Posts in life
Hearing Things Differently

I spent a good part of the morning last week at the audiologist and in the testing booth. It was my third trip in the last month as "we" have been trying to resolve some issues with my hearing aids.

My new audiologist is a bigger brain than the other guy, who recently retired. He explains in detail how my ears work (or how they don't), why I am now afraid of heights and get off balance when on the edge of a trail. He uses terms I need more time to Google, so I just nod and pretend to understand. Did you know that our senses change as we lose some, and then others make up for it, and then some go off kilter....and we, as people, overcompensate for what's missing....? I did too.

The other guy, who recently retired, sat in the other room reading something that looked like a magazine and sipped his coffee. He's "merging" into retirement but "helping them out". My appointments before consisted of hemming and hawing and looking in my ears and clicking his tongue and then send me off with a tuned up pair of aids. No explanation. Just a lot of talk about the next vacation for both of us.

I love how the new audiologist over-enunciates and uses his hands when he talks to me. I don't know sign language, so I hope that's not what he was doing. In the end, when lip reading becomes the norm and necessary, if you are faced down or turned away from me, I am not going to be able to communicate with you. I will follow you around, grab your face and turn it towards me so I can see. Living with hearing loss means working harder to interact with the world....with you. More importantly, when I retreat into solitude in a crowded room it's because I just can't.keep.up. and I'm missing out on what feels like everything.


Miscommunication is probably the most embarrassing thing in the world and when Kevin sat across from me on our first date, I read his lips as he spoke, having stupidly not put my hearing aids in beforehand. (I'd probably been more focused on my hair and mascara) I pulled them out discreetly and popped them in my ears, pointed and said "I'm hard of hearing - soooooo I've got these things in"...

I tried to be casual about it, knowing it could be a bit much for someone to deal with, the potential to not be heard or have to speak up to be heard. I figured, might as well bring it up right off the bat so he can decide if he wants to deal with me or not. Instead, he raised his voice up a notch to be sure I could hear, asked 103 questions, and carried on.

If you know him, you would recognize the tone in his voice when one day he said to me "I think it's cool that you've got those - it makes you special." When I changed the batteries in front of him for the first time, he said it made me look a tiny bit "bionic".

I’ve been hearing things differently, like the fridge running at a new decibel, trucks digging across the harbor, some new bird species that's been flying around the neighborhood this season. When you're hard of hearing, you miss what your child is saying while she's crying in your lap, telling you a story about "what happened" that day at school - her high pitched voice isn't in the range that you can hear very miss half the movie in the theatre because the special effects drown out the words...your kids might not watch TV with you because the subtitles lining the bottom of the screen drives them nuts.

Since I no longer have people in my life who yell things into my face like "DO YOU HAVE POTATOES IN YOUR EARS?", I've relaxed a bit about this obstacle. Kev sometimes lifts my hair to see if my hearing aids are in - my knee jerk reaction is that he's going to demand that I put them in - but every time, it's that he wants to know how he needs to speak. There is nothing bionic about wearing hearing aids, except that it just helps you cope, hear a little better - often times, it doesn't help at all. I still don't hear as well as the average person, and often hear things I don't want to hear, like the flushing toilet next door, the cats scratching in the litter box and the beeping of the trash truck in the next town away. At the end of every day everything's on overload and I rush home to tear the things from my ears.

It is hard not to feel like I am not complete. But - I can read lips. So there.

Jesus on Wheels

My daughters used to attend Sunday School every Sunday. I was more likely to let them play hooky, only because I could hardly sit in church for an entire hour without agitating all the church ladies by my swinging leg and picking the polish off my fingernails. But I wanted the kids to know the Bible stuff, the God stuff, the prayer stuff, at least be educated - when they are old enough, they can decide what to investigate, what to believe in.


When my oldest was 8, she was absolutely fascinated by Jesus. We’d drive by a nativity scene on a rotary at Christmas, adhere to the 25 mpg speed limit along the outer edge of the circle five times, so she could glimpse Jesus over and over again. Every time we’d find ourselves within a mile of that rotary, she’d yell "Let's go see Jesus!!!!" When I tell you I found the secret to make this kid’s day, I REALLY mean it - I found the secret to making her day.

There's a children's book about the history of the candy cane and part of that history is that when you turn a candy cane upside down, it becomes a "J" for Jesus. She thought that was pretty neat-o. What she didn't understand was the explanation in the book for the red and white stripes...that the red was symbolic for Jesus' blood running down his body when he was crucified. HOLY COW! Her questions about "why were all those people mean to him?" and "will I die?" began to flow. (don't ask me how I answered them because I don't think I could repeat my simple child-appropriate answers back to her without freaking out)

At the mall there was a kiosk of beautiful hand carved miniatures, of the last supper, Jesus on the cross, the nativity, Mary and Joseph and the donkey traveling along a dirt road. This kiosk took priority over Build-a-Bear, the hermit crab kiosk, even McDonalds.

Once in a toy section of a shop in Boston, we came across a display of action figures. Later during lunch with friends, my eldest yelled, "Guess what action figure I saw today!" Everyone guessed…."Superman?" No. "Batman?" No. "Wonderwoman? Bionic Man? Spiderman? Stretch-man?" Noooooooooo.

My little girl stood up on her seat, stretched her arms out wide and with a big grin on her face yelled "JESUS!!!!!!"

Yes, in fact, there were actions figures of Jesus. I bought her one for her birthday that year. He still hangs around in the kitchen - and he has wheels.

Even better though, at Christmas a few years ago, we were out walking around in the newly fallen snow and went into a quaint Christmas shop. Room after room after room of Christmas stuff. A snowman room. A Santa room. A crystal room. A caroler room. A Nativity room. A Christmas train room. Wait....A NATIVITY ROOM!!!!! Of course, we spent some time there, checking out “all the Jesus-es”, as my daughter continuously marveled.

