Saturday, June 30, 2007

Jennifer's Post

Steve and I are in Texas visiting our son, Jason and met our new "daughter in law to-be," Jessica. What a sweetie she is! I will write later when I get home but for now, read Jennifer's recent post that she wrote. She says it all. . . go HERE and read her comments, too.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

OKC Pictures

Joyce, Jennifer, Mike, & Laurie in the Advanced Bionics booth.
Jennifer, Laurie, Susan, and Dr. Norm on the Riverwalk in Downtown OKC.

Dr. Norm, Jennifer, & Laurie at the Banquet Reception.

Mike Royer & Joyce (Punky) at the Closing Ceremony Banquet

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

After Convention Thoughts

I didn’t sleep well the last night in OKC. That always seems to be the case when I have to wake myself up in time to catch a flight. I tried to be quiet in the room while Jennifer was sleeping but quickly realized that she can’t hear anything either when she takes her CI off! After we got up, dressed, and packed our suitcases, we went downstairs to the Starbucks lounge to get some coffee and breakfast. It wasn’t long before Dr. Norm came to our table to say hi. We had already said goodbye to him the night before and didn’t think we’d see him again. We ended up taking him to the airport since his flight was leaving about the same time mine was. Dr. Norm was such a sweetheart and we enjoyed his company. We are all married with kids, talked about our families, showed off pictures, and didn’t think twice about getting together for coffee or meals. He has a cochlear implant and is going to see about getting his other ear implanted when he returns home this week. Jennifer hopes to go bilateral soon, too.

This was my first HLAA convention and one of the recurring thoughts I had was, “What took me so long to find this group?” HLAA has been around for a long time and I didn’t know about it. For most of my life, I never “fit” in anywhere and spent many years in denial about my hearing loss. I didn’t know many deaf people because I lived in a hearing world. But, I didn’t fit in a hearing world either because I was hard of hearing and needed help to understand what was going on around me. This weekend, for the first time, I actually felt “normal,” and had the best time ever. The environment was almost stress-free and I didn't have to work so hard to "get the message." Everywhere we went, there were other people just like me. If someone's battery died while we were having a conversation, we stopped and resumed the conversation after the battery change. There was close captioning and interpreters available for all the workshops and events. The sound systems were PERFECT in every single room. Someone really knows how to set up sound systems for the deaf and hard of hearing and deserves a standing ovation. I truly felt like I was in a perfect hearing world because the environment so easy and comfortable. I didn’t miss out on anything. It would be nice if it was like this everywhere for people with varying degrees of disabilities.

Once I got back to the airport, I was "lost" again and couldn't understand the loudspeakers or when it was time to board my flight. I wore a button that I got at the convention that said, "Please, I hear you better when you face me" and actually had people helping me with my surroundings in the airport and on the plane. I plan to wear it everytime I travel. I'm not going to try to hide my hearing loss anymore. Even though I can hear well with my implants, my word comprehension is not perfect and I still need/like to look at people when I communicate.

I also saw a huge change in Jennifer. I know she felt the same way I did. She was so happy and relaxed. She enjoyed the whole weekend and moved with ease, even though she couldn’t hear very well. The best way I can describe it is that she was like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon. And she is ready to fly! One of the Indian dances we saw last night was a Butterfly Dance and it was beautiful. I like to think of all of us with hearing disabilities like butterflies . . . we are all at different stages in our lives. . . some of us are still caterpillars, some of us are still in our cocoons, some of us are emerging and breaking free, and the others are flying high. . . .

My favorite picture of Jennifer - does she look relaxed and happy??!!!
Next year the HLAA convention will be in Reno, Nevada. We will be there! (Doug, you need to come with us!)

I will end this post with some lyrics from a Michael W. Smith song, "This is Your Time." Don't put off until tomorrow when you can do something about your life today. Life is too short to wait for blessings!

This is your time. This is your dance.
Live every moment. Leave nothing to chance.
Swim in the sea. Drink of the deep.
Embrace the mystery of all you can be. . . .

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Day 3 in Oklahoma City

Joyce and Mike knocked on our door yesterday morning and invited us for breakfast. This time I was ready but Jennifer wasn’t. We had the buffet breakfast and Mike had us laughing the whole time. Joyce is very pregnant with her third child and at one point she jumped back in her seat because the baby kicked her so hard!

