Saturday, December 30, 2006

Arrival in Riga

We made it to Riga! Our friends Apolonija and Gita were just outside the baggage area waiting for us with flowers and open arms! It was so good to see them again. We sat down and had tea at the airport and talked about plans real quick before we were taken to our hotel. We are staying in a bed & breakfast called the MultiLux and it is a very simple hotel. It is clean and nice even though our room is small. But, that is standard for Europe. We had a good flight except for one thing – my big bag didn’t make it. I’m writing this a day later and we still don’t have it. Hopefully it will be delivered soon. If Czech Airlines prides themselves on their great service, we should see it tonight. Steve and I stopped at the grocery store last night and picked up some shampoo so I could at least wash my hair. (We also had a light supper with soup, pasta, & tea.) Everything is in my big bag, including my “dryer” for my CI, my medicine that I take daily, makeup, curlers, clothes, etc. Luckily I packed a few extra things in my backpack and small bag. I had a pair of underwear and a white turtleneck in my back pack so I had clean clothes for today. There was only one problem with the white turtleneck. . it doesn’t look real good with a black bra on underneath! But, I wore my black sweater over it all day and was fine.

Steve and I slept in this morning. Well, I did anyway. Steve woke up at 3 a.m. because he heard people coming in after partying all night and they made a racket. Since I don’t hear a thing when I sleep, I slept through it all. Poor Steve. He probably wishes he could take off his ears once in a while! We had a nice breakfast in the hotel and had eggs, brown and black bread with cheese, salami, & ham. We also had cucumbers, tomatoes, and a coleslaw type salad with a very light vinaigrette. That is a standard breakfast for Latvia, except the eggs, which is American. We also had yogurt (which is very good), cereal and milk, tea & coffee. After breakfast we took a walk into Old Riga and went to the mall to exchange our money to Lats and buy a cell phone. Then we went to an Internet cafĂ© to check our emails and do some website work, including this blog. Then, the highlight of our day was lunch at Apolonija’s house. We took the bus to the church near her apartment and she met us there. Oh my! She fed us well and kept bringing us food & drink! The Latvians are very good hosts and take care of their guests! She started us out with Sojanka soup (I can’t spell it but will find the correct spelling), which is absolutely the best soup here. I was craving it last night and was disappointed when it was sold out. It is a special vegetable soup with different meats in it and a dollop of something like sour cream (only better). I savored every bite! I thought we were just going to her house for soup but she brought out a plate with a chicken cutlet, shredded beets, potatoes, and quartered tomatoes. Then, she brought out a tin of cookies (gingerbread, sugar, and jam cookies) and some kind of apple cinnamon pastry or cake. MMMmmmm! Then, she served hot wine (another favorite) and hot tea.

The highlight of our lunch was meeting Ilmars, her husband. He is such a wonderful sweet man and talked with us for hours about music and jazz. He also suffers from a hearing loss and had lots of questions for me. I had never met him before and discovered that he doesn’t go out much except for ½ hour a day to go to the market. He has several health problems and prefers to stay inside. Apolonija and Ilmars live in a small two room flat and share it with their grown son, Ivo. What amazed me about the flat was that almost every wall was lined with books or music – a HUGE library! Steve and I sat on the couch while Apolonija and Ilmars sat on small chairs or stools. I asked Apolonija if she wanted to sit next to me but she said the stool was better for her back. She is our lawyer who has been setting things up and lining up interviews so we had some business to discuss after lunch. She is very organized and thorough and had everything ready for us. She even made some phone calls for us to line up some interviews for next week. Steve said that she went back and forth between speaking in Latvian and Russian while she was on the phone. She struggles with her English so Ilmars translated for her and us. She understands and writes it well but isn’t comfortable speaking it. But, we don’t always need to speak when we are together. A smile and a hug are just fine. J When we got done with business, Apolonija brought more food! She served us some dark bread with jelled meat (looked like chicken & chicken broth formed together), horseradish, and soured pickles. I wasn’t sure how to eat it so I asked Ilmar to show me. He cut a section out of the gelled meat like one would cut a pie and put a slice on my plate. He also scooped up some horseradish and put it on the plate as well. Then he took the dark bread, took some meat, dipped it in the horseradish, and then put it on the bread. It was different but good. We had more tea and talked some more. By the time we left, we had been there almost six hours! Apolonija walked us to the bus stop and stayed with us until our bus came. She is such a sweetheart and we love her.

After we got off the bus, we walked back to Old Riga and went to Leduspukes, which serves the best ice cream. I had granola ice cream which just melts in your mouth. (Jack, I got a scoop for you and a scoop for me but you weren’t here to eat your scoop so I ate it for you!) Steve also had a scoop of granola ice cream as well and a scoop of chocolate. Then we walked several blocks back to our hotel, which took about 10-15 minutes. This is a holiday weekend so we keep hearing people setting off fireworks. Makes me jump!

Speaking of sounds, I’ve heard some new sounds since we got here. There are trolleys, which run on electricity, that travel in the street and I can hear the electric lines clicking as they go by. I can also hear the “arcing” of the electricity on the lines. Another time we were sitting in a car on a bridge and every time a car passed us I could hear a clickety clack type sound next to us. Steve said it was the expansion joint on the bridge making a noise every time a car drove over it. There are pigeons in the streets and I can hear them clucking and also when they flap their wings to fly away.

Steve just called the airport when we got back to the hotel and my bag was there. They said they would bring it to the hotel right away after Steve told them it had my medicine in it. I’m glad. I’ll be able to dress for church in the morning instead of wearing jeans or corduroy pants. I forgot to mention that I have a nice fur coat to wear. Gita was afraid that I would be cold coming here from warm Tennessee so she brought me her mother-in-law’s coat for me to wear. It is gorgeous! I’ll wear it tomorrow for New Year’s Eve.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

On Our Way to Latvia!

Our day started at 5 a.m. this morning. And I only had about four hours of sleep because I was busy packing and getting things organized for our trip. Since I’m taking almost two weeks off from work for this trip, I had to work for two days after Christmas. Accountants have year end stuff to finish up before the New Year starts. It was a challenge for me to get all my work done. We left all four of our kids home alone (will they behave – who knows?) Jason took us to the airport at 6 a.m. even though our flight didn’t leave until 7:40 a.m. We got a notice in our email the day before that our original flight had been cancelled. So, Steve wanted to get to the airport early to see if we could get a better connection to JFK airport in New York and avoid having to fly into Newark, NJ. We were wait-listed on a couple flights but they didn’t work out. So, we flew into Atlanta, and then to on Newark. We had about 10 minutes to spare to get our luggage and catch our shuttle to JFK and we made it! Because our rescheduled flight got in to Newark later we didn’t think we would make the shuttle bus in time. The shuttle was an interesting ride. I don’t remember the last time I saw the New York City skyline and recognized the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty right away. Saw the place where the World Trade Center once stood, too. It took us an hour and a half to get to New York City from Newark even though we could see it across the river! The shuttle ride was a very bumpy ride and a little nerve- wracking with all the “close calls” and crazy drivers. I sat next to the window and if it was open I would have been able to reach out and touch the cars next to us! Our teeth were still rattling when the bus stopped! (Steve says we will fly out of LaGuardia on our way home so we will travel through all three airports in New York!)

Airports and airplanes are noisy places. I have to turn down the sensitivity AND volume on my CI or I just turn it off completely. I also turn off my hearing aid because it just amplifies sound that I don’t need to hear. I’m grateful that I can pick and choose what I want to listen to. I don’t even try to listen to any music or use the headphones because when I switch my “ears” to telecoil, I pick up the engine noise from the plane instead of what I’d like to hear. We boarded Czech Airlines and left NYC at 5:45 p.m., almost exactly 10 hours since we left Knoxville. Because Steve travels so much, we were able to use his frequent flyer miles to fly business class on our international flight. I asked him what the difference was between business class and first class. He said that business class on international flights is the same as first class in the U.S. He said that he has flown first class once on an international flight and it is a step above what one can imagine. They give you pajamas! Wow. Business class was just fine and was nice and comfortable for an eight hour flight. We were wined and dined and spoiled! We had a six-course meal for dinner and then had breakfast just before we landed in Prague. If you want to travel internationally, Czech Airlines is the way to go! They really do take care of their travelers. Their planes are older but are well maintained. But they make up for that with great service. I was able to finish knitting a hat for Ziggy, who is a special friend in Latvia. Also worked on my Irish Hiking Scarf and am reading the five people you meet in heaven by Mitch Albom. I also took my boots off and slept for about three hours. My feet got so swollen on the plane that I couldn’t get my boots back on! The air is very dry on planes and I lathered lotion my hands constantly. I still have a bit of a cough and hope I don’t get sick while we travel these next two weeks. I’ve got a full medicine cabinet with me just in case!

It felt strange to turn off my cell phone as we left the U.S. It won’t be turned back on until we get back to New York. I’m so used to having it with me. We won’t have much contact with anyone except through email until we return to the states in a couple weeks. It’s amazing how dependent we are on technology. Steve is going to purchase a cell phone and use a prepaid card while we are over there. We’ll also use SKYPE on our computers to talk on the phone.

