Wednesday, June 1, 2011

I'm a Saladaholic


I love salads.
Always have. While growing up, mom usually made very simple salads to go with dinner - iceberg lettuce, tomato, and perhaps one other vegetable if it was on hand (carrot, cucumber, or radish). I would always help clear the table, and was glad to do so --> because if there was any salad left in the bowl, I picked at it until there was nothing left.


One time, when I was a young teenager, we went to Ohio to visit family. We were at my mom's sister's house, Aunt Patsy, and she had the biggest red tomato I had ever seen on her kitchen window sill. I remember desiring to do the dishes just so I could admire that tomato. Somehow, Aunt Patsy noticed my ogling - I have no idea how or why, as I'm not one bit transparent, ha!...she said, "Gina? Would you like that tomato?". Oh my goodness, music to my soul!! "You mean I can have...the whole thing?"

"Yes, you can have the whole thing to yourself," she laughed.

That tomato, and that Aunt Patsy Pearl made my day. Best present ever - like an apple or an orange in a hanging stocking back in the day. I will never forget that moment, nor that tomato.

Presently in my 50's, I find I still desire a salad every single day.
Salads are refreshing. I enjoy adding crunch to them with a few sunflower or pepita seeds. The last couple days, Randy has been traveling for work; so, when that happens, I can have whatever I want, whenever I want it - without asking anyone, "Well, what sounds good to you?". As a result, I found the nicest, cleanest, best ever Sweet Tomatoes Soup Plantation  I have ever visited. It's in Sugarland, Texas. If I'm in the upper section of Houston, I found I'll drive 30 minutes and two freeways just to have a big plate of their salad (and one muffin of the month - yum!).

Let's pretend we're there...get a tray, a white round plate, layer it with fresh spinach, then dark green leafy lettuces, then a light layer of red cabbage, then tons of shredded carrots and yellow squash --> out of this world good!!, then red beets, small pieces of fresh cauliflower, a spoon of their broccoli salad (heaven!), then I either drizzle ranch or poppyseed honey mustard dressing on top, and last, just a few sunflower seeds on top. Voila - I'm ready.

When at home, my favorite salad to make for lunch only has cabbage for lettuce in it...

Get an oversized bowl, and a fork (we're gonna make the dressing first).

Dressing (sorry, I don't measure):
Apple cider vinegar - Probably 2 Tbsp
Honey - Probably 3/4 Tbsp
Stir together with the fork really good - sort of like whipping it with a wisk.

Salad:
Add finely-shredded cabbage (green and red), along with shredded carrots in the mix. Maybe 2-3 cups total (you can purchase this in a bag - to me, the finely shredded one is more delightful than the other; but, both are still good).
1 Tbsp Pepitas (pumpkin seeds) - I like them roasted and salted
1 Tbsp diced Walnuts

Put those things right on top of your dressing in the bowl, and toss it all together. Oh my goodness, fresh and delicious! I don't think this salad needs salt or fresh pepper; but, if you just HAVE to have it, then go ahead and ruin it - see if I care.

If you like your salads a little more tart, use more apple cider vinegar, or less honey. If you like them sweeter, do the opposite. Both tangy and sweet are great as dressings in this salad - you really can't go wrong.

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Life and Times of Perimenopause


I'll be 51 two months from now, and I had never heard of perimeno until May of last year. The word may have been said around me during my lifetime; but, I never heard it - nor had anyone spoke about it directly in my lip-reading presence.

So, when I started experiencing extreme dizziness, migraine headaches, electrical shocks, and bodily joint pain - everybody knew for certain that my cochlear implant had gone bad and I was about to die with such a foreign object gone awry within my skull. Yep, even my family doctor became intensely alarmed and sent me directly for a CT Scan and blood tests...he knew something was very wrong in my brain, and it related to my deafness.

But, all tests came out clear.

Randy had then decided that something very rare was going on within my body, and that I was surely dying; he was to retire immediately, and we'd travel, enjoy the world, and most of all each other

Problem was, my dizziness and blurred vision increased so severely that I had become bed-ridden with nausea, as well as losing ability to have proper balance. I could not drive, read, ride my bike, nor swim. My life changed drastically within a short period of time - 3 weeks or so.

Eventually my doctor sent me to a neurologist who, after studying all my tests, set down his pen and eye glasses, and began asking me weird questions...

How old are you? - Almost 50
Are you sensitive to light to the point that you want to be in a dark, quiet place? - No; but, I'm like that with sound...and it's not me, because I've been given the gift of hearing, and I love sound...but, I can't handle even looking at my phone - for the mere thought of hearing it ring sickens my stomach.
Have you missed any periods? - No
Do you have heart palpitations? - No
Do you have physical pain? - Yes, and in ways that I've never experienced in my life


"Gina, you are going through perimenopause," he said.


It was the neurologist who explained the difference between perimeno and meno to me. 


And, he was right. He told me what to expect, and that I was in a very rare category of symptoms - bodily, physical pain...at the time, I had not one common symptom: missed periods, hot flashes, mood swings...but, he said it was possible they would come within the next few months...and they did.


Everything he said to me eventually came true...and, I'm still in the pre-menopause stage. He said it would most likely take 2-3 years for me to reach menopause. So far, it's been one year.


He put me on medication. I didn't want to take medication, and I rebelled for 2 weeks; but, my symptoms worsened, and my family doctor scolded me severely, and told me to start taking them immediately (he had been discussing everything concerning me, with the neurologist). I obeyed after that, and the medication (Topiramate - 100 mgs/daily) brought my incessant migraine, dizziness, blurred vision, and electrical shocks into order. 