Mike wanted to go see the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum so we all boarded the bus to see that. The trolley was only twenty five cents. I still remember the bombing that happened in Oklahoma City 12 years ago and will never forget that day. The Memorial was beautiful and very interesting. The reflecting pool was beautiful and one could feel the emotion in the place. As you walked in, you could see chairs on the lawn that represented all the people and children that lost their lives that day. The small chairs represented the children and the larger ones represented the adults. I realized that I didn’t have my camera with me so Jennifer let me take a few pictures with her camera. We wanted to go in the museum but didn’t have time because Mike had to return to the Advanced Bionics booth to work.

After we left Mike at the Convention Center, Jennifer, Joyce, Dr. Norm, and I went back to the coffee shop we had visited the night before. I could not find my camera in the hotel room and thought I might have left it there. Sure enough, it was there – with some extra pictures taken by some goofy coffee shop workers! I was thankful that I found it – that shows a lot about the people of Oklahoma City. The four of us had lunch at the Spaghetti Warehouse, walked around some more and got more souvenirs to take home.

We went back to the Convention Center, attended some workshops, visited more booths, and met more people. There was an ice cream social and we got more massages at the Cochlear booth. I also tried out a Bluetooth headset that would work with my CI and phone. This is the place to see and try out all the new gadgets!

I won several items at the silent auction and paid for those. I got a Starbucks basket with two coffee mugs, two bags of Starbucks coffee, a thermos and a Yahtzee travel game. I also won a basket with heart items in it. It’s going to be tricky getting all this stuff home in my suitcase! I gave Jennifer a mug and bag of coffee and told her that I would think of her as I drank my coffee in my matching mug! There was an ice cream social that afternoon at the Convention Center. Mike called me over to his booth and told me he had a free ticket to the banquet that night. I didn’t want to go without Jennifer but there were some extra ones for sale. So we bought a ticket and shared the price. We were told it was a dressy affair so we went back to our room to freshen up and change our clothes. We had originally planned to go out to eat again in the downtown area but we are so glad we didn’t because it started to rain and storm outside. We took the skywalk from the hotel to the Convention Center so we didn’t have to worry about getting wet.

The reception and banquet was nice. We found Dr. Norm again and talked with a few other people. The food was okay but the highlight of the evening was the Oklahoma Fancy Dancers. They were Native American Indians and were absolutely WONDERFUL! Their costumes were beautiful and they danced different dances for us as their lead singer/drummer played the drum. The narrator explained the different dances and history and we loved every minute of it. At one point the audience was invited to participate in a dance so we got to learn and dance with the Indians for a bit. They call themselves the First People and they were just so breathtaking and spiritual. My mouth was probably hanging wide open as I watched them dance. One guy danced with hoops and was fascinating because he put his whole body through them and made different shapes and figures.

I finished the shawl that I made so Barbara and her friend came to our room to pick it up. You can see a picture of it here on my knitting blog! She loved it right away. Jennifer and I stayed up late again talking and reviewing all the pictures we had taken. We are having so much fun and don’t want this weekend to end.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Day 2 in Oklahoma City

Day 2 was a fun and interesting day. Jennifer and I took our time getting up in the morning until Joyce came knocking on our door. She had Mike Royer with her and wanted him to meet us. I still had rollers in my hair and wasn’t dressed yet. I did meet him later in the Advanced Bionics booth and he is so funny! He accused me of having “contraband” in the Advanced Bionics booth when he found out that my implants were Cochlear and not Advanced Bionics. He is from Ohio like me and has family around the Columbus area so it is quite possible that we are related somehow. Jennifer, Joyce, & I had our pictures taken with him. Then we went downtown to walk around a little bit and see the sights. We shopped in a jewelry/souvenir store and I purchased two necklaces made by the owner’s mother, who is a Native Navajo Indian. Also got a flute CD and an Oklahoma magnet for the refrigerator. There is a river/canal that runs through the downtown area and it is so pretty. There are also buffalo statues everywhere!