It was interesting to step off the plane in Prague. I love watching people and the scenery and everything is so different. I can hear people talking and I know it is not English! As I write this, we are sitting in the business class lounge at the airport in Prague. There is a slight dusting of snow on the ground. It is about 35 degrees outside with a drizzle. I’ve always wanted to see Prague but we’ll have to come back another time to see the city. We’ll stay in this lounge for about 3 hours before we board our flight to Riga, Latvia. The lounge is very interesting and modern looking. I feel like I’ve stepped into the scenery from “The Jetsons!” As you walk in there is a place to get drinks and food and they have everything! Different kinds of coffee & tea, water, juices, cheeses, crackers, salads, yogurt, breads, cookies, fruit, and even alcohol on tap! I’m just relaxing with a cup of coffee to help me stay awake. It is actually late morning here when it is really the middle of the night back home. The jet lag will catch up to me later! But, for now, I’m going to enjoy the ride!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Drummer Boy and Baby Jesus

This is part of my Drummer Boy collection. It was given to me by one of my good friends, Claire. She lost her battle to ovarian cancer several years ago and I think of her every time I get this out at Christmas. Claire was a special friend and I miss her.

A Little Drummer Boy Meditation

My favorite theme and song surrounding Christmas is "The Little Drummer Boy." This song takes me to the manger where Jesus laid and I am at a loss to explain why, exactly, this song stirs my feelings so much. The fact is, this song, like no other of the season, fills me with quiet hope and joy. Maybe it’s because it lets me view God and Jesus with the same sense of wonderment as the little drummer boy, himself. He didn’t have anything to give but his music, and he gave that willingly and without hesitation.

Those who know me know that I collect ANYTHING that has to do with a little boy who plays his drum. Our Christmas tree is decorated with drums and drummer boy ornaments. I have various displays such as music boxes, plates, knick knacks, pillow, and even a flag with the little drummer boy. Why do I treasure this symbol? I have pondered and asked myself this question many times. Even though the Bible doesn’t say anything about a drummer boy playing for Jesus, the song has been special to me because of the beautiful message that is in it. . .

Come, they told me, pa rum pa pum pum. . .
Our newborn king to see, pa rum pa pum pum. . .
Our finest gifts we’ll bring, pa rum pa pum pum. . .
To lay before the king, pa rum pa pum pum. . .and so the tune goes. . .

Do you know the song? Do you know the story? Do you know the message?

The message is about a little boy who thinks he has nothing to give to the Savior. He apologizes in the song by saying, “I am a poor boy, too, pa rum pa pum pum. . .I have no gift to bring, pa rum pa pum pum. . .that’s fit to give a King, pa rum pa pum pum. . .

I read an American Indian quote the other day that touched my heart and it goes like this: “The drum must be the Great One’s favorite instrument because He gave all of us a heartbeat.” Isn’t that beautiful? You know what? It wouldn’t surprise me if the drum was Jesus’ favorite instrument because the little drummer boy gave his heart and soul when he played his drum. When he played the drum, the music that beat inside him brought a smile to the face of the baby in the manger. The little drummer boy in his own way was showing us what we should all do ourselves. We should share the beat and rhythm of what is inside of us. For God wants our hearts and the things that make our hearts beat. I truly believe that what is inside of us is the most sacred and holy gift of all.

So, my question to you is, what will you give when you come to Jesus at the manger? What will you bring when the time comes? Will it be the things you have? Your money? Stuff you have accumulated over the years? I have said this before and will say it again . . . the best gift you can give to anyone is yourself. Don’t wait. Because if you do, you will deny yourself and others the blessings the God has for us. Whatever is in your heart should be shared with those you love. We all have a heartbeat and a rhythm. When we share what is deep within our hearts, then our light will shine before others. Our “drumming” will be spread throughout the world, just like it did when the Little Drummer boy played for his Savior.

So, as you treasure and ponder at Christmas time, think about what you will bring to Jesus? It is time for you to give your heart and play your best for Him. Then, he will smile at you, too!

Monday, December 25, 2006

Friday, December 22, 2006

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Holiday blessings to all of you who read this blog. I thank you all for being part of this big picture that we call "life." We all are here for a reason and have a purpose. I do not have much time to write but will try to do some updates soon. I have not felt well these last two weeks and have been trying to just get the things done that need to be done. The tree did get put up shortly after my last entry. Brad's girlfriend, Jessica, was a Godsend and came over that evening and helped me. It is little things like that that tell me that God is always working in our lives and puts people in our paths when we need them the most. We have family coming in for the holidays and all four of our children are home. There have been some adjustments here going from a clean, quiet house to one that has a revolving door! But, it is all good and we love sharing our home with others.

Steve and I are leaving on the 28th for Latvia. I absolutely cannot wait to get on that plane and just SIT! We will be there for two weeks to open our office there and hire two people to run it. We started our own business last year called Horizon Energy Group. Steve is his own consultant and primarily helps utilities and power companies upgrade/modernize their systems. I don't know what all he does but I do know that people like him (I like him, too!), he is VERY good at what he does and has more work coming in than he can handle. We do need an office in Europe somewhere so we chose Latvia because of our special connection there. I will have a laptop with me and my camera and will take pictures. I hope to find time to post them here and write about our trip.

Note to family and friends who are waiting for our annual Christmas letter - it will be late!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

What's in Your Dishwasher?

Here's what I found in my dishwasher the other morning. If you have been following this blog, you will know that our son, Chris, has taken the engine out of his car and has it in pieces all over the garage. (I wonder if we'll ever be able to park in the garage again!) Anyway, he wants his car parts to be cleaned up before he puts the engine back together. I found three of the six pistons in the dishwasher and he had already washed the other three!

In other news, I'm still sick and trying to take it easy. I've noticed some changes in my hearing and it is actually good, not bad, considering the sinus and ear trouble that I'm having right now. I'm actually sensitive to sounds and everything seems louder and clearer. That never used to be the case when I had a bad head cold. This is different.

Brad's girlfriend, Jessica, was an answer to prayer last night when she came over to see me. She helped me get out the ornaments and we finished decorating the Christmas tree together. That was special. I'm glad to have that done! I'm not doing anything else this year as far as decorations are concerned.

Also, Riga did not get pregnant so we don't have puppies. It's probably a good thing because I don't think I could have handled them at this time. We'll try again in the spring.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Down for the Count

"Be still and know that I am God. . . ." (Psalm 46:10) Ok, Lord, I hear you. . .

I don't have time to be sick but I am. It hit me hard on Sunday night while trying to figure out the lights on the Christmas tree that is supposed to go up in three easy pieces (by the way, the box is still in the living room and the middle section of the tree won't light). I knew I was coming down with something last week and tried to fight it off with over-the-counter medicines. That didn't work. As I got dressed for work yesterday morning I felt weak, achy, and nauseous with a pounding headache. Don't have a voice, either. Lasted two hours, came home and went straight to bed. Steve called the Dr. for me and got an appointment for me. I couldn't see our regular family doctor but it didn't matter at this point. Sure enough, I have a sinus infection and it has knocked me down flat. I can't sit up for long without getting weak so it is back to my chair or bed I go. I used to say that God doesn't give us more than we can handle but I changed my thinking on that a while back. I think He GIVES us more than we can handle so that we can come to Him and ask Him for peace and guidance. I hear Him calling out to me saying "My child, come to me and rest". . ."Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. . ." (Matthew 11:28) As I look back on the last couple of weeks, I realize that I've been trying to do too much. My relationships with my family and friends has not been the greatest. My stress level has increased and my peace level has decreased these last few weeks. That needs to change now. Part of me is so frustrated but the other part of me is saying "so what if everything doesn't get done?" I am at the end of my rope and am physically and emotionally exhausted. I need to spend more time with God, not less and just listen to Him. I know He will carry my load if I let Him. He will give me the strength that I need. . .because He is tireless, infinite, giving, loving, and caring. . .

My family loves it when I don't have a voice because I can't talk to them as much. But, there is one person that I can talk with and that is God. I don't have to have a voice to have a conversation with Him. . .my prayer today is that you, too, will spend time with Him to find rest and refreshment. . .

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Eagles, Tattoos, and Shopping

You are probably wondering why I'm talking about Eagles, Tattoos, & Shopping. I've been upstairs all day working in my office/sewing room area (it's a loft overlooking the family room). Last night Steve hooked up our new DVD player to the TV and started playing his new DVD called EAGLES Farewell I Tour/Live from Melbourne. Wow. It is an audio DVD/CD of the EAGLES 2004 concert in Melbourne and is just awesome. Steve and I don't usually have the same taste in music but I am loving this CD and am listening to it right now. I normally would not like listening to a concert because there is usually too much sound and they all run together. But, this particular concert on DVD sounds great right here in our family room! It is very instrumental with some singing. The clarity of the different instruments sounds very pleasing to me. I can hear the clang of the cymbals, the sounds of the different guitars, the keyboard, drums, and all. It's nice to enjoy the music that I missed while growing up in the 70's. I will make up for lost time! Maybe I'll listen to the Beatles and Chicago again. . .

