Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Christmas Pictures from San Diego

from left to right: (back) Chris & Jason
(front) Brad, Marissa, Laurie, and Steve

Brad, Chris, Marissa, and Jason
(notice their bells around their necks?)

Steve and Laurie Pullins

The Kids messing around!

Christmas Cookies!

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Christmas in San Diego

We returned from California late last night. I didn't have much time to regroup or unpack before I had to go to bed in order to get a decent night's sleep before returning to work this morning. I have a million things to do tonight but am too tired and jet-lagged to do anything - so I'll write.

We had a wonderful time as a family with Chris in San Diego. I know he was thrilled to have us there so that he did not have to spend Christmas alone. We spent five days together and kept busy. Steve and I stayed in a hotel while the rest of the kids stayed at Chris' house. We went bowling twice and had a blast. The bowling alley was quite noisy environment but I didn't care! We also ate and fixed meals together, made Christmas cookies, went shopping, watched movies and just relaxed as a family. We also saw the movie "The Chronicles of Narnia" by C.S. Lewis. I still have a hard time understanding what is going on without closed captioning but I was able to pick up some of the dialogue. But, it is hard to read animal lips on the screen! For some reason I thought I knew the storyline and got it mixed up with "Beauty and the Beast." I couldn't figure out why the lion and the witch didn't fall in love with each other. I realized my mistake later and will have to watch the movie again with closed captioning when it comes out in DVD or video.

One of the highlights of the trip was going to the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, California to see "The Glory of Christmas." It has been a dream of mine to see it someday and it was beautiful! This year was the 25th anniversary of the Christmas pageant there. The pageant was great and worth the trip. It was complete with live animals, including three camels, several llamas, children carrying baby lambs, etc. to the Cave of the Nativity. There were also angels that flew high over us in the audience. The music was recorded and there were no live instruments playing. I was a little disappointed with that but the Crystal Cathedral looks like it does not have room for the stage AND an orchestra. I still struggle with music "sounding right" but it helped to hear the songs that I was most familiar with. When there is a lot of music playing, my processor has trouble deciding what sounds to minimize and what sounds to focus on. I hear the best with simple instruments and voices, especially solos. My favorite was the song "What Can I Give Him?" sung by a little boy who looked like he was about eight years old. Some of the scenes were very intimate and truly showed the true message of Christmas.

Steve and I toured the beautiful grounds before the show. We also met one of my online friends, Karen VanDenBrink and her husband, Paul (we had made arrangements ahead of time to get together). I had met her once before when she came to Tennessee several years ago and she has twin daughters who are also hearing impaired. We met on a quilting chat group online and have communicated by email and computer since then. I talked about her earlier when I started this blog. Anyway, we had dinner together afterwards at Hof's Hut, which was a local diner, and enjoyed visiting in person. The kids went skiing and snowboarding for the day while Steve and I were at the Crystal Cathedral.

I'm having more CI moments again. I'm noticing and hearing a few new things every day. Maybe it is because I am rested and am not so worn out and stressed like I was before the holidays. Chris has crickets in an aquarium IN his house for his roomate's scorpions and they were very noisy and annoying. A few months ago I was thrilled that I could hear them for the first time. This time I just wanted to dump the crickets in the aquarium with the scorpions to silence them! It was a relief to return back to the hotel so I didn't have to listen to them anymore. We also drove by the ocean a few times and saw the monster waves that everyone was talking about.

New CI moments:

  • Heard the strum of a guitar from another room with the door shut.
  • The sound of my sweetner pouring into my paper cup at the hotel while making tea.
  • The florescent light above our kitchen sink "crackled" when I turned it on this morning.
  • I'm catching and picking up more phrases from the radio and television and in the car without lipreading.

Christmas morning was special and of course I heard the wrapping paper and all the wonderful sounds of Steve fixing breakfast for the family (which is a tradition for him - he makes the best french toast!) I made bells for the kids and hung them around their necks with gold ribbon. Our time in California flew by too quickly and it was time to go home again. But, it will be a vacation to remember!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Have a Blessed Christmas

It is less than a week before Christmas and I wanted to send some Christmas blessings to you. I know there are many of you who read this and I don't know who you are but the wishes are still the same to my family and friends, old and new. We are truly blessed this holiday season. I know I am!