I left Jennifer and Joyce downtown and went to sit on a panel at the Sheraton Hotel that I was invited to participate in. There were only three other gals there but it was extremely informative and interesting. Cochlear wanted some feedback from current cochlear implant users for the next generation cochlear implant that they are developing. DeeDee shared some features that they were working on and said that our feedback would be very valuable to their engineers. We were being filmed as we shared our backgrounds, how well we were doing, how long we had had our CI’s, what we liked and didn’t like about them, etc. One thing that Cochlear is working on is a wireless remote for cochlear implant users and DeeDee, our moderator, shared a PowerPoint presentation. She asked us what we like and didn’t like about the wireless remote, what we would change, what we would give up on our processors to make them smaller, and so on. I felt honored and privileged to be on this panel and hope I can do something this again. (Brad, I thought about you and wished you had been with me – you would have loved this!) One of the gals on the panel was Donna B. and I had met her online last year. We’ve traded emails but had never met in person before. We both were thrilled to finally have an opportunity to meet face to face! :-D

Cochlear had a booth at the convention and it was very nice and informative. They also had massage therapists on hand to give mini-massages. Believe me, I took advantage of that! My shoulders are very tight and sore – probably from traveling on the plane and carrying my purse and bags, etc. Cochlear’s booth also had a TV set up with a loop system. I was able to switch my processors on telecoil and could hear the TV directly in my ears with no interference. Steve wants me to find out how we can get a loop system for our family room so I can enjoy watching TV with him and the family.

While walking about the convention we met so many nice people. Jennifer and I met Dr. Norm, who is a retired chiropractor and Susan G., a sweet gal from Nashville, TN. Also, a lady by the name of Barbara came up to me and told me that she loved the shawl that I was wearing. I knitted this shawl two years ago and wear it everywhere to keep me warm in air-conditioned places. She caught me by surprise when she asked me if I would consider making one for her. I’ve never knitted something on commission before and had to think about that for a minute. I asked her what color she wanted and she said “black.” It just so happens that I am almost finished making a black one and have it with me. I told her how much the material cost and agreed to sell it to her. I can always make another one for me when I get home.

I also went to a seminar about how the deaf and hard of hearing can find the right cell phone for them. There were several representatives from the different phone companies on the panel and it was more of a sales pitch than anything. But, I learned that hearing aids and cochlear implants have an “M” rating. Cell phones also have an “M” rating. The ideal “M” combination for being able to hear on the phone with telecoils is between 6 and 8. So, if a hearing aid has an M2 rating and a cell phone has an M3 rating – those numbers equal M5, which indicates that the hearing aid and cell phone would not work well together. But, if the hearing aid or CI had an M3 or M4 rating and a person had a cell phone with an M3 or M4 rating – that would indicate the perfect combination. In all the years that I’ve worn a hearing aid, I’ve never known about M ratings or what my hearing aid ratings were. I also visited the telephone booths and like the Blackberries and Treo phones. All cell phone have a 30-day return policy, which means we can try out a phone and return it if it doesn’t work for us. Cell phone companies are aware of the needs of the deaf and hard of hearing and it is nice to know that they will work with people like us.
Later, Jennifer, Norm, Susan and I went out to dinner at Abuelo’s and it was fun. Norm and Susan had come to the convention alone so we invited them to join us. After dinner we walked around downtown and then went to the movie theatre to watch Evan Almighty. This was the first day of the movie and we had free tickets from the convention. The movie was close captioned and was so funny! For the first time, I could REALLY enjoy watching a movie at the theatre. We also received coupons for free popcorn and drinks. It can’t get any better than this! We walked to a coffee shop afterwards and then went back to the hotel to talk some more at the hotel lounge. Susan wears hearing aids and is very interested in cochlear implants and whether one would work for her. We talked until after midnight and then Jennifer and I went back to our room – we were both tired after a long day of walking around.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Day 1 in Oklahoma City

I made it! Oklahoma is FLAT! But I am having a great time here. I got up at 3:30 a.m. (2:30 a.m. Oklahoma time) and made it to the airport by 5 a.m. to catch my 6 a.m. flight. When I got there, I discovered that my flight was delayed an hour. That was fine because my layover in Cincinnati was one hour instead of being two hours and there was plenty of time to catch my connecting flight. The flight was uneventful and Jennifer was right there at the OKC airport to meet me. We had a fun and busy day yesterday and met lots of new people. Also met Joyce and Shari, who have blogs as well. Also met Terry Portis, his wife, Denise, and their new hearing ear dog. Mike Royer arrived last night and I hope to meet him today. (Royer is my maiden name and I'd love to see if we are related!) Jennifer and I are volunteers so we worked the silent auction table for four hours. There are 75 vendors with all kinds of booths to cater to the deaf and hard of hearing. I skimmed them yesterday but plan to take my time checking them out today, especially with the ones with the phones.