After a month on the medication, I hesitantly saddled a bike...I wasn't sure if I'd fall or not; but, I truly wanted to ride again, and I did. It was heaven. Two months after being on medication, I started driving my car again. It took me a long time to talk on the phone; and, I still have trouble with confidence; but, I do talk on the phone every now and then.

Like most women, I'd rather not take medication; but, I've learned that sometimes we need more than changes of diet and exercise. I never entered Hormone Replacement Therapy/Treatment, never needed it (*yet*); but, I've also heard that many women believe it gave them (or others) cancers of various kinds. I can't judge on that, and I know there are women who felt they had no other choice but to take some form of HRT in order to have a life of sanity back; so, I pray for healing, wisdom and direction for all.


After 9 months on Topiramate, I realized my 24/7-migraines, blurred vision, and dizziness were no longer pressing and pulling within my head...so, I slowly went off the medication. I have not had trouble in that area for 3 months now - Praise God!

The reason I'm writing all of this is because: 1) I'm going through it, and 2) Perhaps you are too,  know someone who is/has, or will someday in the future. It's a natural process that we should be aware of more than we are.


I went to Barnes and Noble today, with a couple questions (does joint pain, achy muscles, swollen feet and ankles, tender breasts, fall in the perimeno category?)...yep, they are perimeno symptoms. Here's the section I went through (notice they placed Perimenopause in -- Diseases)...A natural process is a disease? I don't think so...




Here's what I gathered from reading...


Perimenopause can occur within women aged between 35-50 (I'm a late bloomer).
It's good to take Flaxseed oil every day - helps with fuzzy thinking, and provides Omega essentials.
Take Fish Oil, too.
Take a good Multi-Vitamin that has Magnesium and Zinc...or get Magnesium and Zinc separately.
Drink lots of water, and eat balanced meals...Citrus fruits are great, lots of veggies, lean proteins, nuts and legumes.
Exercise -- take brisk walks daily...do strength training.
Limit alcohol intake to one beverage with dinner.
Keep away from a lifestyle of caffeine - it constricts the blood vessels (especially if you're enduring perimeno headaches/migraines).


Every. body. is. different - so listen to yours, and be kind to yourself. Know what YOU need to do for you. I don't care if someone else was able to do this or that, and you feel you should be able to as well...Newsflash --> maybe you can't. Maybe it's not what YOU should do. Accept yourself.

You know, I had LOTS of people tell me they had never heard of my symptoms, and surely there was more to what I was going through than what my doctors were saying; but, I had seen them for myself, had gone through all of the tests, I was the one in the rooms discussing my life with them, and I was the one enduring all the symptoms -- so, I chose to follow my doctor's orders. I fully believe they had my best interest at heart; they took time to be with me, and did not rush me out of the room...they truly wanted to find the problem, and hoped that it had nothing to do with my deafness, implant, and brain, etc. And, they turned out to be absolutely correct in all that they said....so, if you feel you are doing the right thing, and seeing the right doctor, then pray, trust their guidance, and move on.


Deafness wasn't to blame...my body is simply going through Perimenopause.







Monday, April 25, 2011

Biography Questions - First Half of My Life

Senior Picture - 16 yrs old

What were your parent's occupations?
     Dad was top secret for Lockheed. He specialized in making sure electrical parts in aircraft worked, and were considered safe.
     Mom went to work in order to put my brother and I through private schooling - this was due to learning of our deafness, and wanting us to remain in mainstream education while having smaller class sizes. She managed cafeterias for the L.A. City Schools.
My Parents - Dancing

How many children were in your family?
   Two - my brother and I.

Where did you grow up?
     Born in Ohio
     Moved to California when I was two - lived in Hollywood
     Moved to Inglewood as a toddler, and attended Kindergarten and part of 1st grade there
     Moved to Torrance, and attended the rest of 1st grade through 4th grade
     Moved to Arleta (in the San Fernando Valley), and skipped the 5th grade, attended 6th and part of 7th grade there.
     Moved to Sepulveda (now known as North Hills), and lived there until I married Randy when I was 18.
     Graduated High School when I was 16, went to college for a year, then got a summer job - and also became engaged...so, I stayed at my job to pay for my wedding (mom and dad paid for my cake and Church on the Way's reception hall - it was known as Van Nuys Baptist at the time)

What did you want to be when you grew up?
     A roller derby girl
     Airline Stewardess
     Legal secretary

What was your first job?
     Secretary for title officers at Safeco Title Insurance Company - I was 17 years old.

What made you leave that job? Did you get fired?
     I remained there until I got married, and left because the house we purchased was kind of far away - I wasn't familiar with the commuting thing.

Randy & I kayaking Lake Tahoe

What are your most memorable trips/vacations?
     Lake Tahoe -  has always been the family's favorite summer vacation spot -- camping, beaching, miniature golfing, ice skating Squaw Valley, horse back riding, boating, skiing, walking through the towns.
     East Coast  - was an amazing month-long trip for our family of five (Chris, Kim, Ashley, me and Randy). We flew our tent and sleeping bags along with us, rented a minivan, traveled from West Virginia all the way up to Montreal Canada. Washington D.C., New York City, Niagara Falls, Cooperstown, Kennenbunkport Maine, Rhode Island and the mansions, covered bridges and syrup of Vermont, Elite university of Connecticut (Yale), Massachusetts - Salem, Cape Cod, Plymouth, and Nantucket.
     New York City -  the kids were all grown, one married, two in college; so, I purchased two tickets to NYC for Randy and I. When our daughters heard about it, they were appalled that they weren't included in such a trip. So, to add a bit of 'responsibility to your now grown life', we said they could come if they saved $150 or $200 toward their airfare (can't remember exactly how much, but something like that)...they whipped that up without a problem (when there's a will, there's a way ;-). We had the best time! NYC will always be a favorite for us.
     London, England - Randy and I walked our legs off. Chris (our son) and his wife had moved there to work as accountants for their respective companies. I was a Realtor, and had several properties in escrow, and several had closed within a short amount of time, and decided to take some of my earnings and use it toward visiting Chris and Angela, as well as a country we had never been to. Bath, England was amazing, as well as London becoming such a wonderful, interesting, busy place.


