Thursday, December 23, 2004

Butterballs and Best Wishes

Happy Festivus, everyone!

Well kids, I made the big decision. With my sister in town for the holidays, I'm going to do it -- I'm going to cook Christmas dinner. Turkey, stuffing, vegetables, cranberry sauce -- the whole nine yards. It's a little difficult to believe that at the age of 39 this will be the time in my life I have ever actually roasted a turkey, but it's true. With just the two of us at home, Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners were usually spent at my mother-in-law's house -- which wasn't a bad deal because she's a great chef. But with Sis here this year it's time to have Christmas in our own home, and that means facing the ultimate domestic challenge -- The Christmas Turkey. I'm already getting lots of excellent advice from the Butterball website, among others. (Is it just me, or is "Butterball" one of those product names that worked in the seventies but now is just kind of... eugh?)

Wish me luck.

Just as I have been too busy shopping, wrapping and mailing to post much recently, so will I probably be too busy over the next few days to update. I am thinking of you all and hope that each of you have a wonderful holiday with your families. Wish I could see all of you again; this year has given me a new appreciation for my friends and family. Take care of each other. I love you all. Merry Christmas.


Friday, December 17, 2004

I know why the deaf bird sings

I am a singer, from a family of singers. At home we sang while we washed dishes, while we drove in the car, while we worked in the yard, with or without the accompaniement of the radio. My mother had a beautiful voice and I inherited a lesser version. I sang in church, in Glee Club and later in an adult choir.

I have not stopped singing since I went deaf. I haven't been able to figure out why, really, and have puzzled over it. Emotionally, it doesn't feel the same. I can't hear a thing, even the vibrations of my own voice. So why do I bother?

Yesterday I was driving along and singing "Dona Nobis Pacem", a song I soloed in my seventh grade Glee Club Christmas Concert which was a terror I shall never forget. And suddenly I realized just how physically good it feels, in the chest, in the diaphram. Singing, I had never noticed as a hearing person, feels physically wonderful. Notice it the next time you're belting out "Delilah" in the shower.


Wednesday, December 15, 2004

So I said to my close personal friend Buzz Aldrin, I said...

Had the ENG test yesterday. (You remember, the one designed to diagnose the reasons for vertigo or dizziness, the one that measures the movement of the eye, NYSTAGMUS. They always write NYSTAGMUS in capital letters, leading me to suspect that either it is an acronym for something or it is a part of the medical curriculum which sucks so badly that you forever after think of it in caps.)

Funny how things I dread (like the CI evaluation meeting in Halifax) turn out to be nothing, and the things I expect to be pretty much nothing turn out to be pretty awful. The ENG test starts with electrodes being taped around the eyes. Snapping the electrodes onto the sticky patches actually takes quite a lot of pressure and that's pretty uncomfortable directly around your eyeballs. The first part of the test was pretty easy, other than that - watching a red dot of light move back and forth, then up and down, then tracking it until is disappeared and picking it up again, and so on.

Then we moved on to the second part of the test. This involves blowing "cold and warm" air into the ear. The purpose of doing so is to actually induce dizziness. You are required to talk all through this part of the test so that you can't concentrate on suppressing the dizziness or nausea. You also cannot open your eyes, again so that you can't focus on anything to stop the dizzy sensation. It was hideous. The air was ice-cold (and later, much too hot for comfort) and extremely uncomfotable.

The audiologist told me that some clinics use cold and hot water instead of air but my hospital does not. That's when the penny dropped and I remembered something that I'd read a long time ago:

"Military pilots were veterans of physical examinations, but in addition to all the usual components of 'the complete physical', the Lovelace doctors had devised a series of novel tests involving straps, tubes, hoses and needles. They would put a strap around your head, clamp some sort of instrument over your eyes - and then stick a hose in your ear and pump cold water into your ear canal. It would make your eyeballs flutter. It was an unpleasant, disorienting sensation..." Tom Wolfe. The Right Stuff.

"So this is what if feels like to be an astronaut," I thought.

What jolly fun! I'm still nauseated nearly 24 hours later.

Did we learn anything? Who knows? I only know that the Hearing and Speech Center in Halifax requested it as a precursor to the CI surgery so I would crawl over broken glass to make it to the appointment. The fact is, I have been having increasing moments of vertigo, usually just as I begin to descend a flight of stairs, and if they can figure out something that will help that, super. But I don't expect they can really fix vertigo any more than they can fix the tinnitus. It's just a side effect, and part and parcel of this new way of living.

On the other hand, I can now tell people that Neil Armstrong and I have something in common.


Wednesday, December 08, 2004

How did the deaf guy cross the road?