Do you know what happens as soon as your children turn 18? They get tattoos! :( Marissa got a tattoo on her back below her hip line (I'm not posting a picture for privacy reasons!) It's a row of piano keys and expresses her individuality and love for music. She has been asking me for a year if she could get it and I said "no." So, as soon as she was able to do it without parental consent, she went and got it done (and paid for it herself). Chris and some of her friends went with her and held her hands while she cried for two hours as it was being done. Maybe she should have started out with something smaller like a music note! Oh well. Every generation has their "thing" so I really can't say too much. Chris and Brad got tattoos, too, as soon as they became of legal age.

Shopping: I have a long way to go to get my Christmas shopping done and am trying to enjoy the season. It is hard for me for several reasons. . . but, last week I did have some CI moments. I can understand clerks talking to me when I'm not looking at them and love being able to say "You, too" when they tell me to have a nice day. Also, as I was walking in the parking lot (it was windy), I kept hearing a rattling noise off in the distance. It was a crushed soda can rolling around as I approached my car! I can also hear the music (and recognize the tune) being played in the stores and the Salvation Army bell ringers ringing their bells.

We have a living room full of wrapped presents but still don't have our Christmas tree up yet. I hope to get it up this weekend. When Jason moved back home in July, he put all his stuff in the storage room where the tree is and we can't get to it! I'm tempted to just go buy a live tree instead of wading through all that stuff. *sigh* But, then we'll have to buy lights for it and string them and deal with watering the tree, picking up the needles, etc. Besides, Brad is allergic to real Christmas trees. The tree we have in storage is already pre-lighted and sets up in three easy pieces. Getting it out will be the hard part!

Christmas programs and parties are filling up our schedule. We went to my Christmas party for work last week. My friend's daughter, Beth, sang several Christmas songs and she sounded beautiful, especially went she sang "O' Holy Night," my favorite Christmas song. We'll be going to another party tonight (one we always look forward to!) and a church cantata tomorrow. Steve will be singing in a trio for one of the songs. I love to hear him sing in his beautiful tenor voice. As you move through this Christmas season, remember the reason for the season, which is JESUS. God entrusted him to Mary and Joseph in a manger so that we can celebrate HIS BIRTH. Love and Christmas blessings to all of you who read this blog.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Happy Birthday Mimi!

Our baby turned 18 today! Where does the time go? It seems like it was just yesterday I was holding her in my arms and welcoming her to the world. *sigh* We weren't supposed to have anymore children after the three boys when she arrived on that winter morning in Wisconsin so she was an extra special Christmas present that year! She is a beautiful young lady and makes us proud. The picture below is her birthday cake that she made. She works at the Dairy Queen and gets to make and decorate her own ice cream cake however she wants it! Part of it is made with vanilla ice cream and Reese's peanut butter candy and the other part is made with ice cream and Oreo cookies. It's really good! Mimi and her cake (she is wearing her DQ shirt!)Mimi and her brother Chris - we went to Myabi's Japanese Steak House in Knoxville on Sunday night for her birthday. Myabi's is a fun place to go because you sit around a big table/grill where the food is cooked right in front of you and the cook does tricks with knives and food. I had not been there since my CI so it was a different hearing experience. I heard EVERYTHING - the knives, food being chopped, people talking, the employees playing their little drums and singing "Happy Birthday" and all. The Birthday Girl

Monday, December 04, 2006

Piano Recital

Marissa's piano recital on Saturday. . .She played the 'Painter Song' by Lee Alexander & J.C. Hopkins and 'O Christmas Tree' arranged by Larry Minsky. She's been taking lessons since 1st grade with the exception of a break when she broke her finger in gymnastics. This will probably be her last recital for awhile since she will be finished with her Senior year in a few weeks. This is her piano teacher, Randall, turning the pages for her as she plays. Every year the music center has a drawing for a Clavinova piano. She was hoping to have a chance to win this time since this is her last season to play before she goes off to college. No luck there!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

10,000 Steps

Well, the Christmas season has started and as usual, I'm not ready. But, I'm just going to take one day at a time and do what I can. My stress level is quite high right now and I've noticed that my ears ring almost every day. My ears usually don't ring unless I'm tired or stressed. The Christmas cards and letters haven't been started, the tree isn't up yet, decorations are still in their boxes, nothing has been baked, etc., etc., etc. . . . I'm still trying to declutter this place and have taken two loads to Goodwill already this week. I've been averaging a load a week. I've gone to bed after midnight every night, which is unusual for me. (I still have to be up at 6 a.m. to get ready for work!) Last night I worked in the basement clearing out a room to make a bedroom for Chris (he *lost* his room four years ago when he left home for the Marines and I need to put him somewhere, especially with guests coming for the holidays.) I bought a cheap carpet at Lowe's, swept the floor, and set up a bed. Also cleaned out alot of junk! He worked on it today and is slowly organizing and moving his things in. He has a TV at the end of the bed and is playing a video game as I write! I think he likes his new space!

I've been trying to de-stress by walking every day with the dogs after work and am doing pretty good so far. I wear a pedometer all day and make sure I take 10,000 steps a day. Today as I walked the dogs, I savored the warm fall air and noticed the decorations on my neighbors' houses. It was really quite peaceful. I do miss hearing the birds, though. I tried to listen for the owl again last night but heard Marissa's tires on her Jeep on the road about 1/4 mile away instead! Tomorrow I will go Christmas shopping ALL DAY until I get it done. I'll walk more than 10,000 steps for sure!

Monday, November 27, 2006

A New Kind of *Surgery*

This is Chris in the garage performing "surgery" on his car. He took the engine out of it last night! Believe me, there was a lot of banging going on. And I could hear him from inside the house! You will recall that he towed the car home to Tennessee all the way from California in September. If you look closely enough, you will see all the wires hanging out of the car and the engine marked with blue tape. He is keeping track of everything and hopes to find the problem to get his car running again. I'm amazed that he knows what to do. This is the same kid who took a tank apart in the desert in Iraq and got it running again! He has an engineering mind just like his Dad. . .

In other "surgery" news, no date is set yet for my second implant. I called Dr. Merwin's office today and Nurse Teresa said to call back in two weeks. She said I would be Dr. Merwin's 2nd bilateral implant patient. I hope to have the surgery in late January after Steve and I return from a trip to Latvia.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you! I'll add to this while I'm cooking tomorrow. . .I am truly thankful and blessed every single day! May this Thanksgiving be filled with the sounds of family and friends! The Table decorated by MarissaFamily! Apple Berry Pie!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

An Owl?

Chris and I worked outside today. He was cutting wood while I raked leaves. I heard a mixture of different sounds as I worked in the yard - leaf blowers, airplanes, birds clicking, dogs barking, Chris' chain saw, leaves rustling, etc. As soon as it got dark, Chris said, "Mom, I hear an owl. Do you hear it?" We stood together in the driveway and he would point it out every time he heard it. But, I couldn't pick it out. I kept hearing dogs barking or other sounds but not the owl. He said it was pretty far away and was very soft. I asked him to tell me what it sounded like. He said it was the short "who, who, who" sound and not the long "whoooooo" sound like I imagined. I even tried to adjust my sensitivity levels on my processor so that I could "reach" it but that didn't work. I got my bird sound card out and we figured out that it was a Great Horned Owl. We'll keep listening. . .

P.S. I never dreamed that my own children would be helping me to listen for new sounds. And, they enjoy being part of this hearing journey, too. I am blessed!

Saturday, November 11, 2006

The Last Rose

Here is a picture of the last rose from my garden. The vase was a special gift to me from a pastor in Latvia. I gave the rose to Steve because we will celebrate our 30th anniversary on Monday. We went out to dinner last night to celebrate. Restaurants are still noisy places for me but I'm used to it. I enjoy the company better!

(Jennifer - this rose is called Fragrant Cloud and is my favorite!)

I also have a dozen white roses from Steve in the kitchen.
Anniversary Roses from Steve

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Up Early

I'm up early this morning. . .and am off work for the next two days. Marissa is having oral surgery this morning which will take about three hours. She is having two implants put in to take the place of her front eye teeth that never formed or developed. She's been wearing a retainer with fake teeth in it ever since she got her braces off last year. (We'll have to go through the process again next year for two more missing permanent teeth on the bottom). I don't know who is more nervous - her or me. But, I'm not going to tell her. Yesterday I brought home six different prescriptions from the pharmacy! She had to take an oral sedative before she went to bed and will take two more this morning (along with several other pills) to make her sleepy. I'll probably have to carry her to the car and to the doctor's office! Anyway, say a prayer for her. Since I don't hear a thing when I sleep, she slept with me and Maddie last night. (Steve is out of town.) I wanted to be able to monitor her in case she had an allergic reaction to the sedative. I'll bring my knitting along to keep my hands busy. I will knit and pray!

Later. . .
We are home. Marissa is pretty drugged up, has gauze in her mouth and is asleep on the chair in the family room (and is snoring!) Chris made a fire in the fireplace for her. He is such a nice brother! She was in surgery for about 3 1/2 hours and everything went well. We will go back next week to get the stitches out. We stopped at the Dairy Queen on the way home to get some milkshakes (she needs to drink milk anyway with her medicine) and got some applesauce, freeze pops, and mandarin oranges for her to eat. She'll have a beautiful smile when we are all done with this process!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Trick or Treat!