Christopher, Ashley, and Kimberly

Do you have a family? How did it start?
     It started unexpectedly. I was told by my doctor (who was afraid to have anything to do with causing my hearing to worsen - I had low tones, but no comprehension of speech without lip-reading) - that I shouldn't take birth control pills just in case I had a deaf-related disease called Osteoclerosis. He felt that it may instantly take away everything I had at the time. I figured if that was the case, I didn't want birth control pills anyway -- goodness gracious if they had the ability to do that, what else could they do?

     So, Randy and I were introduced to 'foam' -- insert, wait 10 minutes, and voila, 95% safe.

    Whether we thought those were the longest 10 minutes of our lives, or we truly fell within the 5% category, I don't know -->   but, it turned out that I didn't have a horrible flu bug that just wouldn't go away.
  
     Married February 10, and delivered Christopher Dowayne Sprenkel on December 22 = conceived one month after marrying...I was 19 when he was born.

     I didn't really want to be a mother -- though I've always been a happy person, with lots of independency, will and drive, I wasn't happy about much of my childhood. Besides that, I was never the type that ogled over everyone else's new baby. I didn't think I wanted a family, nor that I could be a good mother.

     That all changed when I found how much I loved my son, and THIS baby was the best baby of any and all babies ever born -- besides Jesus, of course.

     So, I wanted two more sons. They would play sports, and I'd fix them pancakes on Saturday mornings, and go out and do things, and be Tomboys right along with them! This is perfect!! A life of sports, roughness, and eating. Praise God Almighty!

     Lo and behold, our second child was the most precious little girl -- Kimberly Denise. She brought something out of me I didn't know was possible...laces and bows and frilly dresses and socks; french braids and tap/ballet lessons. Never did I know that motherhood could be this wonderful. I wanted another...

     So, we tried for one more baby -- boy or girl, it didn't matter; but, I knew my max, my limit, would be three children. Ashley Renee was born, and she was the completion of our beautiful, fun family.

     Oh, and those girls were signed up for sports as soon as their ages allowed ;-)...along with tap and ballet, and gymnastics, that is.

To be continued...someday...





Monday, April 11, 2011

The Pleasure of a Saxophone


Yesterday, after church, Randy and I drove to Downtown Houston for brunch. Birraporetti's has good food and even better service. The people that work there, and dine there, are an obvious mixture of breeds and lifestyles. Old and young. Black, brown, and white. Gay and straight. Sunday church attenders and those that don't. Those that openly thank God for their food, and those that dig right in. 

For some reason, it's easy to become 'neighbors' with everyone there - to smile, to say 'hello', to ask where someone is from, what did they just do in Houston, etc. "We just came from church" - "Oh wow, what church do you go to?" - "We just saw 'Amadeus' at the Symphony Hall" - "We're celebrating our Anniversary" ... and, the tables are situated in such a way that at least four other tables hear what the one is saying, and that's how you simply chime in.

Amid all of this is a live musician. He has a small, out-of-the-way, area in which to play his guitar, have a microphone, and a stool. He doesn't play so loud that you can't have a conversation, nor so low that you can't hear him...he's like Goldilocks and the Three Bears, he's just right.

Well, Randy and I were finished eating, and were on our way out the door - which causes you to walk by the musician. I noticed, though, that he had set his guitar down, and brought out a beautiful saxophone. I was so happy to see the sax that I told him I was going to stand to the side and listen to his next song. I wasn't going to miss an opportunity like this...no way.

I didn't explain about my deafness, nor about my cochlear implant. He may have known by looking at me, and seeing my processor and magnet on my head; but, it was never discussed, nor pointed out. I've always wanted to hear a sax, and understand its purpose within music. I no longer wanted to imagine its sound; but, to truly hear it.

 Will I like it? Will it be better than my imagination? Worse? -->  I wanted to find out.

He began to play, and left his small area to stand right in front of me...a foot away.  He closed his eyes, and gave the entire rendition his all. He plays extremely well, and it took everything I had to keep from bursting into delightful, blissful tears. I literally could have sobbed right then and there.

He played high notes, then swirled down to lower ones. They were crisp and clear, yet smooth. He'd hold notes for 12 counts or more in various places; but, at the same time, it all sounded so beautifully wonderful.

It was then that I understood the pleasure of a saxophone. The hearing of a beautiful instrument by someone who was very good at playing it. Though he was as close as one could get, I desired to be even closer. I suppose I wanted to hear more -- don't stop, keep playing, everybody be quiet and let me hear this even louder.

But, though that wouldn't have been realistic, I'm glad it couldn't happen because I surely would have broken down and cried. I surely would have had to explain that it was the first time I had ever heard such a sound from a saxophone -- in all my life.

Thank you, Jesus, for that opportunity...I loved it.

As my husband opened the door for us to leave, it was then that the tears started flowing. He was like, "Oh, nooo!" But, I didn't care - even if those walking along the street saw my tears ... I allowed myself to cry, and told Randy how wonderful it was to HEAR that saxophone.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

My New Friend, Pam


Pam and I - I'm without makeup in this one, can we tell? Yessss

After moving to Houston, Texas, I decided to attend Beth Moore's final Fall study (in November); I got there a little late for a good seat, but found one toward the back in the lower section of Houston's First Baptist Church. I saw a beautiful lady sitting at the end of the row with a few empty seats beside her, went up to her to ask if the seat next to her was taken...she said, "No". So, I sat down and we immediately went into conversation mode. 

