Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Does this "Moms" have a STOP button?

Diego and I had to really jump in with all 6 feet those first three days. In order to get the three "with trainer" days organized, I had to concentrate all my errands into one day. That  included  a follow-up medical appointment including x-ray and cast application on my hand, an hour and a half trip across town to drop off my car and another long ride back in my daughter's car. For helping me out, I took her to eat at Olive Garden...Diego in tow of course. The next day wasn't much slower. We tried a track mile at the gym, went to Target to get him some much needed supplies, then a trip in Wayne's truck to get my car, eating out at KFC and then another long ride home.  Mind you, as a retired person, this is A LOT for me.  I seem to do one big thing a day and call it good. This was packed, and on top of all that we still managed to get in the doorbell, phone and fire alarm practice twice a day. He was such a trooper at every establishment.

 There was one small down side that for reasons explained later, that I have not been able to address.  Diego gets car sick! Now, he has been in no less than 4 cars for 10 rides this first week. He got sick on the longer trips, all in my car! While I was driving across town to have some work done on my car, he threw up twice. That will be the last time I have only one slightly used Kleenex in my purse for clean-up. Thankfully for only $40 they would clean up and detail the backseat. I came prepared when I picked up the car, and spread a blanket over the backseat. It covered the whole thing except for about 4 inches...Yes, that was the spot he aimed for on his third hit. Poor, poor. little guy. I was actually grateful to have years of mommydom under my belt to kick in for these moments.

Things did start to calm down after those first two days, at first.  Except for the whirlwind of meeting the three young grandkids, Diego was able to keep up with my pace. I do think he must be wondering if this new "Moms" had a STOP button.   I didn't think too much of that scratchy throat feeling as the weekend came to a close. I usually shake off these spring colds pretty easily. Besides, I was in a "Stay, Focused, Go Positive" mode. I had declared that Diego was just what I needed to avoid my typical negativity. So on to plan the next week. But by Tuesday, I could barely walk from the couch to the kitchen without gasping for breath. This cold/flu thing was a little rougher than expected, and to make it worse, Wayne was pretty sick with it, too. Neither one of us was able to care much for the other.  But Diego still needed to be taken outside. This dog is trained to bond with only me. I had to be the one to take him outside at least 4 times a day. So on goes the hoodie, the jacket, the scarf, and the blanket in Colorado spring weather that included inches of snow one day, wind for most, and sub-freezing temps. They were the only 4 times each day that I even moved from the couch.

As Wayne got a little better, I was just getting worse. So another doctor trip and a second time watching me from behind the x-ray wall, Diego and I found out that I had pneumonia. That pretty much put my "Hakuna Matata" attitude on hold. This was my STOP button.  I was really too sick to care. Too sick to figure out what a one-handed cook could make in the kitchen. Too sick to try. But I still had to be the one to get him outside. He still would not go out alone. He had been with me less than 10 days total, and not getting a true reading of how all this was going to work into a real forever routine.

Today marks two weeks that Diego has blessed my life. I feel like I have cheated him in a way, because for 4 days he has not been able to work or play much, only because of my lead, poor thing.  He reads me like a book, and if I'm slow to move, so is he. He was such a ball of energy. The little snow on the ground gave him sheer joy as he chased and plowed and slid all over the backyard.  It had become his sentinel duty to rid the backyard of that rascally rabbit, that Squirrel Family, and even that cute Mourning Dove couple.  I do hope as I heal, and get stronger to pick up the pace again and I'll get him right on track. Maybe I can look at  it as a need to slow down a bit and spend some time getting a pace that works for us both. I do know that will be my focus.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Can’t Cook, Can’t Sew, Thank Goodness for Diego