Trick or Treat! I thought I would post a picture for the occasion. . .This picture was taken about 19-20 years ago and is our #2 son, Chris. He was "The Count." I've always liked this picture and even put it in his high school yearbook when he graduated! Isn't he cute? He is still "cute" today even though he is 23!

We only had about six trick or treaters last night and that is the usual for us. Also gave out cans for "trick or cans" for the food drive.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Moments of Joy

I'm sitting here on a quiet Saturday morning. I was re-reading my Mom's sermon that she gave in 1974 where she tells her story about living with a deaf child. (You can find it here or in my "Future Book Chapters" link under October 10, 2005). At the end she said that there were moments of joy in spite of dealing with a deaf child. Yes, there are moments of joy in every situation. We just have to look and be aware of them. I'm still having moments of joy with sounds that I hear and it is overwhelming at times. (The sounds are not overwhelming - just the fact that I can even hear them are.) Last night I was the only one in the house and was working at my desk. Maddie was sitting at my feet watching me type and kept "pawing" my arm, like she wanted some attention. She is a "people dog" and loves to share a lap or chair with someone when it is time to relax for the evening. Anyway, I told her to stop because she was interrupting me. She just sat there and looked at me with her big brown eyes. A little bit later I heard a "squeak" sound but I couldn't locate it. I loooked at her and she wasn't moving. . . I heard it again, looked at her and she was still watching me. Then I realized that she was whining! She has a cute little *squeak-whine!* So, I scooted forward in my chair, patted the seat to give her permission to jump up on it. When I sat back down she circled the chair a few times to get comfortable and laid down behind me. I can't type or work when she is in my lap so now just picture me sitting on the edge of my chair with a small cocker spaniel taking up more than half the seat as I write. Now she wants the chair every time I sit at my computer!

Friday, October 27, 2006

Calling Pastor Jerry

Yesterday was Pastor Jerry's birthday. I called him after work to wish him a Happy Birthday for the first time. I had a feeling that would be a good present for him. *smile* I've been trying to call special people on their birthdays this year instead of sending them a card. (Sometimes I send a card anyway!) Pastor Jerry has always been difficult for me to understand. He has a pretty good Tennessee accent and his lips don't move very much. It hasn't been easy for me to understand him, especially when he is preaching in the pulpit. But, now my CI allows me to pick up what he is saying when I cannot read his lips. We had a terrible connection and I had to call him back twice. There was so much static on the line and his voice kept cutting out on me but we were able to talk a little bit. I could just picture him smiling on the other end! This is the same man who wept at his computer a year ago when I sent him an email telling him how I could hear soda fizzing over ice for the first time. He was thrilled when I shared the news about the approval for my second implant. He wanted to know the details of when I was going to have surgery and said he was so happy to hear the news. I also shared with him that I was unworthy of God's grace and didn't deserve it. I told him that I knew that God has a reason why He answering my prayers to hear better. If I had been able to hear earlier, I probably would not have appreciated His goodness. I would have just taken my hearing for granted. I just hope people don't get tired of hearing my "story" but I love being able to hear after not being able to all these years! It is my prayer that my story will encourage someone else who is struggling for whatever reason. Pastor Jerry told me to remember the verse from Romans 8 where Paul says "we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him who have been called according to his purpose." Yes, God has a purpose and a plan for everything!

Monday, October 23, 2006

God Moments

Ever since I got the phone call about being approved for a second implant, I've gone through a range of different emotions and thoughts. There have also been some incredible God moments, much of which is personal. . .but I will say this. . . God's timing is so PERFECT! There is a reason why all this is happening now. . .there is a reason why I haven't been able to hear all these years. . . there is a reason why God is blessing me the wonderful gift of sound through not one but TWO ears with another implant. God knew what He was doing when He created me. . .He did not put me in the "hard of hearing" line to make my life difficult. . .He has used my deafness to mold and shape me into the person in Christ that I am today. . .to draw me closer to Him. I am in awe of his perfect timing and planning. . . I don't deserve His grace but He is allowing it to happen for a reason. After I get my second implant I JUST KNOW that God wants me to use it for His service. . . my hearing journey is not going to stop just because I can hear better. . .it is all becoming clear to me now and I am in complete awe of His goodness and grace. . .and how He works everything according to His purpose. Everything happens for a reason. There is a time and a season for everything under the heavens. . . I don't know yet what He wants me to do so I will keep praying. . .I know God will guide and direct me and show me how He wants me to serve Him the rest of my life.

I've been asked if I got the second one approved because I'm doing so well with the first one. I don't think so because if the insurance company thought I was doing well with just one they would not approve the second one. It is unusual for bilateral implants to be approved for adults, except in very special circumstances. I know many others are being denied across the board for bilateral implants without a second thought and that makes me sad. I've also heard rumors that there is a big class action lawsuit going on concerning bilateral implants and insurance companies are starting to think twice about denying them. I've waited and prayed for eight months for an answer to my request and fully expected to be denied the first time around. My cup truly does runneth over!

I called Dr. Merwin's office on Friday to see if I could get a copy of the approval letter and to find out if they had a date set aside yet. Teresa took some vacation time off and will return today so I will call again. I'm looking forward to having my surgery in January. Part of me wants to do it now - as soon as possible - but another part of me does not want to be sick or feel bad during the holidays. This is another example of how perfect God's timing is. He knows that I love the month of January. It is my time to reflect and relax after the busy holidays and I like to take it easy. So, January will work out perfectly for me to rest and recuperate after my surgery. I'm not looking forward to having my head shaved again because it took over a year for my hair to grow back! I told Chris that I was going to have him take a magic marker and write special message on my neck to ask the person who shaves my head to shave as little as possible! There is actually a doctor in California that is well known for the smallest incision for cochlear implants. People come from all over just to have him do their surgeries!

In other news, I've been watching some other blogs. Two darling little kids, Erin and Isaac had their CI's activated on Friday. Also, my friend, Jennifer, is doing better each time she gets her processor mapped. Everyone has a *story* and I love to *hear* them!

Later. . .Teresa called me at work today. Still no surgery date but she did ask me if I wanted to have my surgery on December 12th. I just don't think that would work during the holidays!

I haven't been writing much, mainly because I haven't had time. I took care of my niece, Elizabeth, on Thursday night and Friday while my sister was on a business trip. Brad came home this past weekend so I spent most of the weekend cooking and spending time with the family. I really don't have any new sounds to report. But, I do appreciate the fact that I can hear the dogs at the door when they want to come inside. Maddie, Jason's cocker spaniel, scratches on the door. Riga, our German Shepherd will stand there and bark. Now that fall is here I'm noticing the musical sounds of the wind and the leaves in the trees and there aren't as many birds singing. I couldn't sleep the other night and could hear the rain at 2 a.m.

I will sum up my hearing journey so far with the chorus from the song, "I Am Free" by the Newsboys because I am truly free to live!

I am free to run,
I am free to dance,
I am free to live for You...
I am free...
Yes, I am free!

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Just Me and My Aunt

(I tried to post this picture in August but couldn't. I did write about our visit and will move this picture later. . .)

This is me with my Aunt Nelda at a Victorian tea house called Lillie Belle's in Franklin, Tennessee. We had a great time visiting with each other in August. She is only 11 years older than me and we are very close. She is like a big sister to me and I'm glad she lives in Tennesee now!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Cooking Question

Brad called me this afternoon. He wanted to ask me a cooking question. He said he was making baked potatoes but wanted to know what temperature to cook them at and for how long. So I told him to bake them at 350 degrees for an hour. This made my day because someone called me to ask a question about cooking and I was able to answer!

Steve is home from Latvia! Yay! I missed him! (smile)

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Great News!

This afternoon I got the phone call that I've been waiting for eight months! Dr. Merwin's nurse, Teresa, called me at work. I would have taken the call myself but when she calls I don't want to miss a SINGLE word. So, I got one of my coworkers to take the call for me. AETNA has approved my request to go bilateral! Yay! I'm so happy I just want to hug everybody in sight! Teresa asked me if I wanted to have the surgery in December or January. I quickly said January because December is already filling up and I don't want to be sick or dizzy during the holidays. January is my favorite month to relax anyway so this would work out very well. God's timing is perfect! Since Dr. Merwin doesn't have the surgery book for 2007 we don't have a date yet. But, I had to share the good news! I've called and emailed as many people as I could and am not done yet! I did call Brad (son #3) first because I knew he would be excited. He was in class but he talked to me anyway! I called the rest of the kids next. Jason, Chris, and Marissa are thrilled and happy, too! But, Steve doesn't know yet. . . he is on a plane flying back to the U.S. from Latvia. I did call his cell phone and left a message. He'll get it when he turns his phone on as soon as his plane lands in the states. I can't wait to see his face tomorrow night! Steve is my biggest cheerleader and so supportive. I also called Pastor Jeff and my dad. Tried to call my best friend, Dawn (twice), but kept getting her voice mail. I'll try again tomorrow.

