Sunday, August 28, 2005

Sunday mornin', comin' down

Owning a home in the heart of the downtown is nothing if not ... engaging, and often amusing. Take this morning, for instance, when we left the house to go to the Sunday flea market and found a Jewel: Pieces of You CD and case, smashed into bits near the front steps.

Me: "Looks like somebody broke up last night."
Husband: "Yep."


Saturday, August 27, 2005

Nos coeurs sont cassé

Nos coeurs sont cassé - notre bon ami, "Clemont", est parti de nouveau pour Tanzania. Nos coeurs sont assortis à lui. C. dit que nous irons à Arusha avec lui a l'avenir. J'espère qu'elle a raison!

Cette fois je lui ai dit qu'il doit seulement m'écrire en français. Je veux améliorer mon français!

À bientôt Clemont!


Friday, August 26, 2005

TGIFriday... a number of ways.

The weather is spectacular; as summer begins to wind down, the unbreathe-ably hot days of late July and early August are behind us and the temperature hovers at a comfortable 24 or so under cloudless skies. Environment Canada, the national weather service has just confirmed that New Brunswick has the hottest summers in Canada ("Sizzling, hot - New Brunswick?") , so the gentle temps of late summer are a welcome respite.

Friday also means people are in a good mood, so I spent much of the day floating around the office hitting up my co-workers for pledges for the AIDS Walk, which I will be taking part in for the first time on September 10 this year (along with Husband).

Getting involved is in part inspired by a feeling of having been very blessed, and a desire to continue giving back wherever I can; in part inspired by getting to know some families living with HIV/AIDS in the past few years and getting a much better understanding of what that means; and in part inspired by discovering that half the money raised will stay in my province with AIDS New Brunswick/SIDA Nouveau-Brunswick and half will go to the Stephen Lewis Foundation to work fighting the impact of AIDS in Africa. That seems an uncommonly reasonable approach and since Mr. Lewis is one of my great personal heroes, it was a cause I couldn't refuse.

Then after home, a bite to eat and a nap (it's been a rough week at work), we buckled on Veronica's harness and she and I took a stroll around the neighbourhood, enjoying the sun filtering through the trees and the compliments of passers-by who paused to fuss over her. We relaxed in the back yard for awhile before moving indoors to enjoy a Caesar cocktail over lots of ice (me) and an ice cube (her). She's sound asleep now, worn out from her star turn, and I'm messing around online and working on a web page I'm designing for our nieces & nephews to help keep in touch.

TGIF, indeed.


Tuesday, August 23, 2005

"I didn't know the wind made noise."

A great article ran in The Globe and Mail on Saturday about a fellow who got a CI at the age of 27 after being nearly entirely deaf all his life. His results are remarkable in my opinion, given his age and degree of deafness.

I always enjoy these stories. Every story is absolutely unique and almost all are joyous. My favourite quote from this article?

"I got on my bike and heard the wind in my ears. I didn't know the wind made noise."

Think about that.


Never mind, just give us five cubits

It is heartwarming to discover, sometimes, that the deaf are not the only people who sometimes seem to be wandering around in a world all our own, having an entirely different conversation than the one the person we're talking to is having.

Husband's latest project involves a guitar amp, a speaker, a soldering iron, marr connectors and 18/2 gauge electrical wire, among other things. In order to get that wire, last Saturday we did what all Good Canadians do on Saturday and went to Canadian Tire.

Having located a big old roll of the proper wire, we caught the attention of a department attendant.

Attendant: "Hi. Can I help you?"

Husband: "Yes. I'd like 8 feet of this wire."

Attendant: "We don't sell it in feet. We sell it in metres."

Husband: "Oh. Okay. I'll take three metres of it then."

The attendant pulls a great yank of wire off the roll and lays it out straight on the floor at Husband's feet.

Husband: "What are you doing?"

Attendant: "I'm measuring it. The tiles are a foot wide." He counts off eight tiles.

Husband looks at him uncomprehendingly.

Attendant: "We don't have a yardstick."

"It was like a Monty Python skit," Husband said later. "I kept expecting Graham Chapman to turn up in a WWI uniform and interrupt it."


Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Show and Tell

A few days ago, an acquaintance of mine called me up. She's a volunteer with the non-profit organization I used to work with and a very warm and involved person. She's the kind of person who's the first to volunteer her house for a get-together, a kindness I have personally often felt bordered on pathology, but that's just because of the usual state of my house.

She had heard, she said, that I'd had the implant surgery and it had been successful. Now, she had a close friend who is scheduled for the surgery herself, who's anxious and a little confused and facing a very great unknown. Would I sit down and talk with her?