      If there was ever a right time for something, it happened yesterday.   Any apprehension I had about bringing a service dog into my life melted into a sigh of relief less than a day of having this little guy. Again, no heralded angels singing, no love at first sight, just pure relief and joy to have something to pull my attention forward instead of inward. The events of the past week, though more blessings than not, were really trying to draw me into a pity party I did not want to attend.
      The first day of March (which would have been our parents’ 68th anniversary) brought all my siblings here to Denver to celebrate a new life within our fold.
A new baby next month is the best reason to celebrate and after a quarter of a century of mostly coming together for funerals this was cool stuff. We had met up in Albuquerque 2 years ago for this new baby’s parents (my nephew Andrew and his beautiful wife Gretchen) to marry. I was liking this new pattern and it was such a joy to have both brothers and my sister with their spouses in my home.
     The week was filled with everyone going in different directions for skiing, traveling, and working. We didn't have to be in each other’s back pockets to just enjoy being close by. Our last day together would just include my sister and husband. We planned a little western apparel shopping, lunch, the beautiful Butterfly Pavilion, and an easy home cooked dinner. But in a quick rush back to the car to get the clothing coupon, my bifocals read one step when there were actually two. If I had been even a decade younger, I might have been able to correct my stumble, but this time I made a sprawling leap forward onto the concrete walk. My right hand and temple received the greatest damage.
     I now have a “road hazard” orange cast on my broken hand and the most brilliant black eye I have ever seen.
“A sight for sore eyes” has taken on a new meaning.  Because I cannot have an MRI due to my cochlear implant, I am just watching for possible symptoms in case a lurking subdural hematoma wants to surface. The death of a dear friend’s son and a close call with a sister-in-law’s brain bleed last year has made me all too aware of that potential danger.
     I decided to go ahead with the plans to have Diego arrive this week.  Luckily I am left handed and he is trained to walk on my left.  The commands can be delivered with a clap to my thigh rather than a two hand clap. However, this plan was not without its challenges. The daily training practice, feeding, walking, poop paroling is a silly scenario to watch. While I have to remember to lead him with my left hand, it is the only functioning hand I have, and I need it to use it to open doors, get him out of the car, and carry things.

     Even with these crazy challenges, I’m very grateful for them.  The outlook of thinking about the next six weeks was going to be overwhelming. There is very little I can do that I wanted to do. Sewing/quilting right now is pretty much on hold. One arm cooking and cleaning is a bit slow but doable. One hand typing for this blog is a whole new brain adjustment.  I pictured myself just sitting and moping about the “can’ts” but with Diego I have so many other things to focus on. He and I are in training for the next three months, and it is up to me to follow through with it all. Two practice sessions daily of listening for the door bell, the phone and the smoke alarm.  I don't have time for a pity party! We have work, and praising, and a lot of loving to do. Oh, and learning to take better selfies is on the list, too. Stay tuned to hear about Diego's first professional on the job outing.It was a doozy!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Mirror Reflections

There’s another trouble spot.  Am I talking about a writing block or another age spot I’ve just noticed in the mirror? Maybe a little of both. For the most part, I avoid mirrors.  I quit looking at my reflection in store windows as I walk by. I don’t stop at every mirror to smooth my eyebrow or adjust a wayward curl anymore. I don’t even carry a purse-sized lipstick mirror, or even a lipstick for that matter. All that was left back in the Second Quarter of my life (the 30’s and 40’s maybe).

 As I am ending the Third Quarter completely absent of the daily required primping for meeting the masses at school or work, I consider myself free of society’s judgment to defy my age, shrink my pores, or make my age spots disappear as the ads so profusely promise.  I don’t think about styling my hair, or apply the latest goop to provide sheen after the once in the morning ritual of tooth and hair brushing. I am finally a Wash, Rinse, and Go Girl.  Free at last.

That is, until I finally glance in the mirror at night to repeat the morning’s ritual. Staring back at me is always a shock. My God, did I look like this all day? I can no longer just repeat the cute phrase that I see Mom looking back at me as I am more than a decade older than she would ever be. The sagging eyelids, sallow skin, and dull graying hair are harsh reminders that the Fourth Quarter is beginning and I have no chance to be the stunning athlete who will save the game.

How can I sing the “Aging Gracefully” mantra when I look like I tripped over a wayward tree root or piece of cracked sidewalk? It’s hard to be proud of the glorious claim that I earned every gray hair. To see joyous memories in every wrinkle or sag. That my waving wingspans were once firm loving arms holding children. I’m supposed to embrace the terms “seasoned,” “intelligent,” “mellowed”…hell… I love to pick wine that way, not feel like I look that way!  It’s plain and simple, this girl is aging, and faster than ever before.
Trying to find comfort in my reflection is really difficult right now.  Except I do try to think of the good side to all this.  I can still walk up to the mirror; I can still see it (if my glasses are on); lift my arms to brush that mop. I can just as quickly turn around and flip off the offending light and retire to bed with the same aging man of 40 years who unwittingly still thinks HE is the starring quarterback and I am his head cheerleader. Thank goodness  "the eye of the beholder" isn't lost on me!