In other news, my friend, Jennifer in Nashville, had her CI activated this week. She is struggling a little so say an extra prayer for her. Also, another CI friend, Maureen, needs a prayer or two. She was activated two weeks ago and has trouble keeping her CI on. It spends more time on the floor than on her ear because her ears are small. Her magnet may not be strong enough to keep it on. I saw her tonight at our HLA (Hearing Loss Association) meeting and tried to give her some encouragement. She has the same mapper/audiologist that I do. She is wondering if her processor is defective. I advised her to ask for a different one to try. I forgot to mention "wig tape" to help her keep it on her ear. I know some parents use that for their active kids to keep the processor from falling off. I'll need to send her an email tomorrow. It's late and I need to get to bed. More news later!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Talking to Steve Across the Pond

My dear husband, Steve, is on a mission trip in Latvia. He left on September 29th and will be home in three days. Since he is 7 hours ahead of us, we've had a hard time trying to make connections to talk on the phone. After playing phone tag for several days and communicating by email, we finally had a chance to talk yesterday! I've worn my neckloop attached to my cell phone for two days so that I wouldn't miss his call. We were able to converse easily and his voice was very clear to me, with a slight delay. We must have had a good connection because there was no static. In the past it would have been difficult to talk with him while he was overseas. I would have had to wait until someone was home to help me or relay for us. Not anymore!

(I added a new post that I wrote earlier about my one year anniversary. . .scroll down and find it!)

Countdown to Puppies!

Monday, October 09, 2006

Puppies on the Way?

We bred Riga last week to another purebred German Shepherd named Luther. We haven't had any luck the last few times we've tried so I found a different dog. Riga is solid black and Luther is mostly black with some tan and is beautiful with a great temperament. We think something "happened" this time and hope to have puppies (and puppy sounds!) at Christmas time!

(Picture: This is Chris with Luther)

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Lunch in the Park

We are having some beautiful fall weather here in Tennessee. The other day I packed my lunch and spent my lunch break in a quiet secluded spot on the Greenbelt near where I work. I found a bench to sit on and sat near a pond. I could hear the trees rustling in the wind, the cars on the road off in the distance and an occassional siren. I also kept hearing a sound that was unfamiliar to me. It knew it wasn't a bird or an insect sound. It was a dull clucking sound and stopped when I got up to look for it. Then it would start up again a few minutes later when I sat down. I'm thinking it might have been some ducks or geese. I'll have to bring someone with me next time to help me figure it out!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

One Year Anniversary

I passed my one year CI activation anniversary on September 20th. I had a new map put on my processor on the 18th and have no complaints. I went back to Bill and this time a Cochlear representative (Carla) was on hand. I feel like I got a good map this time. Bill said that my T & C levels had changed quite a bit since the last map. He won't need to see me for another year unless I get my second implant. (Still waiting to hear on that.)

I have Whisper as my first program in slot P1, Autosensitivity in P2, ADRO in P3, and BEAM in P4. I use ADRO and BEAM most of the time. I like to use Whisper in the mornings when everything is still quiet. Bill and Carla suggested that I try turning down my autosensitivity to 6 instead of 12 on my BEAM program but I'm such a power junkie because I want to hear it all! But, I will turn it down to 10 and leave it there and it seems to work just as well. Turning it down to 6 is too much for me, unless I'm in a restaurant or bowling alley where there is lots of noise. Restaurants are a problem area for me, especially if there are hard floors and high ceilings. While having lunch with Steve the other day at McAllister's I did an experiment and found that it worked. . . I will turn off my hearing aid side (to cut out the "white" noise) and lower the autosensitivity on the BEAM program. It seems more natural and allows me to hear Steve talking to me while everyone else is in the background like they are supposed to be. I still like to wear my hearing aid in other situations because it gives me the low tones and frequencies that my CI doesn't give me.

Also, I've "excused" myself from A/V therapy for now. Susie says that I'm "almost" there and there isn't much else she can do with me. So, my "therapy" consists of listening to books on tape every day. I am understanding and am picking up more words and whole sentences all the time. I'm listening to The Purpose Driven Life as I travel in my car. The speaker is male and is very clear and easy to understand. He also speaks at a slower rate. The radio, however, is a different issue. I don't know if it is because the sound is more distorted or if people talk to fast but it is a little more difficult to pick up what is being said.

But, I've come a LONG way in a year! Last night in Bible Study, I was sitting next to the door. I heard some kids in the hallway and immediately reached over to close it so we could continue with our lesson and discussion. Later, one of the gals in the group commented that I would not have done that a year ago.

As I think back on my "Dance with Sound," my implant has allowed me to hear sounds that I've never heard before. It is a wonderful gift through technology and I marvel how much it has changed my life and those around me. I now hear high frequency sounds that were unreachable with my hearing aids. It is a joy to hear the birds sing, clocks ticking in a room, our dogs toenails as they walk across the kitchen floor, the leaves in the trees blowing and rustling in the wind. Also, my implant has done more than help me to hear better. It has involved changes for my family, friends, and coworkers as well. People don't always have to look at me when they talk to me (although it is still polite to do so!) It has made me more independent and confident. I don't have to ask Steve to order for me in a restaurant anymore. Others don't need to be in my "immediate view" or in the same room when they are talking to me. It is a joy to converse with others in person and on the phone without extra stress! I'm not as tired and exhausted by the end of the day. I don't have to ask people to repeat as often what they've said to me. I can talk, listen, and drive at the same time in the car instead of having to wait until we get to a stoplight or parking space. At work, I am able to use the phone more and understand what is being said on the intercom. I'm still reluctant to make phone calls but when I do, I'm pleased at how clear and easy it is. My hearing will never be perfect but I'm thankful for what I have now. With God everything is possible!

Friday, September 29, 2006

Susan Graduates!

She graduated! This is my friend, Susan, who also has a cochlear implant. She has been very busy this last year and has not had time for anything except studying and spending time with her family. She graduated from nursing school with her LPN degree last night and will be taking her state boards soon. She was valedictorian of her class and I am so proud of her! Having her CI has made a big difference in her life. I would not have missed her graduation for anything! She is having a party at her house tonight so guess where I'll be! (P.S. I know I need to write and will do it this weekend! Been busy with kids, work, getting Steve ready for his mission trip to Latvia, etc. Watch this space!)

Monday, September 11, 2006


Just wanted to let my readers know that Chris is HOME!!!! He pulled up to the house on Saturday morning about 4 a.m.!!!! I could not sleep until I knew he was home and safe. He left San Diego on Monday driving a U-Haul truck and towed his car behind it. I tried to talk him into taking his time and stopping along the way but he wanted to get HOME! He drove 72 hours straight after stopping in Arizona and New Mexico, eating power bars and drinking caffeine to stay awake. We expected him earlier on Friday night but there was a bad accident on I-40 in Memphis, Tennessee. He ended up taking a detour on a different route. Then he got lost in Chattanooga and could not found the route that he was looking for. The truck he was driving was not comfortable for his 6-foot frame, did not have cruise control, and was difficult to drive. I couldn't sleep at all and kept dreaming about him driving and waking up to look out the window to see if he was here. Even though I can't hear anyone come in when I have my "ears" off at night, I still "know" that my kids are not home and cannot rest until they walk in the door and give me a goodnight hug and kiss. Anyway, when I saw his vehicles out in front, I immediately went looking for him and found him in the kitchen eating sloppy joes and potato casserole that I had fixed for dinner. It's funny how kids always seem to find the refrigerator. He had only been home for about five minutes. He was HUNGRY! He went straight to bed and slept for 14 hours on Saturday and woke up long enough to eat dinner with us, ride his bike, and visit a little. He slept late on Sunday and today, too. His cat, Chester, is happy to see her master and lays next to him and is content to watch him sleep. He has no plans for the next few months except to unload and rest and regroup.

All four of our kids were home this past weekend. Brad came home from college to see Chris and brought his friend, Matteo, with him. (Brad was also sick with a bad cold and needed some TLC.) That meant "Mom" was busy cooking and cleaning and falling into bed exhausted. But, it was great having all of our children home under one roof. That doesn't happen very often. The whole time Chris was in the Marine Corps, we only got together as a family a few times. Chris says it feels weird being home and it hasn't sunk in yet. He served four years in the Marines and spent eight months in Iraq in 2004. My sister, Kathy, thinks he damaged his vocal cords while he was in the military. She says his voice has changed because of all the yelling and screaming he had to do. He certainly is not the same person that left home four years ago. He has seen and experienced more than most people have in a lifetime. We are extremely proud of him.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Guard Your Words

These last two weeks have been frustrating on the insurance front. Just before all this started, I came across a quote that I needed to hear: "He who watches his mouth, guards his soul." This comes from Proverbs 13:3 and it has made me stop to think about what I should say and shouldn't say. I have plenty to say about dealing with Steve's company and AETNA but I am going to guard my thoughts and words. . .