The Bible study hadn't started yet, so music was playing in the background, and, mind you, there were probably 2500+ women in this church --> and they were ALL talking, every last one of them!  Which means, it was very noisy for me. 

**All of that sound goes directly into my microphone, and tells my brain that Gina has placed herself, once again, in a  massive head-banging rock concert  sound-overloaded environment.

Lo and behold, Pam is saying something to me, and I was trying to read new lips (everybody speaks differently, you see), and was also trying pick out her voice from within the noise; so I, of course, quickly begin to get things wrong. ("So, what's your name?" - "I'm 50 years old, how about yourself?" - kind of thing.)  Besides, my implant's processor was in desperate need of a tuneup (mapping to CI-wearers). Which then lead me to explain that I am deaf, had surgery and can now hear --> artificially...and, sometimes it takes more work to hear than other times. This was one of those times.

Well, instead of saying, "Oh, OK, it was nice meeting you," Pam wanted to know all about it. Ahhhh, a sigh of relief -- someone who isn't taken aback, but willing to do what it takes to help me along. She didn't shun me, she welcomed me - even when I got 43,249,498.2 words incorrect. Thank you, Lord...and thank you, Pam.

We exchanged E-mail and telephone information that night, and began to slowly make plans to do things together. One evening, I was driving (my trusty Jeep Wrangler, Rubicon) and Pam said something to me while leaning forward to put something in her purse. I didn't hear her, nor could I see her lips, and quickly went into deaf survival mode by laughing, smiling and responding with: "Yeah...".  My new friend looked at me and asked, "Did you hear me?"  Oh my goodness gracious, this woman wasn't going to let me slide my way through in life. Turning a little red, I said, "No." She then asked (with a smirk), "Then why did you answer?" 

I nodded my head thinking, "I like my new friend. Thank you, Lord, for bringing her into my life. She's going to make me a better person, I can see that right now." But, I was probably even more red in the face by now, maybe not, I'm not sure, as I don't remember :-).  I answered honestly --> "I do that, at times, to spare myself from having to ask people to repeat. Plus, I feel like I've been given the gift of hearing; so, I shouldn't miss anything anyone says."

She replied, "Well, I don't mind if you need me to repeat." Pam also wanted to know what she could do to help me hear better.

Those are key words for anyone around those who are hearing impaired --> help us 'hear you' by looking at us, keeping your hands away from your mouth when you speak, don't over enunciate -- slow down just a bit, but talk normal; and shave long mustaches or beards.

When Pam and I are around a group of people, she quickly notices if I'm having difficulty following along, and will inform everyone I can't hear well, and what they need to do to help me be a part of the conversation. She's very kind about it, and presents herself well. I sit there in amazement of my new friend -- I haven't had one like this before.

The other day (5 1/2 months after meeting each other), she and I got together to talk about God, family, life, etc., and we were having iced tea at a place with an outside patio. All of a sudden there were firetrucks and ambulances with sirens sounding all around. It was so loud, it drew her attention toward them and to wonder what could possibly be going on. For me, I was immersed in conversation and didn't notice them all that much. She asked me if I could hear them, and I said, "Yes; but, it's kind of vague." I then realized that this time SHE was the one in sound-overload, and I was the one placing sounds in the background while conversing. 

(Either that, or it's a sign my brain isn't deciphering high tones as well as it does lower tones. I'll have to discuss that with my audiologist on my next visit.)

Well, that's the gist of my progress with hearing, and with my newfound, God-sent friend, Pam.

At a Beth Moore Bible Study - she's without makeup in this one, but can anyone tell? Nooo!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Nasal Voice - Deaf Accent

Me & Randy - Married 32 Years/February 2011

I'm currently living in Houston, Texas, and after ordering a decaf to go, the man behind the register said, "Where are you from? You have an accent!" Eyes peering into my face, trying to figure me out. I squinted my eyes and peered right back, with a slight smile. I knew he was trying to pick up my bad self  put a finger on my unique voice. 

I have learned through life, and after living in Southern California for 48 years, that I don't have an accent. I just sound, umm, 'different'. Most people can't quite figure me out.

I didn't know I sounded different until people started getting the nerve to say things out loud to me, mind you. "Where are you from?"   "You have an accent; but, I can't place it."   "Do you have a cold?"

You see, I thought I had done such a great job with my speech that I really had no idea that my deafness was detectable. But, it peered through. After about the third verbal question, pertaining to my 'accent', I finally realized this.

So, I went to the one person who has always been my most trusted friend --> my husband (dated him since I was 13).  Not sure if he was my husband at the time, though; since I don't remember when I came to the realization of my said voice, and it was a total downer for me, I'll have you know. I was in the depths of despair for months and months...still am.

Randy broke it to me gently. "Yes, you have just a little bit of nasal in your voice; BUT (and here was his trusty, perfect way with me), it's hardly noticeable."

"Then WHY is everyone asking about my unique way of speaking????"

"They're super into you!" he said.

That's Randy. My precious Randy who loves me, and always tries to provide a fluffy pillow for my potential mental breakdowns moments of collapse.  OK, so, I eventually came to learn (and accept) that my speech isn't as nOrMaL as I thought. 

So, anyway, back to the guy at the cash register -- I told him I was deaf, and that was the reason for my accent. I was smiling  (I'm actually a happy person, content, and fine with being deaf. I love my life.)  He looked puzzled, and in disbelief. I liked it!!  Haha ... I liked this because it proved to me that at least I do speak very well, well enough to puzzle people ;-)

I turned my head to the left side, and showed him my implant (it's there for all to see, since my hair is short) -- and said, "It's true. I can't hear; but, have been given artificial hearing. I've lived in California for 48 years; so, I don't have an accent. I'm just deaf."