Monday, February 17, 2014


I have had fitful sleep times lately, mainly just aging issues that keep me from having a full night’s sleep, so my mind flitters about so many different thoughts, problems, ideas, and such. Lately I have been giving a lot of those nocturnal thoughts to Diego. I’ve meet with him twice, once with Wayne and Stephanie as backup, and once alone.   There’s no real “I know he’s the one” or “You just know when you know” kinds of feelings. I try to think back to last time I picked out a dog. That was really more than 20 years ago.  I can recall the scrambling pups in the kitchen and seeing the beautiful golden retriever mom and the black lab dad, and the pup’s funny cowlick on his nose that dubbed him the name Spike. We didn’t name it that.  I don’t even remember the “picking” though.  I don’t remember the “he’s the one” thoughts. I was doing it on my own, and Spike, later named Odie, was a beloved treasure in our family for 13 years, but the memory selecting him fades, and doesn’t help me much now. 

This time Diego was picked for me; from trainers who have been matching owners and service dogs for more than 30 years. I should trust them, and they said that they did pick a matching personality to me. Maybe that’s the problem. He’s boring because I am boring, and I hate to admit that about myself. My cover is blown.  (Okay, I can hear someone chiming in, “What cover?”) Not so boring,  when I am comfortable with friends and family, but for the most part, I don’t do too much. Watching TV, writing, quilting, cooking, grocery shopping and the occasional cleaning duties when I’m in the mood are about it. So why wouldn’t they pick a dog that is comfortable just sitting at my feet and happy to have his “babies” (aka toys) around. Playing fetch is pretty much out of the question. Balls are not his thing. I can tell he would love to take walks and mark every bush within a quarter mile radius, if I’d let him.  A little hind leg walking action seems to be fun, but he is the ever couch potato for the most part.  And I’ve been troubled that I can’t even get him to look me in the eye. Oh, man, my biggest fault is not looking people in the eye; I’ve been so used to looking at lips for lip reading!  Well, there you go, he is a little fluffy, puffy Suzy!

My initial “dislikes” have eventually been put aside. I was put off by his name, his penchant for wanting to mark in the house, his watery eyes and nose (pretty much a norm for the breed, mixed though he is) All of those issues have melded into ”he is who he is” and any un-wanted behaviors can be easily addressed with better training and attention.  I did seem to dwell on the fact that maybe I didn’t really “need” him anymore because my implant was so successful. But I’m not too unrealistic to know that when this processor is off, I am for the most part completely deaf.  Even though I am doing so well there are still many instances that I miss the direction of noise. And sometimes, I just like to be in the beauty of “deaf mode” and enjoy the quiet.  I could never do that for fear that I might miss someone calling out to me, or a doorbell ringing, for example.  Besides, I was wanting a new “project” and responsibility.  I wanted to give a rescued dog a chance at a better life all the while he would be a companion to me. Therein lies the rub, that I do already have a lifelong companion… my husband.  Although he has given me his blessing on this endeavor, I can’t shake the feeling that that we are not making this choice together, and Diego for the most part has to be “my dog” to maintain his hearing training.

So these are the thoughts that occupy my spinning mind when I can’t sleep. I really don’t blame this issue on my sleeplessness; it’s just the topic of choice these days. I will pay another visit to Diego tomorrow, hoping that when he does come to live with us next month and the real training begins, he will be familiar with me. I picked up a new squeaky toy that he will associate with me and will be at the house when he arrives. We may not have that love at first sight bond, but I do think he is a wonderful little dog, and I can’t wait to see how he becomes another member of our family as the sweet animals did before him.  I think it is going to be marvelous to discover what talents he will possess to help me through my new hearing world.  I hope you want to hear how this new chapter will develop.



Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Art of Friendship

A few weeks ago I was attending a meeting made up of ladies who had the desire to offer random acts of kindness to others. Among the group are three good friends of my own, and even though I travel one hundred miles each way to attend this meeting, the draw of friendship and camaraderie for a good cause makes it an easy drive. As a warm-up, we went around the room to share something about someone who has made an impact on our lives.  The obvious, mothers, dads, grandparents, and teachers were honored, and no doubt I have had so many of those who have definitely been a major influence, as we all have. As it rolled around to me I couldn’t add anything new except, by my side (this is almost a literal phrase; we’ve been accused of being joined at the hip) was a person who had taught me the art of friendship so many times over in the better part of quarter century that we have been friends. As I began to speak, my voice went into that horrible high-pitched warble that happens when emotions are stronger than the voice box. I wasn’t able to eloquently pay tribute to the beauty of her selfless acts and the impact of how she has taught me what it means to really be a friend.