To make a long story short, Steve recently changed from an employee status at work to a consultant status. This move is necessary so that we can move forward with our consulting business that we have started. Apparently, an automatic step was taken at his company to cancel our insurance on August 11, 2006 instead of transitioning to COBRA coverage with the same benefits. We did not know any of this until it affected a doctor's appointment, a couple of prescriptions, and the determination for my second cochlear implant procedure for my right ear. I received a call from Teresa, Dr. Merwin's nurse on August 21st telling me that AETNA had cancelled the determination for my cochlear implant for my other ear! I had just found out about the cancellation of the insurance and explained to her what was going on. I was discouraged to find out that we would have to start all over once the COBRA coverage kicked in. We figured we had been in the process for about four months and were so close to getting an answer. We got the COBRA forms from Steve's company by certified mail on August 25th, two weeks after the insurance was cancelled. We immediately filled out the necessary paperwork, wrote a check, and returned it Priority Mail on Monday, the 28th. On Thursday, the 31st, Steve emailed me and told me that his boss/supervisor got a return call from AETNA saying that we should be reflected as COBRA participants and that the benefits determination for my upcoming cochlear implant procedure should continue as if no interruption occurred. So, I sent Dr. Merwin a letter right away to let him know what was going on, that the determination was put back in the queue, and to proceed with whatever it takes for me to be considered for a second CI. Needless to say, Steve and I are not happy about his company canceling our insurance without notice. This whole process has been a lesson in patience for us.

But, there is some GOOD NEWS! My new friend, Jennifer, whom I met a few weeks ago in Nashville, has been approved for her CI surgery and will be having it NEXT WEEK on September 11th! You can read about her progress here. I know she is thrilled and looking forward to hearing again.

In conclusion, everything happens for a reason. We don't always see it or understand it. We just have to trust God and let Him do His work. "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven. . ." Ecc. 3:1

Saturday, September 02, 2006

A Busy Week

It has been another busy week for me. I'm still trying to catch up after my summer travels. I finally finished unpacking my suitcase yesterday and put it away. Now I need to get ready for Chris' arrival back home. We've been communicating almost every day this past week. I'm just so thankful that I can talk on the phone with my family. As I write this, Chris is loading up his U-Haul truck and will be towing his car behind it. He plans to start his journey HOME tomorrow (SUNDAY) So, if you see a U-Haul truck towing a black Ford Contour on the highway between San Diego and Tennessee, wave to him! He has mixed feelings about leaving the Marine Corps but is looking forward to starting a new life. I know he is anxious to be home and we are looking forward to having him around again.

I had a few CI moments this week. It just keeps getting better and better. One evening when I let the dogs out, I stood outside in the driveway and just listened. I noticed that the summer background music of the crickets and cicadas were not as loud as they usually are and thought to myself, "Oh good, the season must be winding down and it is almost time for them to leave." As soon as I said that, I noticed that their song got louder and louder and louder, increasing in a steady tempo. I just stood there in awe listening to the crescendo of their music. I hadn't noticed the distinct change in their volume before. Everyone has their opinion of the sound of these summer insects. Some like them and some do not. Even though this is the first season that I can hear them and it is not one of my favorite sounds, I'm thankful that I can hear the sounds of one of God's creations.

Another CI moment was at work while sitting at my desk. As I mentioned in an earlier post, my office is filled with many different sounds and I usually know which ones they are. When I hear a "new" one, I listen and try to investigate where it is coming from. Keep in mind that I work in a credit union with no open doors or windows and am in the middle of a building. I have several barriers to the outside world. As I was working, I heard a train go by! I always notice the sound of a train when I hear one. I love the mournful sound of the horn and the wheels clicking on the tracks.

This week I had my car worked on and got a loaner car to drive, a 2006 Lexus RX400 HYBRID! Wow! What a cool car that was to drive! It was so quiet and had a GPS (Global Positioning System) in it. THIS CAR TALKED TO ME! When I entered in my destination, I would hear a voice say things like "proceed to the next intersection," "go to the next light," "go one half mile," "turn right," "turn left," "you have arrived at your destination," etc. I heard and understood every word it said to me. I even talked back to it! A bell would "ding" when it was time to make a turn. I didn't always follow the directions because I take shortcuts or travel on back roads and the GPS did not like that. I would hear another distinct bell "ding, ding, ding" when I didn't turn like I was supposed to. (This would be perfect for Marissa, because she is always getting lost when she drives to or from a new place!) It would be nice to have a car like this someday but we will have to wait a LONG time. Maybe someday all cars will have a GPS in them. When Jason, our service representative, called me at work about the repair work on my car, I was able to understand him. He told me I needed new front brakes, how much it would cost, and when it would be ready. He mentioned to me that in the four years he has been dealing with us, this is the first time he is able to talk me on the phone without any problems. He always had to call Steve or relay a message to me through one of my coworkers.

This week I had dinner with two of my dear friends. Wednesday night I met Susan (Susan's Journey To Sound) at Abuelo's, a new Mexican restaurant in Knoxville. We talked and caught up on each other's news for over three hours. I had the Chile Manzanillo, which was crab imperial stuffed in a fresh roasted poblano covered with shrimp, scallops, mushrooms and red peppers in a creamy lobster sauce. It was served with rice and sazonado. I'm not a fan of scallops so the waiter subsituted extra shrimp for it. It was delicious! Susan ordered chicken fajitas and when the waiter brought her food to her, we just sat there and listened to her food SIZZLE (in a noisy restaurant) for five minutes! We would not have been able to hear that before our CI's. Susan has had her CI for almost two years and is doing great, too. I am so blessed by her friendship - I would not have started my Dance With Sound without her. She will be graduating soon with her nursing degree (that's why she hasn't had time to update her blog for awhile) and I plan to be there to cheer her on!

On Thursday night I had dinner with Dawn at the Olive Garden. I LOVE the salad that they serve there. We talked and visited for several hours, too. It is hard to hear in a noisy restaurant but I just turn down my sensitivity on my processor while on my BEAM program (background noise). The lower the sensitivity number, the more it brings in the voices and sounds that I want to hear. Dawn just needed to talk and I just listened. Dawn and I have been through a lot together over the years. I am truly blessed with good, dear friends!

This week we had a new washer delivered. We had an automated message on our voice mail telling us the delivery time. A year ago, I would not have been able to understand it. Remember my "Furniture Delivery" entry in April 2005 and how frustrated I was? They even called me at work when they were 20 minutes from the house so that I could run home and let them in. I even asked them if they needed directions and they said "no." I would have gladly given them some!

Life is good. I celebrated my one year CI surgery date on Wednesday, August 30th. I cannot believe that it has been a year already! God is so good, ALL THE TIME!

Friday, August 25, 2006

A Letter from Our Marine

My Dearest, Sweetest Mother,

How are things back on the farm? I had a lot of fun with Dad the other day. I think its awesome how he's here so often. I love spending time with him when we can. It's good for me to see my Dad every so often out here. When I hang out with him even for a couple hours I can loosen up and I don't feel so stressed. It's so late/early here now. It's 3:30 a.m. I haven't been able to sleep. Tomorrow is my last day (well today actually) and I can't believe that it's been four years already. I've gone through so many changes and I've been through so much, both good and bad. It's almost overwhelming to think about them. I thought I would be excited on this day, though. I thought I would be so happy and feel weightless. All that may soon come, but right now I'm just sad that I'm leaving I guess. There are so many things that I wanted to do in the Marines that I didn't get to do. I couldn't do another four years - the little things I don't like about it would drive me crazy. I just have to make sure I do well because I'm not going back into the Marines ever...unless they call me back. I want to use what I've learned to better myself and life. I'm really going to miss it though. I can never forget that 'once a Marine, always a Marine.' I feel like I'm leaving a lot of people who depend on me. At the same time, I'm losing my friends, the guys who I've been through so many hard times with. People that I've taught and mentored, people that have taught me and mentored me, and all the people who look up to me as a Sgt and a man mean so much to me. It's different than family. It's different than friends. I knew that this day was coming. I knew that this life of a Marine would someday be memories. I tried so hard and I did well, but I could have done better. I wish I could just be satisfied with myself for once, then maybe I could be happy and enjoy my final hours in the Marine Corps. I'm so happy to think that soon I'll be home. I've missed everybody so much from the day I left. I love you and I'll see you soon.

Sgt P

Thursday, August 24, 2006

A Glitch

This morning I sent an email to AETNA, asking if there was a determination for a cochlear implant for my right ear. Here is what I got this afternoon:

"Thank you for using the Aetna Navigator website to contact Aetna Member Services. Our records indicate your coverage through Science Applications International Corporation ended on August 11, 2006. Please contact the employer's benefits office if you feel this information is incorrect. They can contact our Employer Services department to make any needed changes."

Needless to say, I was not happy about this turn of events at all. The one thing that I was afraid of happening has happened. A glitch in insurance coverage while waiting for determination for a CI. There was a chance that this would have happened while waiting for determination for my CI last year but it didn't. Steve has been trying for over a year to convert to a different status at work but we should still be able to have insurance coverage through COBRA benefits. His company finally decided to do it this month! So, I quickly sent Steve several text messages and copied him on the email and asked him what was going on. He took action right away and made a few phone calls and found out that the paperwork was sent out on Tuesday (the 22nd). I had a dentist appointment yesterday and have A/V therapy tomorrow and we need to be covered insurance-wise. I replied to AETNA's email letting them know that the information they had was incorrect and that we should still have insurance coverage. There was another reply in my mailbox tonight:

"At this time, we have notified been notified by Science Applications International that the COBRA coverage is in effect."

