ASL (that poor girl...this Southern girl packs a lot of words per minute, and I'm sure she was exhausted when I was done!)
My pictures of Evelyn speaking were blurry, and I am going to have to throw myself upon the mercy of her hubby Norm, who got some pictures of his own, and beg him to send me some. Mr. Griener also talked for a few minutes (my pictures of him were equally blurry) about the plans for the future and encouraged questions and comments afterwards. I was VERY impressed by him. If something was in the works, he shared it. If something wasn't feasible, he simply explained why. He was very articulate and open and honest almost to the point of bluntness. I like that...no pretending, no grandstanding.
In this picture, after the talks were over, Evelyn and I got a chance to meet Mr. Griener himself and talk to him for a little while. I asked permission to deliver a hug from a dear friend and he allowed it...then he got one from me too, and I thanked him for everything he has done to give me the gift that I have today...the gift of being able to hear the world around me. I DO NOT TAKE THIS GIFT LIGHTLY...it is an incredible, precious gift...and I am amazed every.single.day.
Sweet Evelyn and her darling hubby Norm! I got so many smiles being around those two!
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Here's a close-up of our posters. When I left, I asked if I could take one home, and not only did they give me one, but they offered to roll it up and mail it to me so I wouldn't smush it in the suitcase in the way home (which I would have done). They go the extra mile even in the teeniest things...I love those people!
I just love this girl!!! Denice is another of the moderators on HearingJourney. Her daughter Ali (the youngest of ELEVEN DAUGHTERS) is a bilateral bionic girl just like yours truly. Ali decided that we should be friends as soon as she met me and came over and started feeding me Fritos in the middle of Evelyn's speech. After a few seconds of that, she decided that we'd been formal long enough and climbed up in my lap and made herself comfortable. The bionic little ones always really touch my heart...and Ali and her smile and her sunshiny personality literally had me in tears. I miss that little girl!
We left the plant around 3ish and made our way back to the hotel. I got on the computer for a while and got some jeans on and then met Norm and Evelyn down in the lobby for a ride to Valencia. We managed to turn what should have been a ten minute drive into a half hour one because I gave Norm the wrong address for his Magellan *sigh* but we had left early enough that we got there just in time. We met Gloria, Beth Anne McDonald, who is the Consumer Outreach Supervisor at AB, and Jerry Schloffman, who is the Director of Marketing at AB, for dinner at the Vine restaurant in Valencia. We were there for a couple of hours and just had a great time talking and getting better acquainted. I have a funny habit of taking pictures of my food if I go to a fancy restaurant, and I was frankly squirming a bit wondering how this quirky Tennessee girl was gonna get pictures of my food in this fancy-schmancy restaurant in front of these folks. Don't know what I was worried about...when the salad came out, I oohed and aaahed over it until Gloria turned to me and said, "Aren't you going to take a picture of it?" Well, that settled it...didn't have to ask me twice. I had to explain the whole picture thing to Norm and Evelyn, who weren't yet aware that I had this particular quirk, and when the main course came out, Norm was ready...he offered to take my picture with my seafood risotto!


The dinner was delicious...but the company was the best part...everyone was friendly, warm, and comfortable...it really felt like sitting down with people you'd known a long time. I never met anyone at AB the whole time I was there that wasn't that way...if I lived in California, I would be begging them to hire me to work there! Just incredible people all around.
After dessert and coffee, we loaded up and headed back to the hotel, where I got back to the computer...one speech down...three more to go :)!
What an incredible day!
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