I am off work today so that I can pack, run errands and get some things ready before we fly as a family to be with Chris in San Diego for Christmas. It will be a different and fun Christmas for us but I do know that we will make a memory! We won't be in our own home on Christmas morning nor will we have a White Christmas but we will be TOGETHER!

These last few weeks have been filled with music for me. I'm listening to music everywhere I go! Two weekends ago I went to THREE Christmas musicals or cantatas. I had a headache the following morning from all that sound but I didn't care! Most of it sounded good. Our church performed a song sung in a duet called "I Have Seen The Light" at the end of the program and it just brought tears to my eyes because I have waited to hear that song in church for over 15 years. Steve sang it in a trio years ago when we lived in Chillicothe, Ohio and it is one of my favorite Christmas songs. I loved hearing it again and it sounded so great. I got to hear it twice because I went to the first performance, left and went to my friend Linda's church for her cantata, and then came back just in time to hear it again the second time! I'm still having trouble when there is a lot of music going on with band instruments, voices, orchestra and percussion being played all at once. My processor doesn't like it and can't decide what it wants to hear the most and what to put in the background. Music sounds the best with familiar songs, a few simple instruments being played or solos being sung. Last Thursday we went to Marissa's high school Christmas program where her school choir and orchestra were performing. That sounded the best of all. Maybe it is because the instruments being played in the orchestra are not in as much competition with one another and I can hear the voices of the choir. I loved it. I even heard another sound that I didn't recognize during one of the songs and Brad said that it was a tamborine being played in the back!

I have discovered a new "toy" that I like. I traded cars with Jason right after Thanksgiving so that he could get his car repaired in Tennessee instead of Alabama. (To make a long story short, in was in a drive by shooting after the Auburn/Alabama game just before Christmas and several shots went in his vehicle, causing some damage. We are so thankful that Jason and his friends were not hit or hurt but the police did recover nine slugs from the scene.) Anyway, Jason has a satellite radio in his vehicle. We traded vehicles for three weeks. The radio has never been something that I've used all these years. I didn't really pay attention to it for almost two weeks, partly because I couldn't figure it out. I played with it for one day while Steve drove and discovered that I LOVE SATELLITE RADIO! I found several jazz stations that Steve and I both like and FOUR stations right next to each other that played Christmas music! The sound quality is so good and much clearer than a regular radio. I could even recognize songs being played as soon as they came on. When I told my therapist, she suggested that I try to listen to Talk Radio to see if I can understand what is being said. I didn't get a chance because Jason and I traded cars back but I have a feeling that Steve and I will end up with satellite radio in our cars soon!

Speaking of therapy, I am making progress. Susie says that I am halfway between "closed set" and "open set" sentences. That means I can recognize a sentence if I have a picture in front of me or if I know ahead of time what she is going to talk about. I can recognize some sentences and phrases without knowing ahead of time (open set) what the subject matter is but it is hard! Phrases like "Breakfast is ready," "What are you hiding under your coat," "I would like ice cream with my pie," are some sample sentences. I will be going back to Bill on January 3rd to have my processor "mapped" again because I feel like I need some fine tuning. I'm not suppsed to go back to him for six months but I can tell already that I need another adjustment. But, in the meantime, I'm still listening and still practicing. I love being able to hear this well and give thanks to God every day for this wonderful electronic miracle!

In closing I would like to share a prayer that we said in church on Sunday:

Loving Father, help us remember the birth of Jesus, that we may share in the song of the angels, the gladness of shepherds, and the worship of the wise men.

Close the door of hate and open the door of love all over the world.

Let kindness come with every gift and good desires with every greeting.

Deliver us from evil by the blessing which Christ brings, and teach us to be merry with clear hearts.

May the Christmas morning make us happy to be Thy children, and the Christmas evening bring us to our beds with grateful thoughts, forgiving and forgiven, for Jesus' sake. Amen.

Love and Christmas blessings to you from me. Laurie

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Quick Update

The Christmas season is in full swing and I feel like a long tailed dog in a roomful of rocking chairs! I hardly have time to sit and think and be still! But, I am being quiet for a little while this morning so I thought I would share a few thoughts before I get too busy. I don't even have my music on yet - I need some quiet time.

I'm enjoying the sounds of Christmas - I hear music everywhere I go - in the stores, in the car, at work, and even on my iPod! The other night I was listening to my iPod while I was working on my computer, Steve came upstairs and said, "Are you listening to your iPod?" When I told him that I was, he commented that he was yelling at me from the bottom of the stairs and I could not hear him when he called out to me. I told him, "Now you know what I went through all these years when you couldn't hear me while wearing headphone when you were listening to music!" We had a good laugh about that.