It's funny how quickly things get moving when WE check on things. Steve sent an email letting me know that we should have our paperwork for COBRA in the mail by this weekend. I am trying so hard to be patient and want to have faith and trust that everyone is doing their job like they should. But that isn't always the case. Insurance companies are difficult enough to deal with without extra problems. We have to submit our own paperwork now. I don't mind doing that. I just want to know what is going on in a timely manner. I'll be busy tomorrow getting our "Insurance Project File" set up and organized.

In other news, our Marine son, Sargeant Christopher Lee Pullins, will be FINISHED with his career in the U.S. Marine Corps on Saturday! He is looking forward to starting a new life but has mixed feelings about leaving his friends at Camp Pendleton in California. He saw several of his buddies leave for Iraq this morning at 2 a.m. He hopes to head back home to Tennessee around September 5th. I plan to set up a bedroom for him and clear out some space for his "stuff" these next two weekends. It's hard to believe four years have gone by already. It wasn't that long ago that I was in tears (and constant prayer) when he left for Iraq and again when he came back to the states. We are proud of our Marine. It will be nice to have him "home" safely again. Keep him in your prayers, too.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Insurance Update

I'm currently in Ohio visiting my family for a family reunion. Tried to call home this morning to find out how things were going but got the voice mail instead. I decided to go ahead and put in the password to listen to messages and the first one was from Dr. Merwin's nurse, Teresa, which was received on Thursday afternoon after I left the house. I understood enough to know who was calling and that it was about my second implant, insurance, a letter and something about next week. She had a lot of information and was talking too fast. I saved it because I didn't want to miss ANY of the message or get it wrong and wanted to have another chance to listen to it. Then had my sister, Kathy, call back to find out what exactly was said in the message. Teresa said that they had an answer from the insurance company but did not know if it was a "yes" or a "no" and that a letter was on the way. It will arrive sometime next week. She also said that if our request was denied that they would continue to appeal on my behalf. So, that is progress. When I get home, I'll be able to read her message on my CapTel phone and fill in the parts that I didn't understand. So, we do have some news - just don't know if it is good or bad. Keep praying!

This is my last "trip" for awhile so when things settle down, I'll be able to write more. Went to a family reunion today and it was VERY NOISY! We have a lot of relatives that love to talk and they all talk at once! But, I asked the family to sing our family song, the Doxology instead of the prayer before we ate and it was so pure and beautiful to my ears. We sang it again before the evening meal. God is so good, all the time. And all the time, God is good.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

A CI Moment at Work

I heard a "new" sound today! Haven't heard anything new for a while so this was exciting for me. . . (and crazy for everyone else!) There are many sounds around me at work (typing on keyboards, phones ringing, people talking, departments and extensions being paged, fans humming, copier printing copies, encoder machine encoding checks, printers running, and so on). My desk is near several doors and over the last few days I started hearing a new quiet, small vibrating/shaking sound along with all these other sounds every time the door to the accounting department was opened and shut. We've been having trouble with the air conditioner in our department this week but the noise wasn't coming from that. I asked Cindy, my coworker, if she could hear that "new" noise, too. We opened and closed the door several times and heard it when it closed shut. We thought maybe it was the closer on top of the door but that wasn't it. There is a box with a fire extinguisher next to the door and a sign was sitting on top of it. Removed the sign and still heard it. Then, Cindy realized that it was the fire extinguisher rattling INSIDE the glass box next to the door! No one had noticed it before until I said something. That door is opened at least 500 times a day!

Response #2

I replied to Aetna's first response to me asking how long I can expect to wait for a determination on their part since they had received the pre-authorization request from Dr. Merwin. Here is their second answer:

"This is in response to your recent inquiry regarding the time frame involved in a preauthorization. The preauthorization time frame can vary depending on if all the appropriate medical information is received on the initial review but generally can take up to 30 business days. Once our review is complete you and all parties involved will receive a letter with our determination."

I KNOW that Dr. Merwin sent the preauthorization sometime this past spring which was March or April. This is August. It has been MORE than 30 days. Go figure. Now is the time to let them know I'm still here and waiting "patiently." Romans 8:25 says, "But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently."

On a different note, went to A/V therapy today. I hadn't seen Susie in a month because she was on vacation and then I've been gone. We worked on s and sh sounds (did better on those) and m and n's. Still have trouble telling the different between words like me - knee, mat - gnat, mood - nude, moose - noose, etc. Susie says that there is a slight difference in the pitch between the m and n and that I will eventually get it. She also read me some stories and I did almost perfectly on those. It just gets better and better and takes time, practice, and repetition.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Response from AETNA

I wrote to Aetna yesterday asking if they had received my doctor's request for pre-authorization for my second implant. Here is the response that I received by email today:

"We have received the pre-authorization request for a cochlear implant, and it is currently being reviewed. I apologize for the delay."

That is all. I'm going to write back and ask them when I can expect an answer. . .

Monday, August 14, 2006

Look What I Found

I was browsing the Internet last night and discovered that Heather Whitestone just received a second cochlear implant and was recently activated. You can read about it here and here! (Two different articles) Her hearing loss and journey is almost identical to mine and I have admired her strength, courage, and determination ever since she became the first Miss America with a hearing disability years ago. More and more deaf and hard of hearing persons are being implanted bilaterally and recent studies show that two implants ARE better than one. If Heather can get implanted bilaterally, there is no reason why I should not have two, either.

I still haven't heard anything from our insurance company regarding my request for a second implant. I called Teresa, Dr. Merwin's nurse, this afternoon to see if she had heard anything and she hadn't. She said she would call Cochlear in the morning to find out what was going on (they are advocating to AETNA on my behalf) and would let me know. I think I'll send an email to AETNA, too, to find out what the status is.

Michael Chorost, who wrote the book, REBUILT, about his cochlear implant has changed his surgery date for his second implant for the third or fourth time (I've lost track) because AETNA denied his request the first time and he is fighting them. He is supposed to have an answer in two weeks. I've been watching his blog and you can read his latest update here. I've written to him several times by email and he always writes back to me. If he gets approved, AETNA can't say "no" to me!

One of the gals in my SHHH/HLAA group is getting her cochlear implant TOMORROW! I'm sure she is excited and nervous at the same time. Dr. Merwin, my doctor, is doing her surgery and I know she will do great. Say a prayer for Maureen and for her recovery and activation day. Hopefully she'll be activated when our group resumes our meetings in September.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

A New Friend!

Steve and I have just returned home from a business trip to Nashville. We stayed at the Opryland Hotel and had a busy few days. I made arrangements to meet a new friend, Jennifer, whom I met online on one of the CI Forums that I belong to. We agreed to meet on Thursday at the Opry Mills Mall. I walked to the mall from the hotel and met her in the food court at 11:30 a.m. I recognized her immediately from her picture on her blog and she looks even better in person! She is tall, too, with a beautiful smile.

We quickly found a fairly quiet booth in the Chili’s restaurant in the back away from all the noise and hustle bustle of the mall. We hit it off right away (I knew we would from her blog and the emails that we have traded back and forth) and before we knew it it was 2:00 p.m! We found plenty to talk about and learned a lot about each other. Jennifer also has a severe/profound hearing loss, is married with five children, and is currently waiting for insurance approval to get a cochlear implant. She speaks very well for someone who can hardly hear and lip reads well, too. We talked about our hearing losses, our families, our struggles and triumphs with different issues. She is also a Christian and is involved with her church and Bible Study. As we talked and shared, I came to the realization that even though we are all different and come from different backgrounds, we are still so much alike in our hearing journeys and have the same goal – we want to hear and “be normal.” Before I got my CI, I was very vain about my deafness and would not admit that I was hard of hearing. I never liked the word, "deaf" and I still don't. But I am. I only knew a handful of deaf and hard of hearing persons because I was not part of “that world.” As a high schooler, I was too embarrassed to let anyone know that I had to go to speech therapy and would skip my sessions. Ever since I started my CI journey I have met many people who are hearing impaired just like me. We all share the same frustrations and struggles when we can’t hear and depend on others to be our “ears” for us. I never wanted anyone to see my hearing aids and would hide them with my hair. I refused go out in public with my hair up or get my hair cut short because I wanted to keep my ears covered at all times. Now people walk around with all these Bluetooth gadgets hanging from their ears, earphones, iPods, MP3 players for all the world to see and they are not even hearing impaired. With my Clearsounds neck loop or T-Link for my phone and iPod, I blend right in. In fact, I would gladly pull my CI in a wagon behind me if I had to because I love being able to hear as well as I do. I showed Jennifer some of my accessories that I use and shared with her about the AT & T relay service online that I use instead of a TTY. (I use it less now that I can talk on the phone but it is still a good backup, especially for those dreaded automated messages.) She even tried my neckloop with her telephone setting on her hearing aid. It was fun to watch her facial expressions as she heard the beeps, tones, and message as I connected her to the Time of Day on my cell phone! She did quite well and heard something about thunderstorms and that it was 2:00 p.m. in Knoxville. We walked, talked, and shopped around the mall and got a treat from Starbucks before she dropped me off at the hotel at 4 p.m. I’ve made a new friend for life and we will continue to stay in touch. When we made plans to get together, I thought she lived close to Nashville. She drove AN HOUR from her home to meet me! I told her that I felt special that she would do that and really appreciated it. Spending time today with a new friend was truly a blessing. I felt like I had known her all of my life and I know we will stay in touch. Thank you, Jen, for a delightful afternoon!