Would I? I was instantly transported back to February of this year when I was the one facing a surgical experience I couldn't get my head around (pardon the pun) in pursuit of hoped-for results I couldn't begin to comprehend and which nobody could accurately describe or demonstrate for me. Yes, I said, I'd be happy to talk to her.

Tell her to make a list of her questions, I said. I guarantee she'll forget some if she doesn't. And tell her not to be shy. I'll talk to her about anything she wants to know.

So our mutual acquaintance set up a meeting today and I met "Linda", who'll be having her surgery in October.

She's a woman a bit older than me who suffers from Ménière's Disease. As a result, she is wholly deaf in one ear and wears a hearing aid, which is becoming increasingly useless, in the other.

Linda has some issues to cope with that I don't. Most importantly, her Ménière's means that her surgeon (she has a different one than I had) has told her he simply cannot predict the effect the surgery will have on her balance. She already has balance problems and has had to stop, for example, riding her bicycle. In fact, there was hesitation to offer her the opportunity to have the implant at all, due to the fact that for her, a potential side effect could be a dramatic loss of mobility.

I told her a bit about my background and that I couldn't comment at all on things related to her Ménière's, or how it might affect her experience. I told her that I'd had little or no balance problems, but that they hadn't anticipated that I would, because it just wasn't part of my history.

But I told her I could share my own experience and let her add that to her pocketful of knowledge.

To my delight, she had a great big list of questions, all right. The first thing she noted, excitedly, was that the processor model I wear is the same one she has ordered. I told her I was glad to hear that, because I adore my processor - it's light, it's easy to care for, it's comfortable, and daily use (from battery replacement to volume control to dehydration) is a dream. I took off my unit and took it apart, let her handle it and ask questions about the various parts. I showed her the direct-connect earhook and explained how I could plug it into a discman or computer.

"It looks so scary and complicated," I said. "But within a couple of weeks it's as natural as putting on your glasses in the morning and about as hard to take care of."

She had many questions about the surgery itself, of course. How much did it hurt? How soon did I leave the hospital? When was I able to drive and get around on my own? (Linda lives alone with her beloved dog.) Was I dizzy after the surgery?

I answered all those questions and was able to offer advice on some of the unexpected things I'd encountered.
  • Realistically, she was going to need some help to clean the surgical site, I said. (It's a simple task - clean it a few times a day with a Q-tip, first with sterile water, then with an antibiotic ointment. Simple - and critical to prevent devastating infection at the surgical site.) I'd tried using two mirrors to do it myself, but it was just too awkward, and Husband had taken on that role. Fortunately, Linda will be staying with a relative in the Halifax area for awhile after her surgery, so they will be prepared that the relative will need to take on that role.
  • When you leave the hospital the day after the surgery, I said, they'll cut off your bandage and compliment you on how great things look and tell you to keep it clean and let it get air and shake your hand and bob's your uncle! Off you go! And your hair is gonna be shaved and full of ... staples and stitches and bactine and blood and polysporin and ...stuff and you're going to look in the mirror and say to yourself, "I cannot go into the lobby of this hospital, much less the streets of Halifax, frightening housepets and small children and alarming pensioners like this." Make sure whoever picks you up has a scrupulously clean cotton scarf for you to wrap loosely around your head.
  • Yeah, they shave a chunk of your hair, I said, but wearing a scarf for the first month or so takes care of any embarrassment. I was back at my desk job a week after the surgery, I said, but a full work day tended to do me in.
"If you like, if it wouldn't bother you," I said, "would you like to feel where the implant is?"

"Oh, YES!" She was very eager and I took off the processor and then had the incredibly bizarre experience of having two middle-aged ladies (my friend the volunteer was 'satiably curious as well) poking around behind my left ear. It is, my friends, a most interesting experience to volunteer, in the interests of philanthropy, to have people poke at any part of your body and go "ewwwwww". But I understand, I honestly do. When you touch me behind that ear now, you can feel the implant under the skin. And the first reaction is an "ewwwww". But I told her that her own head wouldn't feel to her like an "ewwww". It would feel a little bumpy. And fascinating. And she would love every lump and bump that meant that she could hear again. And she was pleasantly surprised - to find out that you couldn't see a scar, to find out that the skin was all clean and smooth and normal and enclosed and that the headpiece just attached with a magnet. To see how it really works.

She had a dozen more questions about activation. What did I hear right away? What could I hear now? Could I hear music? Could I hear my own voice?