 Instead, I could only belt out, “ Shhee’s m-my-y-y, sniff, sniff, friend… shhe’s she’s the b-b-best.

She was touched, but this blubber ball was so sad that the right words to honor her were not spoken. This dear one is first to say that it has been a two way street, but I can’t help but pale in comparison to her. What we do have though is one of those rare strong bonds that withstands distance or time.  She is also a very, very private person and would not be too happy if I announced her name to the blogosphere (all 9 people who read this, even if the potential of more is possible). So, I won’t.  But, I do want to share the poem I wrote to her almost 20 years ago, that gives a small inkling of what makes up the body of a true friend. I only hope that you have had a similar experience of knowing such a friend, and in return becoming a better person for it. I know I am.

“The Body Perfect”

She looks at herself with

Dread and concern,

Fearing what is to come…

And when.

But, when God created my friend,

He added “extras” not given

To everyone.

He added a strong right arm

Connected to a delicate consoling hand;

Shoulders strong enough to withstand

A waterfall of tears.

Her heart seals in my secrets,

All the while silently packing

Away its own pain.

Deep piercing eyes watch for any

Chinks in my armor.

Tender, yet solid soles keep her ever mindful

 Of the personal pain

 And sacrifice of

Taking any goal-driven step.

At the hip He devised an extra hinge

Made for locking

Onto the hip of another.

No other body was created with as much

Love and perfection.

                                                                                              Suzanne Robinson

                                                                                      August, 1995

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Activation Day

Today turned out to be beyond anything I could have imagined. A table piled deep of paraphanalia that had fit into a huge premium backpack was my first vision that said this is going to be a huge endeavor. Audiologist Sara and her intern Carley were happy to see us. I asked Wayne to come along to be a part of this new event in our lives. For someone who was a great sport amateur photographer in his early years, I'm sorry that he really didn't capture the really exciting moment of me "going on air." But maybe he was just a little overwhelmed himself. Together we are not the epitome of huge expression, but we get lost up in the moment.
     The angels from above didn't break into Handel's Hallaluia chorus, but it was a sweet moment of hearing a slight siren sound and then Sara's voice albeit a little high pitched and mechanical asking me "what can you hear?"  It was not a series of beeps that I heard, but actual words. I had to close my eyes to make sure I wasn't depending on my lip reading. That's when I knew all the indecisiveness, the waiting, the rejections, the final approval, and surgery were all worth it. The best I could show was a little misty eyes and on to the business at hand.

 We spent the better part of two hours finding the right loudness for each group of electrodes, figuring out all that equipment that was on the table and creating baby step programs to get me through the new two weeks before I see her again.
     All the while I am trying to become accustom to my voice interrupting the voices in the room. Quite a lesson in rude butting in I must have developed over the years. Wayne's voice being lower/deeper than the the electrodes' capabilities are being picked up by my other ear's hearing aid. Another perfect marriage is in the works.
     There's a funny bubbling aquarium sound that has actually dissipated over the past few hours since reaching home. We're were immediately met with some unexpected out of town guests and I can actually hear them visiting in the basement while I am fixing dinner. Yes, I'm typing this as dinner is cooking.
      Now that dinner is over and I have had the opportunity to have spent some time listening to voices, cleaning up clattering dishes, and trying s little TV, I can't help but feel that it will take me less than the anticipated months for this to become as close to natural hearing as possible. Are there some down sides? You bet, and I will share those a little later, just to let you know how realistic this adventure is, but for now I will bask in the phenomenal miracle of technology, a skilled surgeon and audiologist, and the countless thoughts and prayers of family and friends who have made this possible.  It's a blessed day!