As far as hearing new things, I've shifted from trying to listen for environmental sounds to concentrating on understanding speech. Therapy is coming along and Susie says I'm making progress. Right now I'm having trouble telling the difference between the "k" sound and the "t" sound. It doesn't matter if the sound is at the beginning or end of a word or if it is used in a sentence, I still can't get it. But that will come. Susie is wonderful because she explains to me why it is hard to hear certain sounds like the "t" and "k". It is because there is a slight difference in the frequency rate. Try saying and hearing the difference between "eat" and "eek", "meet" and "meek", "sheet" and "sheik", "till" and "kill". I asked Susie if I would be able to hear those sounds if my processor was programmed a little higher and she said probably not. It is just a matter of training the brain to recognize and hear the difference between different sounds. I am hearing words and phrases when I am not really concentrating. I still get things mixed up, too. For example, I heard one of my coworkers say "purchase security" and I thought she said "social security."

Last night I went to a Christmas party with the ladies from my church. I got lost trying to find the house. Luckily, I had Tina's phone number in my purse so I pulled off to the side of the road, found my T-Link in my purse and set it up with my cell phone. When Tina answered the phone, I told her that I was lost and that I needed her house number. I heard her say "fifty one forty one" but had to ask her if it was "five one four one" or "six one four one" because I couldn't tell if she said "fifty" or "sixty". I also heard her say that she had balloons on her mailbox. I was about 3-4 miles away and was able to find her house. It felt good to be able to make a phone call for help without having to struggle and drive around at night when I didn't know where I was.

I've gone to several other parties this past week. Went to the annual Christmas party for work at the Hilton. It was very noisy there! It was interesting to hear 50+ pieces of silverware clicking and scraping on plates as people were eating. I could hear voices laughing and talking. I normally don't like to go to parties because it has always been a struggle for me to carry on a conversation with so much noise around me. But, I have a program on my processor that minimizes background noise (BEAM) for me and allows me to hear the person I'm talking to. It is probably my favorite program on my processor. It's great. I had to sit up close to hear the program because Steve and I sat at a table in the back of the room. We had two different soloists and they sounded so beautiful and made me cry.

I also went to our monthly SHHH (Self Help for Hard of Hearing) meeeting on Thursday night. I was in charge of organizing it so I went early to set up the room with Christmas tablecloths and decorations. We had a good turnout and it is a great support group for people with hearing disabilities. We all have something in common and understand the struggles of living with a hearing loss. I had to smile when we had to leave because we all got out our umbrellas in the rain to protect our processors and hearing aids!

Tomorrow I will be sharing my testimony during both services at church. I'm going to share how I have received a wonderful gift this year because God uses the hands and minds of people to work miracles. And how this electronic miracle allows me to hear like I've never heard before. It is so exciting for me to hear the sounds I hear that others take for granted. It is a true and real blessing from God and I claim it as His work through the hands of His children. During the holiday season we are constantly trying to find the right gift or present to give to others. You are given gifts from God. You come as a unique "package" filled with special talents and a purpose to serve. When you live in a way that exposes your "specialness" and use your talents in that purpose, you are a blessing to others, no matter how small or large. The best gift you can give to someone else is YOU. You can make a difference with a kind word, thought or deed. I can hear because someone used their God given gifts and talents to create this cochlear implant for me and for others who cannot hear. This is such a joy for me and is a very real gift from God. I still look the same on the outside but inside my "cup runneth over!" God has shown His goodness to me in numerous ways through other people. For this I am thankful. No matter how big or small your gifts and talents are, you can impact someone's life in a very special way. So, pause and listen to God this season so that you can hear His purpose and plan for your life and what He wants you to do with it.

"Use the talents you possess - for the woods would be a very silent place if no birds sang except for the best." ~Henry Van Dyke

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Is It December Already???

I know it has been a while since I've written an update. . .I'm sitting here with my morning cup of coffee and am listening to Christmas music on my iPod and will write! I have so much to say and will try to summarize everything briefly. . .