He was amazed, and I then strutted my humongous hind end out the door as if Ocean 11's soundtrack was going on in the background.  Uh huh.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Things I Know I Missed

     Audrey - 2 years old
While visiting my granddaughters recently, I became aware of precious moments I most definitely missed when my own three children were toddlers and learning to talk.

 Eleanor - 4 months old

I know I caught many things my children said, because I was always conscientious about keeping an observant eye out in case they were saying something, or to simply try and be aware of my family's tone and demeanor. I wanted everyone to be respectful toward others, love their family, and to enjoy life.

But, when I was with my grandchildren, I noticed something that I don't remember happening with my own children. Things they say and do when I was unable to read their lips -- when driving, cooking, or putting on makeup. With my Cochlear Implant, I picked up on new experiences, and it was then that I knew that no matter how hard I had tried to keep up as a deaf mom, it would have been impossible to catch every precious moment.

 On my visit--> I was driving, and my mother was giving the directions of where to go, and which streets to take.  Audrey, 2, was in the back, in her car seat, repeating every word my mother stated. To me, Audrey's mimics were like a rare and precious Mynah bird who had somehow flown into our car...only, she would end every phrase with, "Grandma". "Turn left, Grandma". "Now go straight, Grandma". "Go all the way up to the end, Grandma, and park". "We're here, Grandma!"   Then her legs would move excitedly as if she couldn't wait for the ignition to be turned off, for me to get out, close my door, and to then let her out of her constrained car seat--> for she had clearly been the one who had brought us to our destination...and we are now HERE!

Such repetitive talk of one so little and sweet is not annoying. I don't care what anyone says. The hearing of words, then repeating them, and then choosing to add the endearing term "Grandma"...ahhhh, there was no more beautiful voice, no more precious song than that of Audrey's that evening.

I most certainly missed moments like those when my children were two years old. Most definitely, certainly, yes. But, at least I now know they were like that, too.

My Three Children 
                                                               When Young                                        

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Standing Up For My Deaf-Hearing Self

My husband and I had a guest visit us, and we all went to dinner a couple of nights. Our guest has known me for many years; but, spent more time with me as a deaf person than one who can now hear.

Over the course of my deaf  life, people around me either responded in one of two ways: kind of ignoring me, since I couldn't hear anyway; or, drawn to me, even though I was deaf. 
   Those who ignored me made little or no effort to really get to know me, nor to see what they could do to make it easier for me to understand what was being said. Those drawn to me would immediately know, or would ask, what to do to make communication easier.

So, our guest was basically one who didn't really care to make any real effort to communicate with me...only when he had to, or wanted me to hear about him. I found that quite selfish, and felt it exposed him more than me being physically impaired. Yes, I have an attitude that causes me to surmise to such conclusions of others...

My interpretation of such people is: "I'm not worth the effort it takes; therefore, they make no real effort." This may not be fair of me; and yet, it might be more than fair. I don't know; all I know is what I see and feel, and it causes one to derive to a conclusion --> correct or incorrect.

Anyway, back to our guest...the first dinner we had together, I was simply a purse in a chair. I sat there with everyone at the same time, ordered my food, and communicated beautifully with the waiter the entire night; but, to my guest, he looked directly at my husband, elbows on table with hands blocking his mouth, talking 95mph with head moving from side-to-side (looking around the room while talking), downward toward food, back up toward Randy-->with no consideration that another person is there, and would like to be included.

Since he was visiting, and this was our first dinner together, I let it go. I hated feeling like a purse in a chair, though...big time.

So, we had plans for another dinner, and I didn't want to go. "Why should I attend a dinner in which I'm there, but not there?," was my heightened already-perturbed attitude. My husband wasn't aware of this, because I hadn't said anything. He had been out of town, due to work, and we were to meet with our guest with no time to spare.

We were seated, the waiter took our beverage order, and then our dinner choices. The salads came, and by this time I was back at being a purse in a chair.

I reached over, picked up my purse and jacket, got up, and walked out...as my husband was astonishingly asking, "Where are you going?" 

"I'm leaving," I answered.

I suppose Randy immediately got up and followed me out, because when I reached the parking lot, he was right behind me.

Full of sweet and hurt anger (is there such a thing?), and tears in my eyes, I told him that I deserve to be included!! "I am not going to sit through another dinner, giving leeway to a man who has no regard for my presence." I also let him know that I did not appreciate that he played into the scenario. It takes TWO to leave the third completely out, and I'm not standing for it! He said he felt it too, and was so sorry. He knew it was happening, and didn't like it; but, went along because of the guest.

I walked back into the restaurant *sigh* (was my nose in the air, full of pride?..I don't remember it being that way; but, walking back to the table is still a bit of a blur) - set my things down, and looked directly at our guest. I said to him very firmly, "I sat through one dinner without being included; but, I'm not going to do it again. I am worth the little effort it takes to communicate with. It is challenging to hear and communicate, especially in a noisy environment; but, I show up, I work hard at the challenge, and I make an effort. I read lips, I have a personality, and I am intelligent. I expect to be treated as such! No more hands over mouths, we will slow our speech down so I can follow along, and face me often so that I can see you talk! I expect to be included, not discluded."

His eyes were wide open in disbelief of what I just did (as were my husband's)! He did not say one word in reply, nor did he apologize. My husband, being the Switzerland, neutral, don't-rock-the-boat type, had a mixed face...a crooked smile knowing this is the wife he married, shock, sincere apology...said, "It was my fault. I'm so sorry, Gina."