The opening session was well done and there were three screens up so everyone could see. I know I am sitting in a "loop" or special sound system because what I hear in my processors is so clear and crisp with no extra noise or interference. There are interpreters signing in the front of the room and of course there is close captioning on the screens. Jennifer commented that no one is going to look at the speaker because they will be looking at the screens! The keynote speaker was Dr. I. King Jordan, who was the former president of Gallaudet University and he was very interesting. He spoke about the recent controversy surrounding the new president of Gallaudet University and how there is no one way to be deaf or hard of hearing today. There are many degrees of deafness (some with other disabilities) and how what works for one person does not always work for another. We also went to a reception with some great Mexican food and got our pictures taken. We went back to our hotel room before the reception was over. I was fading fast and couldn't keep my eyes open.

Jennifer and I are having a blast and we are great roommates. We are staying at the Marriott Renaissance and it is very nice. Our beds are wonderful and I slept like a log the minute my head hit the pillow. I feel human today after my shower and cup of coffee. It is interesting sharing a room with another person who is deaf because we don't have to worry about waking each other up and can make all the noise we want! If you want to read her version about yesterday, go here!

Jennifer and I are going to take a walk this morning and see what is in this downtown area that we are in. I need to find a sweater - the convention center is COLD and I'm having a hard time staying warm. This afternoon I'm going to sit on a forum for Cochlear - they asked me to when I visited their booth yesterday. We're going to go back to the Convention to meet up with Joyce, sit on some seminars, and just have fun! More later. . .

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Oklahoma City, Here I Come!

I'm busy finalizing things here at home and packing for the HLAA Convention in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. . . click HERE for the Convention 2007 blog updates on the weekend. See you later!

(I'll have my computer with me and hope to have some time to write.)

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Happy Father's Day!

Happy Father's Day, Daddy! I love you!

March 1960

November 13, 1976

May 2007

Saturday, June 16, 2007

The Call of a Mourning Dove

This has been another busy week in our house. Everyone seems to come and go at different hours. We have also been hosting a Latvian family in our home this week and they have been a pleasure. The Latvia Methodist Youth Choir is touring the U.S. for three weeks in June and we have had the pleasure of hosting the choir director, Maris, his wife, Indra, and their six-year old son, Gustavs. Maris speaks English well so we are able to communicate. Gustavs is very quiet and whispers in his parents' ear if he wants to tell us something. It's so cute! Gustavs also has brand new shoes with wheels in the heels that they purchased for him in the states. He skates/rolls everywhere on them and is pretty good at it! When he outgrows the shoes, he plans to cut out the toes so he can keep wearing them! He also likes Apple Jacks with warm milk for breakfast and before bedtime. I've had to get up early every morning to prepare breakfast for them and then take them to the church. We pick them up in the evenings and bring them back home. They arrived last Sunday evening from North Carolina and will leave on Monday morning for Alabama and Texas. We heard the choir sing this afternoon and they have beautiful and unique voices. Wow. The concert for the church is tomorrow evening and we plan to attend that.

This afternoon I spent some time on our front porch writing emails. In the midst of the birds chirping and the leaves rustling in the wind, I kept hearing a whoo-ooo-ooo sound off in the distance. It was a soft soothing sound but I knew it wasn't an owl because owls don't *who* in the middle of the day. I asked Steve to come outside to tell me what it was. He said it was a mourning dove. And I heard it off and on for several hours. The cool thing is that this demonstrates the benefit of bilateral cochlear implants. Binaural hearing has made it easier for me to hear speech and other sounds around me. One ear cannot do all the work. When the same sound like the mourning dove call is heard from both sides, I become aware of the sound at softer levels. That would also explain how I was able to hear a fly on tinfoil. I know you all are still laughing about that and shaking your heads in amazement!

I still have yet to hear an owl. . . my friend, Jessi, at work says she hears one at her house every morning when she gets up with her baby. She sits with her daughter on their back patio that faces the woods. I told her that one of these mornings she might find me in my pajamas, robe and cup of coffee on her doorstep at 6:30 a.m to sit with her and Shelby!