You know, "Scott Adams Giant Megalithic Corporation, Inc." may just sue me, but this is so good I gotta post it. I subscribe to the monthly "Dogbert's New Ruling Class" newsletter (Motto: "A little ray of bitter sunshine") and readers are encouraged to send in true tales of "in-duh-viduals". This contribution is in this month's newsletter:

"My friend was standing with an Induhvidual at a crosswalk the other day when they heard the signals that indicate to the blind that it is safe to cross the street. The Induhvidual asked 'What is that?' My friend said, 'That's for the blind. The chirping sound indicates that it's safe to cross the street north to south. The cuckoo sound indicates that it's safe to cross east to west.' The person looked at my friend and asked, 'What do the deaf people do when they need to cross the street?'"

We wing it, my friend. We wing it.



Don't it always seems to go that you don't know what you got 'til it's gone...

Early December - the time of year when people start complaining about Christmas music. They grouch in cartoons and comic strips and newspaper columns and in newsgroups and weblogs about the stores playing it. It's fashionably anti-sentimental to hate Christmas music. It's tinny, it's bad, it's played too early, it's played too loud, it's played too much.

It's remarkable, then, what a void the absence of Christmas music makes in the celebration of the holidays. As a formerly-hearing person, seasonal music was the soundtrack of every Christmas of my life, from shopping trips, to the background noise coming out of the old "big as a Buick" stereo unit as we decorated the Christmas tree, to the punctuation of Christmas specials on TV. This year it is notably conspicuous by its absence. Okay, I don' t have to suffer "Have a Holly Jolly Christmas", the misplaced "My Favourite Things" or the distinctly creepy "I saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus". But neither can I enjoy the magic of Vince Guaraldi's score for "A Charlie Brown Christmas" or listen to the charming "The Holly and The Ivy" or the crashing chords of "Joy to the World" while I'm wrapping family presents.

People are certainly welcome to bitch and complain about the presence of Christmas music. I think it's nice for them that they don't even have to think of the alternative :)


Closed-Captioning Cock-Up of the Day: Celebrity Edition

One of the sillier undertakings of CTV Newsnet's Entertainment segment (hosted by Ben Mulroney, son of the former P.M.) is reports of celebrity sightings in various Canadian cities where movies are being shot. It's hard not to roll you eyes and wonder who they are trying to impress with the breathless information that Jude Law has been seen eating fettucine alfredo in Vancouver or Bo Derek was working out in a Halifax gym. (Would that woman please go home to the US?) But I was amused by what Dennis Hopper got up to in Toronto recently, at least according to the Closed Captioning.


No comment.



Thursday, December 02, 2004

Closed-Captioning Cockup of the Day: Special Presidential Visit Edition!

In a press conference during his visit to Canada, CTV Newsnet informs us that:



Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Thanks Giving

Christmas is approaching so fast. It snuck up on me - because of iffy postal service to Newfoundland, I like to get all the NL relatives' presents in the mail by the first week of December, and now it's here! I'm dizzy with trying to get gifts for everyone on that list, followed by the loved ones in other provinces. Then there are cards to friends and family here and overseas. Meanwhile I am trying to help out visiting Sis as much as I can as she looks for work and also taking as much time as possible to do touristy and fun stuff with her - the Farmer's Market, shopping, etc. And of course there's ASL class and work, with a Holiday party and pictures with Santa and a big exciting proposal which must be written between now and January.

I was finding it all a bit overwhelming, to be honest, feeling a bit like my head was going to explode, and then yesterday I sat down to catch up on one of mailing lists for deafened adults. Most on the list were Americans and had just come through "Yanksgiving" and were comparing notes and looking toward the holiday season.

The stories were intensely personal and in a lot of cases, moving and sad. In a number of cases, the stress of a partners' hearing loss had contributed to the breakdown of a marriage, and there were many divorced people in the conversation - some freshly-so. Others talked of how they had become isolated from family and friends since going deaf and didn't get invited to family gatherings anymore, nor did they want to attend them. One or two had stopped observing the holidays altogether. Many, many said that the people on the mailing list were the closest thing they had to a support group or family. They spoke, in varying degrees of wistfulness and scorn of "Norman Rockwell" Christmases and how those didn't exist for them anymore, if they ever did.

It occurred to me (again) how intensely lucky I am to have the support network I do. I realized that the shopping, decorating, parcel-mailing, card-addressing, Sis-visiting, class-attending and work I do which make me so crazy also make me intensely happy.

Don't get me wrong. I don't pity the people on my mailing list. They are incredibly strong, smart people who have overcome great odds and who are survivors in spite of what's been handed to them. The fact that they sought out a support group and share their stories of coping with being deaf in a hearing world is testament to their insistence that they are here and they will be heard. But I read their messages and sense their wistfulness and, for some, loneliness, and look around me at Husband and Sis and C. and others and know that there but for the grace of God...