We discussed the electronic 'beeps and boops' that you are told to expect. I described my results - understanding full sentences immediately - and told her that they were apparently super-good, and that she shouldn't be discouraged if hers were much less dramatic. But... I said... if things were working well, there would be an ongoing improvement (which I myself am still experiencing). I warned her about the "Micky Mouse voices" and told her not to panic - they'd start differentiating after a short while.

As for music, I said, I enjoyed it enormously now.

"I... used to sing," she said. "In the church choir. I - had to stop. I couldn't hear myself."

"You know there aren't any guarantees," I said. "But... if your implant works properly, which statistically it should... I think you will definitely be able to try singing in the church choir again."

"Do you sing?" she asked eagerly.
"All the time," I said.
"And you can hear yourself?"
"Oh, yeah. I mean, I think I sound a lot better than I really do, but so does everyone," I said. "You ever see someone singing into a hairbrush in front of the mirror? Of course, I sang when I was deaf, too. That must've been a nightmare. The cats are still traumatized."

I told her how it felt, learning to hear again. I told her that it felt like the process, initially, goes
  • I hear that sound and -
  • I see a dog barking and -
  • my brain says, in a flicker, "I see a dog barking and that must be the sound the barking dog is making. What did a barking dog used to sound like? Oh, yes, that makes sense, that connects and it does sound like I remember 'a dog barking' sounded. It fits."
And your brain does that faster and faster and more and more smoothly and more and more automatically and better and better without visual cues until you are


Since she has been a hearing person until recently, I hope that the dots connect for her real quickly, the way they did for me.

We talked for almost two hours and when we parted we exchanged email addresses and I know that I will follow up with her and probably end up visiting her and/or taking food to her when she gets back after her surgery. (I can't help it - I'm from Newfoundland. Any significant life event results in showing up at the door with food. In this case, I know that after surgery you don't feel like cooking, but dammit, you often feel like eating.)

I'll let you know what happens...

Washington University School of Medicine Ménière's Page
Ménière's Disease Information Center
Ménière's Disease support organization site


Tuesday, August 16, 2005


A page from a graphic novel set in the future, recoommended by J.D.. which seriously amused me.

Hard-core, baby.


Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Happy Birthday, Husband!

An appropriate time to re-post this quote, seen in this blog before:

"Susan Sontag wrote that we all hold dual citizenship in the kingdom of the well and in the kingdom of the sick. Of course, we hope to remain in that first kingdom as long as we can but if - and, inevitably in old age, when - we move on to that other bleaker territory, most of us fervently hope we have the right traveling companion by our sides." - Judith Timson

Happy Birthday, my traveling companion. I got lucky.


Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Any Canadian Soldier

Another shipment of Canadian soldiers left Fredericton airport tonight, on their way to Kabul, Afghanistan.

You may be familiar with Operation Dear Abby, which (used to) allow individual citizens to send cards, letters and gift packages to "Any US Soldier" overseas. The bottom line was that the poor bastard who didn't have anyone back home to send him or her expressions of concern would know that some-anonymous-one, somewhere, cared (at least in the abstract) if he lived or died, and had naively tried to make his day just a little bit brighter. And that matters, I think, when you're far from home and in misery and danger.

Well, Canada also had a program similar to Operation Dear Abby. Unfortunately, the world being the strange and twisted place it is these days, neither the US nor the Canadian military can deliver sealed mail to "Any Soldier" anymore. Fears of "mail tampering" (read: anthrax and other nasty, dark, symptoms of dark times) have nixed the opportunity for us to exercise the small human gesture of putting a few words on a card, or a few Kit Kat bars and beef jerky and Wet Ones and air fresheners and soap and toothpaste and ziploc bags and a note and some paperback novels into a box, and sending them to some human doing time thousands of miles away from home in our name.

(There are private groups delivering packages to US soldiers. Since I'm not familiar with them personally, I am not going to link to them and indirectly vouch for them. A google search on 'care packages soldiers in [country name]' should be a good start for those interested in doing their own investigations.)

The Canadian military will, however, deliver unsealed postcards. And while both militaries have websites where you can send e-messages to Canadian and American soldiers, there's just something about getting a tangible piece of home at mail call that you know has gotta mean more than an anonymous email.

To send a genuine paper postcard to Any Canadian Soldier overseas

They're our brothers and sisters, sons and husbands, wives and moms and uncles and aunts and cousins and second-cousins. They're our high school sweethearts, our dads and nieces and nephews, and some of them aren't much any of the above and don't get a package of stale cookies or a badly-rendered drawing of Puddles the new puppy or a greeting card in the mail. For some of them it was a kind of blindly noble choice, a way out for the guys who were born into bad circumstances and didn't have many choices except they knew they didn't want to end up jail or dead, the guys who don't get the letter at mail call. Wouldn't hurt to take a few minutes to let them know that regardless of our politics at home, we are all on their side.