I am making more phone calls with ease. This past week I even called the plumber all by myself - this was someone I did not know and I was able to understand him asking what the problem was, where we lived, and I understood that he would be there before noon. It just gets better and better.

I'm leaving on Thursday for the HLAA convention for four days and cannot wait. I need a break and some time away! It will be fun to meet other people with hearing losses and cochlear implants, professionals who deal with the deaf and hard of hearing, see all the latest gadgets, hear speakers, etc. I am also looking forward to seeing Jennifer again and meeting other people that I've heard about or chatted with online.

The Governor still hasn't made *the announcement* yet. . . I'm tempted to post it here but he has the first right to make the press announcement. . . stay tuned. And Happy Father's Day to all you fathers who read this blog.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

A CI Moment

I'm sitting here in the kitchen with my laptop computer and heard a faint crinkling type noise near me. You will not believe what it was. . .it! was! a! FLY! walking! on! tin! foil!!!! We had just finished eating dinner and the tin foil was laying on the counter. It took Chris and I a little while to locate the source of this unusual sound. Chris couldn't believe that I could hear it! I've also been hearing the water run into the icemaker in the freezer. I always notice the ticking of the clock on the wall when I'm in here. Kitchen sounds.

I'll be busy the next few days. . .am leaving tomorrow after I get off work to go with Marissa for orientation at the University of Tennessee - Chattanooga. We'll be back on Friday. And then, starting on Sunday, we'll have guests here in our home from Latvia for a week. The Latvia Youth Choir is coming to the U.S. on tour and the director, his wife, and son will stay with us. Should be a fun and busy time!

And then. . . on June 21st, I will get on a PLANE for Oklahoma City, Oklahoma for the HLAA Convention with Jennifer! I am so ready for a break and a little mini-vacation. . .

Sunday, June 03, 2007

News, Puppies, Etc. . .

It's time for another update from me. . .I have news to share and news that I can't share yet. . .

The BIG news around here is that our oldest son, Jason, is engaged! He proposed to his new girlfriend, Jessica, last night! Apparently he got it all on video, which we hope to see soon. The wedding date has been set for November 3rd. Steve and I will be traveling to Houston, Texas soon to meet our new "daughter-in-law to be" and to see Jason, too, whom we haven't seen since Christmas. Wow. Life never seems to slow down these days!

The puppies are six weeks old now and getting so big. One has already left for his new home and we have three spoken for. The other four are waiting for new homes and we've gotten one call so far. I took them to the vet last week for their puppy shots and that was a trip! Two of Marissa's friends helped me carry them in the clinic. The biggest puppy weighed 11.2 pounds and the smallest one weighed 8.5 pounds (which is the one we are keeping for Brad - he needs a friend at Virginia Tech). That meant we carried at least 80 pounds worth of puppies in three laundry baskets! See the pictures below:
"WHEE! Going to the VET!"

"I'm not sure I like this. . ."

"I'm tired. Can we go home now?"

"Who has been touching my babies????"

I'm still enjoying my world of sound with two ears. Everything seems so natural and normal these days. I still haven't made an appointment for testing or therapy - just don't have time. But, I am using the phone more and more and understanding phrases and whole sentences on the radio, in stores, etc. I love to sit outside on the porch and hear the sounds of nature. The wind rustling in the trees is so soothing and calm. Listening to the puppies play, growl, whine, and bark with their little puppy voices brings a smile to my face. When you pick them up, they make these little content grunting sounds - so cute! Yesterday I put my CI's on the wrong ears and thought things sounded funny. I quickly changed them to the proper ears! So, that is proof that each CI is programmed differently for each ear.

I have also found several new blogs written by new CI patients or their parents. Go visit Kauan, Yana, and Billy and check them out. I've been exchanging some wonderful emails with Kauan's mom and she has been a blessing to me! We both feel that our paths have crossed for a reason. Now that I can hear with two CI's, I truly believe that any word of encouragement and help that I can give to someone struggling with deafness is my new mission in life. Also, Sam in New York received his CI last year and is taking the steps to go bilateral. . .I wish him the best! I thank God every day for this gift of sound in my life and other people's lives. I also ache for those who struggle with their CI's and pray for them, too.

As for the news I cannot share yet. . .I've known about this since April but I have to wait for the Governor of Tennessee to make the press announcement first. . . :-) (Shelley, I've given Dawn permission to tell you what this is!)