I love meeting other people who are “just like me.” Jennifer and I shared how we have “found our group” to fit in to after all these years of denial. We both belong to several hearing loss groups and are members of CI forums online. We have learned so much from other people who have hearing disabilities and love being able to help and encourage those who have the same struggles and experiences. It is very helpful to have a place to go to have questions answered and get helpful information and advice from someone else who has been there. I’ve said this before and I will say it again. The Internet is my “phone” and lifeline to the outside world and I don’t know how I managed without it. I do remember feeling very alone and isolated because I could not talk on the phone, especially when Steve traveled for weeks at a time and left me home with four young children. If I wanted to talk to someone or make a doctor’s appointment, I had to get in my car to drive there. That was not easy with four young children in tow, especially if one of them was sick or if I was burning up with fever and didn't feel good. We taught our kids how to talk on the phone to relay messages at an early age. Somehow it is just not the same to say “I love you” to your spouse through another person or child or to convey personal information.

In closing, we are all part of one body. God put us here to build each other up and support one another. (Still writing and editing. . .watch this space. . .)

P.S. Jen talks about our visit on her blog, too. Check it out here!

Opryland Hotel and Visiting with Relatives

The Opryland Hotel was very nice and beautiful with lush indoor gardens and landscaping. It has winding rivers with beautiful waterfalls and walking paths in a climate controlled greenhouse atmosphere. It is also a very noisy place. The waterfalls in the different atriums are great for scenery in pictures but at the same time they drown out conversations and make it hard to hear. I really don’t like the sound of water except in some situations and this was not one of them. (If I was in charge of the hotel, I would have the waterfalls trickle or flow at different speeds so that it would be easier to hear and make it a more enjoyable environment.) The open areas have very high ceilings and all the different sounds from the tourists, guests, restaurants, shops, etc. make it extremely hard to hear and have conversations. Steve was in charge of the conference there and said that the group was very disappointed in the hotel. The reception on Thursday night was in one of the open areas and the only way anyone could carry on a conversation was to be within 18 inches of the person they were talking with. I retreated to our room several times during our stay just to have some peace and quiet because it was just too much sound for me and made my head hurt. The constant noise is a power drain on my processor and I usually end up with tinnitus afterwards. I also retreated to the pool twice and swam laps in complete silence to have my “quiet time” there. I don’t know how normal hearing people who work at the hotel can tolerate it day after day. It wouldn’t surprise me if they drove home in their cars in silence with their radios off after being in constant noise all day long.

Yesterday, I spent the day with my aunt Nelda. She was only 12 years old when I was born and we’ve always been very close. Steve and I lived in Wisconsin with our kids for eight years and our two families spent lots of time together. She moved to Nashville from Wisconsin last year to be close to her daughters and grandchildren. She picked me up at the hotel at 10 a.m. We talked and visited for awhile before going to the Apple Barn at the Opry Mills Mall where we shared an apple dumpling and shopped a little. Then we drove around Franklin where she lives and we browsed around a few shops. For lunch we stopped at a charming Victorian teahouse called Lillie Belle's in historic downtown Franklin where we both enjoyed a delicious spinach and Swiss cheese quiche with refreshing Almond Lemon tea.

Then, she took me to her new house and showed me around. We had a wonderful visit and looked at some pictures and took a walk. Later, she dropped me off at Jenny & Kurt’s house (my cousin and her husband) for dinner. Steve met me there after his conference was over. We had a great visit and got to see Jenny and Kurt’s new baby, Ty, and see their almost 2 year old, Kal. It was fun to hear the sounds that a baby and little boy make! We also visited with my Uncle Werner, who was visiting from New Mexico, and cousin, Wendy. Dinner was delicious with brats made the Wisconsin way, snap peas, baked beans, grapes, and Grandma Bergman’s cake.

I have one more trip next week to Ohio with my sister, Kathy, and her daughter, Elizabeth, for a family reunion and then I’ll be home for awhile!

Monday, August 07, 2006

A Weekend in Virginia

(Above photo from left to right: Brad, Sarah (Matteo's friend), and Matteo)

I spent this past weekend in Blacksburg, Virginia helping Brad and his friends move in their house that they are renting this year at Virginia Tech. It is a cute four bedroom Cape Cod and is just PERFECT for them. I had a great time with Brad even though it was over 90 degrees with no air conditioning! We drove the car whenever we could to run errands or go out to eat just to cool off! My job was to do what mothers do to help their college kids get off to a good start for the new school year. Took Brad to Walmart to buy things he needed for the house. Also, did lots of cleaning, organized the kitchen, picked up trash, etc. while the guys did their parts. It was a noisy weekend with the wind noise in my car for four hours each way, fans running, going to noisy restaurants, and browsing the festival that was two blocks from his house. I do have an advantage and can "take off" my ears when I need some peace and quiet.

Some Habits Are Hard To Break

My faithful readers are getting tired of reading about BUGS. I am so behind in my writing and will add something today. There are a lot of thoughts to share in my head but no one benefits from them unless they are written down. I feel like a Gumby doll being pulled in 20 different directions because there is just not enough of me to go around! Some of you may not even know what a Gumby doll is (my age is showing!) but you can see one here. It is a clay figure that can be stretched several times its size. The summer is flying by and I've made two trips in the last two weeks and have two more upcoming ones in the next two weeks. I usually don't travel four weeks in a row (I don't know how my husband does it every week!) The summer has been filled with swimming, weddings, family reunions, homecomings, family time, guests, and so on. Our oldest son moved back home two weeks ago and we are still "adjusting." (Will explain that in another post.)

Anyway, during my therapy sessions, I discovered why I was having trouble distinguishing the "sh" sound. It is because I am not used to hearing it. I have always pronounced a word the way it was spelled unless someone told me otherwise. Early on, my mother was the one who would chuckle at me and correct me gently. For example, I didn't know as a child to pronounce "sugar" like "sh"ugar. Or "flood" and "blood" was a short "u" sound instead of the long "u" sound. Mom corrected me on those and I've known to say them the correct way. My friends and family have been so used to my speech that I was rarely corrected before my implant and even afterwards. But, now I am consciously aware of the way words sound because I can actually hear them, except the "sh" sound. For example, I was trying to order a salad to go for lunch over the phone and the person on the other end kept asking me to repeat was I was saying. After the fourth or fifth time, she finally understood me. After I got off the phone, Kim, my coworker in the next cubicle came over to my desk and said, "Laurie, it's not "ch"ef salad. It is "sh"ef salad! I have always pronounced the word "chef" with the "ch" sound. No wonder the gal on the phone could not understand me. Kim said "That girl was dumb. She should have known what you were trying to say!" About a week later, Kim caught me mispronouncing another word, which was the word, "machine." Again, I've always pronounced it with the "ch" sound, and not the proper "sh" sound because that is the way it looks when it is written. So, I asked Susie, my therapist, to come up with a list of words where the "ch" masquerades as "sh" sound. Here is what we came up with:

chaise, chef, Cher, chargrin, chalet, chamois, charade, Charlene, Charlotte, chartreuse, chateau, chenille, Cheri, Cheryl, chevron, Chevy, Cheyenne, chiffon, chignon, chandelier, chaperone, Chicago, chivalry, machine, nonchalant, parachute, and cache.

This list blew me away because I do say the "ch" sound for most of them and am trying change. But, some habits are hard to break, especially if I've said them incorrectly for over 40 years! If you think of any more, leave me a comment and I'll add it to the list. Sometimes your friends can be your best therapists!

Monday, July 31, 2006


I heard another "new" sound yesterday. I went to Ohio this past weekend to visit relatives and to go to a family reunion. As I was cruising on the highway, I heard bugs hitting my car! I hadn't heard that before. I'll add more to this later because I'm exhausted and need to go to bed. . .

Monday, July 10, 2006


I've discovered a new sound that I don't like. . . .locusts! I have been hearing them for the last few nights but knew they weren't crickets or birds. It is a rather piercing sound. They sound like wheezing bugs with really bad asthma! Jason came home tonight and told me what that sound was. . .more later. . .

Friday, July 07, 2006

Just Me and My Husband

Steve and I recently had pictures taken for the church directory. Here is the result! (Our kids were not home and unavailable for a photo session.)

(Isn't he sweet?!!!)

A Rose from my Garden

"Won't you come into the garden?
I would like my roses to see you."
~ Richard B Sheridan 1751-1816