I have the sweetest husband. May God richly bless him, and cover him with protection, favor, and honor!, in Jesus' Name.

We began eating our salads. I started a topic of conversation - and,to our guest's very great surprise, I had a brain, feelings, and opinions. We went on as if nobody had been firmly chastised just a few minutes prior by moi. In fact, the evening was one of the most delightful we've ever had, and I know he feels the same.

Standing up for myself changed that person's perspective and approach toward me. I believe he realized it took very little effort on his part to adjust his ways in order to include me. Three minds, three viewpoints, three personalities...three human beings.

Hearing has also changed ME -- I expect to be included. I am worth the effort to communicate with.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Eldest Daughter's Viewpoint of My Deafness


Kimberly, with her daughter, Audrey

Growing up with a hearing-impaired parent sometimes was not easy. There were miscommunications, misunderstandings, frustrations, and sometimes it was downright hard.

I grew up going from my mom hearing a little to hardly understanding what I was saying unless I was enunciating my words in front of her, so that she could see my lips. Even that could get frustrating, because we often had to repeat ourselves over and over, until she fully understood what we were talking about. It was definitely a challenge; but, we all overcame our frustrations and accepted that this was just the way it was going to be.

I always felt sorry for my mother for being hearing impaired; she missed out on a lot. For example, she would hate listening to Fleetwood Mac, because the noise she heard was more than she could handle. But, we all know what a wonderful band they really are, and she was missing out on the inspiring voice of Stevie Nicks, the awesome talent of Lindsey Buckingham, as well as the musical talents of the rest of the group.

We would go places and people would be talking to her, and when I was around, I would have to let them know that she was hearing impaired, and needed to see their lips. If she had trouble with that, I would do what I could to either answer for her, or tell her myself what the person was saying. I hate to think what people thought of her when no one was around, and didn't know she was hearing impaired.

As kids, we also had fun with mom's hearing impairment. I remember, my brother Chris would stand behind our refrigerator door, hiding his mouth, and start talking to my mom. It was funny because all we could see were Chris' eyes above the door squinting, and we knew he was laughing while talking to my mom, because we knew she couldn't understand anything he was saying. We would also make plans without her knowing, even though she was close by, when it came to planning something for her.

I am sure life was very difficult and frustrating for my mom as well, even more so, since she was the one with the impairment. That is why I was excited for her when she was able to get the implant. I knew things would be different. I can talk to her over the phone again, she can hear my children's voices, and she does not need to look at me all of the time in order to hear what I'm saying. I think that is one of the big shockers for me - I still feel like I need to be face-to-face with her while talking, or even repeat myself to see if she heard me, and she will reply with, "I heard you."

It was a blessing for my mom, as well as our family, that she was able to get her surgery. I know that she is grateful, even if it is still a little frustrating.  But, I am proud of her for pushing through all of the tough times, and wanting to challenge herself in order to overcome her hearing impairment. I thank God for all of the blessings He has bestowed upon our family.

Kimberly Denise Van Deusen (Sprenkel)    

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Hearing Well Enough to Decipher 'Meaningful' Phone Calls

I've come to realize there are close friends/family who only call when they want something. *Aghast!*

They mix it up with just a bit of news, and then it comes ... the real reason for the call ... "Gina? Can you _____________ for me?"  "Gina? I don't know how to _________________. Will you do it?"

And, I always say, "Yes".

I'm a nice person; an over-flowy, full of love, sickening type --> so, helping people is as natural as, well, eating!, in my book; but, I don't want it to be the only reason one calls ... especially if you're someone important in my life. Don't take advantage of the overly-nice me.

Therefore, I'm analyzing this here and now...in printed form. The reason I must do this is because I usually talk to myself--out loud--in order to get through particular processes; but, those who catch or overhear me talk to myself most likely resolve that I'm crazy --> and we can't be having that. Also, if I'm left to myself with such thoughts to ponder, it may take longer than necessary, since the process may snowball from one episode to others from the past until I become one big blob of ridiculousness.

Since I've never been to a therapist or counselor (not that I need it, of course), I assume we would discuss the matter, and then somehow it would fall in my lap of how I'm going to change, since the other person certainly isn't going to....hmmmm.

Then, I'd imagine a really liberal, smartalec therapist who would derive that I'm the entire problem since I allowed the other person to use me in such a way; and, therefore, I'm the one at fault, not the selfish perpetrator person who called.

Do I continue to give in? Do I say, "No"? Do I address the problem and make it known to the person? --> No, I've already answered that question...don't want to make them think that I've got this hangup; so, I'm gonna deal with it and move on.

Self-Help Analytical Summation: 
A.  Sometimes, still give in. 
B.  I'll try really hard to say, "No" when I feel I should - no matter who the person is to me.
C.  Pray about this - give everything to the Lord in prayer - ask the Holy Spirit to lead and guide.

Session is over

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

CI Hearing -- Via Computer Program

My son, Chris, and I

People think cochlear implant patients have surgery to hear, and voila, we hear like the rest of the world.

No.

We now hear sounds...and most of those sounds have to become deciphered and learned. That takes time. For most of us, it's the beginning of a new life --> we begin to learn to hear.

Learning is identifying the sounds we hear, and making sense of it all...which, in turn, causes us to say, "So THAT'S what the wheels on the bus sound like." "Crickets make THAT much noise? Impossible!"

It never entered my imagination that the cries of a precious newborn baby could be so disturbingly annoying.

If we never had hearing before -- or, if we were profoundly deaf most of our lives -- then sound was imagined by us. 

I was born severely deaf --> I imagined most sounds.