Monday, August 08, 2005

Unfortunate Closed-Captioning Cockup of the Day: Reluctant Obituary Edition

CNN's tribute to the late Peter Jennings (much-mourned at hearing/loss) included a charming still photo of the 'Big 3' anchors paying tribute to Walter Cronkite, with this caption:


From the stories they tell, one imagines Jennings would have been mildly amused.



Saturday, August 06, 2005

back 2 the grind

After the best and most relaxing vacation I have had in years, the jolt on venturing - reluctantly - back into the working world was, shall we say, profound. My stress level went from 0 to 60 in 2.5 minutes back in my office, thanks to the necessary debriefing on current assignments and projects, funding gained, funding denied, new tasks and assignments that popped up since I'd left, and office politics, complete with a healthy dollop of the gossip. One thing you miss - a LOT - when you are deaf is gossip, part of the massive amount of incidental and environmental information which hearing people pick up without thinking and which are key factors in stopping us from putting our big feet in our mouth. This actually happened to me last year.

(Coworker writes:) "Hi, Ronnie, how are you?"
"Great. How are the wedding plans coming? Just a week off now, eh?"
A long, long pause. Co-worker's eyes tear up.
(Coworker writes:) "The wedding is OFF. We broke up two weeks ago."
(crickets chirp).
"Oh. I'm sorry!" A pause. "I mean, am I?" (Answer: No.)

I also found out this spring that a friend's father had died last autumn. It was nobody's fault that I didn't know, it was entirely an oversight... it's just that "everyone knew" that it had happened, it was "common knowledge"... except that we get our "common knowledge" through our ears, and nobody realized that because nobody wrote it down for me, I didn't know.

Anyway, to make a long story short, it's been a 'shellshock' kind of week and I've been coming home from work and crashing out; and still stunned when the alarm goes off the next morning. It's left me with little energy for anything else, including posting here, and I apologize.

For a week of our vacation we had a foster cat. Our friend C was in Toronto for her summer vacation so it only seemed fair that her big grey tabby, Sam, got to spend the week visiting his 'cousins', our two kitties. A Good Time was Had By All. Sam has been a frequent houseguest of ours and after the first few visits, when everyone figured out their place in the hierarchy, everybody got along splendiferously. Mojo, the younger and more playful cat, especially enjoys Sam's visits because Sam will rassle with him. Veronica has a... fairly low threshold for that kind of thing.

Sam is so much part of the family now that this visit, for the first time, we found him lounging in The Chair.

The Chair is a director's chair which Husband has owned since college days. It was on a shortlist for donation to a second generation of poor youngsters when we adopted Veronica, who immediately pointed out that a sling is just about the perfect chair for a cat; and with the addition of an old quilt, it achieved Cat Nirvana status. (So much so that it is entirely a Cat Chair now, not nearly fit for human occupation, hidden out of sight in a corner, for massively obvious reasons. Note that we appear to be trying to grow another cat on the back of the chair. This is in spite of the fact that the chair gets vacuumed regularly. This is just the Stuff That Won't Come Off.)

So has become The Chair Veronica sits in, the primo lounging spot in the entire house. Mojo has dared sit in The Chair a handful of times, but he does so with the nervousness of the hunted on his face, just knowing he could get his clock cleaned if Her Majesty catches him. Sam, on the other hand, who we call the "Zen Cat", displayed no such anxiety when he took his turn in The Chair, and Veronica, who is nothing if not a good hostess (and a cat with impeccable self-preservation instincts) pretended earnestly not to notice him while he was there.

Sam's back with his Mama now, a day late since C was caught up in the dreadful thunderstorms and resulting Air France crash at Pearson airport on Tuesday. Here's an odd thought for you: we were getting voicemails from C, who was stuck in the airport terminal when her flight was grounded due to the thunderstorms; she didn't know why she couldn't book another flight until late the next night, at the earliest. Husband and I, 1300km away, knew exactly why - we were watching live footage of the Air France jet burning on CTV.

So eventually C got home to Fredericton, and my mother-in-law and sister-in-law and two neices and a nephew who were landing in Toronto at the same time and who also got caught up in the drama, all got to their respective destinations, and Sam is home and Veronica, yes, Veronica is as I type in The Chair.

Hope the weather wherever you are is as simply spectacular as it has been here. High 20s every day, low humidity, sunshine and gentle breezes. May it last until the end of October!