California: I had a great "three day date" with Chris in San Diego. It was so nice to have my Marine son all to myself! Usually when the kids are home, they are busy hanging out with their friends or doing other things. I try to have a "date" with them once in a while so I can have some one-on-one time with them. When I arrived at the San Diego airport I got the biggest hug from Chris! It was so nice to hold him and hear his voice! He was very interested in my implant when I showed it to him. He lives in a house with three other guys and it was an "experience" living in a bachelor pad for three days! Chris let me have his room and bed and I was very comfortable. We went out to eat a few times. He took me to the Camp Pendleton base and showed me around. Went to Starbucks a few times. We also went to the ocean twice so I could "hear" it! Chris took me for a three hour ride to the beach on his motorcycle and that was fun. I'm not really crazy about motorcycles but I knew he would be careful. I took my CI off while we rode because I didn't want to take the chance of it falling off. I did put it back on when we got to the ocean. We walked out on a long pier and I just "listened". It was GREAT! I wanted to stay there all day. We also heard a man in a wheelchair playing his saxophone from a distance. Beautiful music to my ears.

I had no trouble with my flight to and from CA with my CI. Going through security was uneventful and was just like any other time I have traveled. On the plane, I was thrilled that all of my cords for my CI and HA worked with the movie and music plug ins. But, I didn't watch the movies for two reasons: I still need some close captioning and the audio did not match the video (that drives me crazy!) so I gave up. I tried listening to the music instead but could also hear the "whine" of the plane at the same time. So, I just plugged in my iPod and listened to music as I knitted. It worked out well and I was happy that I didn't have to sit in bored silence for four hours. My ear did "pop" in my hearing aid ear but I did not have any discomfort with my CI side. Things did sound funny after I landed but went back to normal the next day.

Riga: We bred Riga two weeks ago. Hopefully I will be able to hear "puppy sounds" in January!

Auditory therapy: I'm going to auditory therapy twice a week. Susie says I'm making good progress even though I don't feel like I am. I just need to be patient. Patience is not one of my virtues! I look forward to my therapy sessions and am understanding more sounds all the time. I'm able to grasp and pick up vowel and consonant sounds better at each session. Susie says it will take some time for my brain to adjust to the new sounds that it is hearing. My communication for all of my life has been AUDITORY and VISUAL with lipreading. Now I am trying to build up my "Auditory Dictionary" without lipreading. It is hard for me but would be very easy for a hearing person. I tried to listen to the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears online the other night and could not get many of the words. If I could have slowed down the speaker, I might have done better. Susie says that she notices that I pick up words quicker when she slows down. Eventually she will be able to speak faster and I will be able to understand at a quicker rate. Later she'll add background noise. But for now, KISS (Keep it Short and Simple!)

Thanksgiving: We went to Ohio for Thanksgiving and had a wonderful time with family and friends. I was able to see relatives that I had not seen since my implant (and had to do a little show and tell, too!) Heard some wonderful sounds, too:
  • voices of family and friends
  • windchimes on my brother's patio
  • the wind blowing
  • sirens off in the distance
  • clinking of silverware and glasses
  • playing "Shepherds Play Your Melody" on the recorder while my brother accompanied me on the piano
  • being able to carry a conversation in a car, noisy room, or restaurant
  • whistling teakettle
  • the timer on the oven when the food was ready
  • wrapping paper ripping and rustling as we opened Christmas gifts
  • cameras clicking
  • music playing in background
  • called sister in law Allison on the phone quickly while I was packing to ask a question and got my answer
  • being able to talk with my cousin across the table (she was glad I could still lipread because she talked quietly a few times when she didn't want anyone to hear what she was saying)

Even though I heard some new sounds at Thanksgiving, there were also the familiar sounds that I "heard" before my implant - the ones that my heart "hears". I am thankful for the love and sharing of my family and friends, my health, and the many blessings that we have. God is so good. As my pastor says, God’s economy is that of surplus! It's called “GRACE.”

CI and HA: I am wearing my CI and hearing aid together. I've tried going without it but my hearing aid seems to fill in the sounds that my CI doesn't give me. It gives me the richness and fullness that I need, especially with voices and clarifies my CI sounds.

My Best Friend Dawn: I have not been able to get together with Dawn for several weeks and I miss her. But, she is going through a difficult time right now. She sent me an email recently telling me that her mother has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and that she has been spending a lot of time at the hospital or at her parent's home. I only know and understand her pain too well. . .my mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer at this time of year 13 years ago. . .

Will write more later. . .love and hugs to all!