Whenever I'd see a bird, I imagined it having a sweet, high-toned, "Tweet, tweet, tweet," thanks to storybooks, and watching Snow White sing. But when I received hearing, walked out my front door, and heard a black crow, I just about died  was flabbergasted. "God in heaven above...what were you thinking?"

Cochlear Implant hearing is a computer program, through a processor that sits on my ear like an hearing aid. It sends sounds from the outside world --> to the implant inside my head --> to my brain = my brain now thinks I can hear.

My particular implant has the capability of accepting updated and improved programs = updated/improved hearing. But, when my implant's processor is uploaded with new information, my brain has to learn to make sense of those new sounds. 
In short, I have to learn to hear again. 
The good part is it doesn't take as long as it did when first implanted.

Implant hearing may not be the real thing; but, it's better than not hearing at all.

Friday, November 5, 2010

My Youngest Daughter's Point of View

Ashley

I can't honestly say that having a mother who was deaf had any lasting effects on my life. I was born with my mother being deaf, and didn't know my life to be any other way.

I learned to speak slower and more clear to her so she could read my lips. I never had to learn sign-language, because my mom could speak clearly, and was a seasoned lip-reader. It was second nature to me to adjust my speed in speech with whomever I was conversing with.

I remember having to repeat myself a lot, and sometimes that could be frustrating; but, it was never an issue.

The biggest effect on me, in terms of my mom, was when she first got the cochlear implant, and was suddenly, amazingly, able to hear me on the phone. This changed everything. I think if her mechanical hearing were to fail her now, the adjustment back to having a deaf mother would be a difficult one.

*****
This is from me, her mom ;-)...Ashley was in college when I received my implant...and she lived hundreds of miles away to attend the university; so, being able to communicate on the phone, for the first time in our lives, was a really big deal. All of my children were grown before I truly heard their voices -- for me, that was the biggest deal of all. 

Monday, November 1, 2010

My Husband -- Before I Could Hear & After

I'll never forget when Randy asked my dad if he could marry me. Dad took him in the backyard and said, "You know, Gina has a little bit of garbled hearing; but, she really can't hear - it's important that you understand. Your children could be born that way." Randy said, "She's not deaf as far as I'm concerned. I love her, and want to marry her. Do I have your blessing?" My dad told him he would be honored to have him as a son.

As long as I've known Randy, he has spoken to me as if I was normal--or so I thought.

Randy would always talk to me throughout the house, no matter if he was upstairs, and I was downstairs, KNOWING there was no way I could hear him. He'd talk to me while taking a shower with the glass steamed up, and there'd be no reply. He'd talk from another room, and enter to where I was, awaiting a reply...and I'd just say, "Did you say something?", and he'd repeat (without any attitude). Always as calm as can be. Day after day, year after year.

I would ask him, "Randy, why do you talk to me when you know I can't hear you?" He'd just smile, shrug his shoulders, and say, "I don't know", and give me a kiss.

That's Randy.

He never waved his arms around to get my attention. Never threw Nerf balls at me. Never flipped light switches on and off unless he knew I was the only one home, and didn't want to scare me if he had just come home from work.

But, when I had cochlear implant (CI) surgery, and could then hear, I noticed something that he would do that I never noticed before. It was weird to me. We would be driving somewhere, and he would start a sentence, and stop in mid-air. It would sound like this...

"Do you want?"...

And I would wait to hear the rest of the question; but, he'd say nothing for a few seconds. Then...

"Do you want?"...

I'd look straight ahead and answer, "Do I want what?"

He'd be in shock, then I'd be surprised by his gestures, and wonder what in the world was going on with this good-looking man I married. 

He'd be kind of hurt by my response, and say, "Well, I just wanted to know if you'd like to see a movie or something." And I'd say, "Well, Randy, why aren't you saying that?" And he'd say, "I don't know."

I didn't understand why he was asking me half of a question, and he didn't realize he was doing it...until a couple of months later. It took me that long to realize what was going on. All these years, before I could hear, it took two or three bits of conversation until I realized he was saying something to me, then I'd look at him, which gave him the 'go ahead' to utter an entire sentence, and we'd finally have a conversation.

I couldn't believe he formed this charade into a life-long habit, and never--I mean NEVER--became irritated with me. He patiently waited until he caught my attention, and would then finish a sentence. Once I started hearing, it caught him by surprise that I heard the first time. This became a new dilemma -- our new little hurdle to overcome as a married couple ;-).

It took an entire year to break the habit, and we found that I have far less patience than he has. I would say, "Randy! Say the entire sentence the first time," and he'd reply, "I can't help it that you can hear so well."

~Married since February 1979.


Monday, October 25, 2010

Dependency on Ears is A Decision

I remember noticing a shift from dependency on my eyes to hear (lip- and people-reading) to dependency on my ears...it was frightening for me. It took several days of mind-boggling depression to really think it through -- I had cochlear implant surgery in order to hear; but, I suppose it's impossible to know exactly how it's going to affect you in every way, shape and form--one day came, though, and I knew I was going to have to make a personal decision --> "Are you willing to take the plunge into becoming dependent on what you hear, and leave what you've survived upon all your life: dependency on your eyes to hear?"


A Few Fears: 
What if there's no electricity to charge my batteries?  
I'll have to revert to lip-reading; will I remember how?
Will I lose my internal sensitivity to things?
Will I continue to notice vibrations? 
Will I hear God's clear voice?
Or will I become entangled in the noisy world? 
Will I continue to be me?

I decided to become dependent on what I heard...to rely on my 'new ears'.