Now you see it.
Now you don't.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Post Surgery Update

Minutes before my CI surgery
At Home with my new Turban

My excellent doctor's hand work
      I want to share these pictures to show some of the behind the scenes experiences of what happens right after surgery. Sadly I don't have pictures of all the adventures that have happened in the past three weeks, but the fuzzy brain just didn't think fast enough to put a camera in someone's hand. For the most part it has been a quiet time to just let my body heal. I was in the hospital at 8 a.m. and home by 4 p.m. that afternoon.  I was treated professionally, kindly, expertly at St Joseph's Hospital in Denver. I could not have asked for better care. The surgery lasted a little over three hours, and all I can remember is complete euphoria, good will, and gratitude for getting this far. Drugs may have helped kick in those emotions, but I really haven't lost that feeling yet. 

      My surgery was the Monday before Thanksgiving and by Wednesday, with the help of my own Vietnam Vet husband, we made a QOV presentation to Joe Birge. My participation in this Foundation is very important to me, and I didn't want to miss out on this opportunity. This was not a quilt that I made, but from someone else who participates in this great organization.  It was a special honor to just be the presenter this time.

Two days after surgery.
 Well enough to make a QOV Presentation
Pat from Wisconsin's beautiful quilt presented to
Vietnam Vet Joe Birge
      By Thanksgiving Day, I thought I was on a smooth ride to healing.  Actually I was not yet off the pain meds and the new BP meds that I had to start before surgery were not being too kind to each other. I passed out due to a drastic drop in blood pressure that won me an ambulance ride to the ER and a full day of trying to stabilize my blood pressure.  After years of trying to keep my BP from soaring, this was a whole new experience. Many times in these past few weeks I have had a hard time trying to tell if it was the bp meds or the surgery aftereffects that has been causing the fluctuating numbers, dizzy spells, and light headedness. The one thing I wanted to avoid was to confuse medications, but all the doctors were insistent that I start them before the surgery. Now it will be interesting to see who will blame what. Whatever the case, this is one battle I am allowing myself to retreat from. They can figure it out. I have better things to learning to hear again!

    The next two weeks were pretty mild compared to that first one. I worked through the expected pain without any medication. The most worrisome that proved to be typical were these cattle-prod like shooting pains inside my ear. They tapered off within a few days, and were more comical than painful. Then a new sensation came on board that hinted of a miraculous possibility.  I started hearing that "weird water in your ear" sound. Very likely fluid does build up in the Eustachian tube after this surgery, so this is not abnormal, but the key word here is sound!!  If I am hearing this, it quite possibly means that some of my residual low frequency hearing was not lost.  This was one of the drawbacks I had struggled with in deciding to have a cochlear implant to begin with. I had to come to the realization that what little residual hearing I had would be lost due to the electrode being fed into the tiny cochlea destroying any remaining  live hair cells. As I explained in an earlier post, the amount of hearing is like a healthy foot attached to a destroyed leg...not much use. But the good news is that as technology improves, cochlear implant processors (which are electrical) are being developed to add hearing aid (acoustical) capabilities. I was fortunate enough to be implanted with the newest electrode that is designed to prevent the expected loss. So when such a hybrid is available, the little bit of saved hearing may give me an ever wider range of hearing tones. That's way down the line in the future. Right now I am just grateful that I was given the best technology out there to hear more than I ever have,

   Being completely deaf with no use of a hearing aid on one side,  I have stayed close to home, avoiding crowds more than four, and that can be a challenge during the holiday season. But to be honest, I have loved the excuse.  It has made this holiday less rushed, hassle free, and definitely less stressed. My husband has become my new best friend...again. He has definitely been my hero in this trek.  He was by my side to catch me when I passed out. He gently washed my yucky hair while I held a cup over the stitched ear a long 10 days after surgery. He arranged a mini-birthday/Christmas party (of 4!) to help get a little Christmas spirit going. And, today he finished  decorating the tree (this has ALWAYS been a solo duty for me).  My precious friend and her husband from Wyoming traveled down here to pay me a visit this week, which was more delightful than she could ever imagine. We have spent precious moments with our grand-kids making gingerbread cookies. Shopping has been online and minimal. So far this is the best December I have spent in a very long time.

I am less than 24 hours from meeting with my audiologist to have the processor fitted and activated. This is the climax of this adventure, and while the rising action has been sweet, quiet, and calm, I am full of anticipation, doubt, and yes, just a little fear mixed in there. I want to hope for a "rock star" activation, where I hear voices right way, but I know it may take longer than the immediate gratification I desire. I promise, whatever the result, you will definitely hear from me tomorrow. This is too BIG not to share!