It was scary. I didn't like it. I was glad and thankful for hearing; but, I knew it was going to change my life, and be different. I knew I would still be deaf. I knew I would still need to read lips from time to time; but, dependency is how we take things in, how we learn --> it's us. We're all dependent upon something, whether deaf or hearing - we learn with our eyes, ears, smell, or touch - we process information that way. Some ways are more dominant than others -- when you have to make a switch, it's not always comfy.

Dependency = the state of relying on something; being controlled by.


THE RESULT -- Dependency on hearing hasn't been so bad, especially since I have electricity that's paid for, and external implant parts that work, with spares to boot. In fact, it's made my life so much easier, because I hear sound, and things people say. I hear sirens and pull to the right before everyone else (stupid drivers). On the rare occasion that I've forgotten a spare battery, used up both batteries (I have two 11-hour, rechargeable batteries), or a part has gone bad with no spare on hand -- I am suddenly in the depths of despair shock, and forced to read lips like the days of yore.

Just like I thought, I'm not as keen at lip-reading as I was when I depended on it 24/7. I have trouble when around people that I do not know well - their speech movements and gestures. Some people, very few, enunciate clearly and perfectly, and try to meet my need in a very kind way. Oftentimes, I'm the problem by taking the 'blackout' so dramatically disappointedly that I don't give my lip-reading skills enough of a chance, and just kind of bail out. Fear does that to us in many ways, I suppose.

Perhaps one day I'll learn to become good at both. Hmmm, maybe that's the key...to relax, and believe that I am already good at both...then decide to plunge into that.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Brownies swirled with cream cheese taste like barf...that is all
Baseball on Friday nights while hubby happily snores like the 3 stooges beside me (he gets up @ 2:30am everyday) - fastballs & sliders, stolen bases, line drives, diving catches....♥

Spiritual Perspective

Here's what I think... A day is coming where we won't have the conservative voice - not on tv, not in print, nothing - it will be completely struck down -- will you then be able to not be influenced? Will you then be confused and not know your right hand from your left? It is important to know what you believe and why -- hold fast to it...if it's Truth, of course.

Friday, May 21, 2010

What was that?

I don't like hearing things without knowing where the sound is coming from, nor being able to recognize said sound...especially when I feel it needs be to looked into. For example: I was home alone, windows open and bright, going my merry way through the house until I heard something fall then crackle. I don't know the direction in which sound comes; so, I have no idea where to look to check on things. I looked through each room of the house, all-the-while thinking perhaps there's a strange burglar in my house, and I should be toting a baseball bat, then telling myself how ridiculous that is, all while I'm trying to locate the problem. After finding absolutely nothing that backs up what I heard, I begin to wonder if I heard it correctly. "What else could sound like something fell, and then crackled like breaking glass?" And I begin to consider a picture falling down, or a dish, or perhaps it was outside...maybe I was wrong, and it wasn't glass, maybe it was a tree splitting in two, and fell on the patio furniture..." and this goes on until you realize you cannot continue to guess; it's too exhausting. And such was about 10 minutes of my life this otherwise beautiful morning.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Sound Overload

You'd think that after three years of hearing, sounds would no longer be an issue. They are. I still experience sound overload, and being overwhelmed. I still treasure silence, and the solitude of my own world. I don't want to go back and live there 24/7; but, I definitely crave it on occassion.
Certain circumstances or environments cause me to realize things about myself...I don't always want to hear everything...even if it's precious, priceless, and best that I do. I don't always want to focus on lipreading, amid tons of background noise, in order to hear what someone is saying. I don't always want to work to listen.
When I get like this, I wonder what's going on with me. How could I even think/feel this way? I've been given a miracle...sieze every moment! And, usually, it's a few hours, or even a day or two, that I realize I'm tired...run down...stressed...immune system is low, and on the verge of contracting some cold/flu/virus. Sometimes, it's the grief of my father's death that rises unexpectedly to the surface. Often, it's all of the above, snowballed into one.
The other day, I was in a small-town parade (Murrieta, population 135,000 = small, right?). It was November 11th, Veteran's Day. It was an honor to walk in the parade, and give tribute to those who have served, and are serving, me and the whole world. As I was standing in line, waiting for our time to begin marching, I really couldn't tell what all I was hearing. There were so many sounds, and maybe it was merely all the people talking and laughing, maybe there were bands practicing, maybe there were radios on, children chanting and singing in order to pass their time away, I don't know; but, it felt like I was immersed in a very uncomfortable, swirling, "there's no place like home" oblivion. I wanted out. And yet, I didn't. I wanted to give honor and tribute more than I wanted my silence.
I stayed. I marched. I applauded. I loved it. But, the overwhelming feeling would not subside. I needed a place of refuge, peace, and solitaire. Turns out, the day hit a soft spot concerning my dad, I was definitely stressed over a particular client, and I caught a bad cold that put me in bed for a couple of days...very different kind of solitude than I had in mind.
Wonder if I've learned anything from this experience. Guess I'll find out when the next episode rolls around...

Thursday, August 20, 2009

CI's and the Bedroom

If you have a CI, and are planning on purchasing a new bedframe, you may want to stay away from iron and metal frames. (In the picture, see the gray round thing a few inches from my ear?)

You could be sitting up in bed talking with your spouse, and all of a sudden they think you're lookin' mighty sexy. You respond with a certain look that confirms you're on the same page. Then *zap* - your magnet has left your head and onto the bedframe, taking away your 'oh baby' moment!

The minute your CI magnet leaves your head, you're back to living in sudden silence --> a rude awakening.

My magnet has left my head when getting out of my car, and *zapped* to the car door; it's left when standing near a garage door, and *zapped* entirely from my head and continued to ascend with the roll-up door!

In short, there are some places that your magnet and processor will immediately leave your head to go to another source, and there's nothing you can do about it --> but, think twice when purchasing bedroom furniture ;-)