Obviously, we had to come home with a nativity, which we did. Beautifully handcrafted and painted tin nativity manger, along with Jesus, Mary, Joseph, three wise men, some cows, sheep and a donkey.

For weeks leading up to Christmas, at some point each day, I’d hear this little voice calling from the other room "Hey! HEY! HEEEEEEEEEEEEEEY! Anyone wanna play JESUS???"

The Cross Stitch

I love television.  Like eating candy, which was also limited while growing up, I feel like I lived the term "binge", because once I was in college, a priority was a television in my dorm room, and skipping afternoon class to watch back to back Oprah and Days of Our Lives with my roommates.  A remedy for losing points in college was the VCR my dad sent in the mail. My friends and I would gather in my room to watch favorite shows that we recorded each day. Attendance rate increased in all our classes - if the administration only knew why….

The luxury of sitting and watching, focused, relaxed, immersed in each story, was something new and indulgent, and something I still enjoy.

While TV was limited in our home, and we started the day with fruit topped with cottage cheese and chores, our friends woke up every day to a morning of cartoons and sugar cereal. Their beds were left unmade, and they played with Barbies, Legos and had a routine for changing the channel at the stroke of each hour to the next show.

We knew “Little House on the Prairie” and “The Waltons” were allowed in our family. Staying up past 7pm meant it was a Thursday and we could watch "Little House" because the new season started at 7:30. Staying home sick from school meant we'd be able to lay on the couch and watch the morning reruns along with a little added "Bewitched".

The rule resided in our household: If you watch television, you must NOT just sit there. You must be doing something.

Enter: coloring book, playing with dolls, sewing and eventually, the cross stitch.


Last year I was organizing family photos, which included small projects I had saved from when I was young. Folded up next to my daughters' baby shoes, was a piece of cloth. I knew what it was. It was the cross stitch that I had worked on for HOW MANY was my free pass to watching television. If I sat and stitched, I could watch TV. I can’t tell you how great I got at pausing between stitches, until Mom noticed and told me to keep going or she’d turn the off the tube. It was painful. I am sure Mom told me I would be grateful when I was older that I knew how to sew, and I would really enjoying having this finished piece.

When I found it last year, I felt the disdain of stitching in order to be able to watch favorite programs. I am pretty sure it had stayed folded up since I finished it, and then it moved around the country with me when I left home in 1991.

It was time.

I took it to a framer the next day and laid it down on the counter along with a credit card for a frame job that would hopefully preserve my work for another 25 years at least! The woman looked at it and goes “you did this?” and I nodded and pointed to the dates, “Yes, and apparently it took me five painstakingly long years”…We laughed at the fact that in 1983 I was 10, when I started it, and probably almost 16 before it was finished. She looked at me and replied “So, you figured that you might as well get over it and bring it out into your life now, huh?”

I could not disagree.

A few weeks later, I got the call to pick it up. They had to make sure it was steamed and stretched and laid out properly in an archival matte and frame system. It now hangs in my entranceway, I am proud that I did it. I am proud that every stitch was done by me. It looks good on the wall too.


Ten Weeks of Trees

Back in college I decided that an independent study for my studio art degree would be FUN! I got to come up with my own lesson plan, have my very own studio space, and often make my own "hours".

I set up in an amazing little corner space, near a water source, with STACKS Of brand new huge cold press AND hot press paper. There were new brushes and tubes of paint. I used the same pallet that I still use today, over 20 years later.  Even better, the studio was just steps from the back door to my dorm.

Coming up with my own lesson plan meant that I was require to have it approved by my professor, who I am sure already had me pegged for not following directions and being quite the rogue art student. I remember coming upon the deadline for submission, I was starting out the window at the trees and blurted out "trees!". So. I painted trees. For ten straight weeks. Trees, for three hours a day. I was required to check in, meet and critique, change my technique and colors. On occasion, I got caught sneaking out to watch Oprah in my dorm room with my roommate, who was NOT an art major and was NOT required to spend her afternoons in the art studio like I was.

In the end though, I got in the zone. I had my walkman and headphones, another cute boy art student worked nearby (he was SO much better than me, drawing figures, architectural rendering, while I scratched abstract lines all over my papers and filled them in with paint like a coloring book.

The result wasn't too shabby, I have heard that if you do something regularly for two weeks, it becomes a habit. Or at least, you have to come out with some sort of growth, progress, a nice result.

At last I passed the class and have ended up with some amazing tree paintings.

One hangs in my living room, and many others in homes all over the country. 

(there are a few left in my files, which are now up on my website in the "organics" section. Click HERE to go to that page and start scrollin')

Monastere de la Grande Chartreuse

Almost 20 years ago I went on my one overseas trip to the French Alps and visited the most amazing Monastere de la Grande Chartreuse. I tasted some pretty potent green colored Chartreuse liqueur, made there by the monks, a very secret recipe that I don't ever care to have because it will never be my choice of drink.

Chartreuse Monastere
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The curvy road and long drive up to the Monastere, the quietness of mountains and property, was almost overwhelming with it's peace and space.

I hiked around, took a museum tour, inspected the silent monks from afar, I watched them closely, hoping to catch a rebel speaking to another, perhaps. (but that did not happen, they took their vows of silence very seriously) 

I picnicked on a stone wall the way the French do, with a loaf of bread, and assortment of stinky cheeses and salami, apricots. and warm soda water.

Nearby, I looked up and took a snapshot of this statue above a doorway. This   was a profound moment for me, for some reason, not one I can explain. The vision of the statue stayed in my head for the next few weeks until I returned home and developed the film in my camera.

The next day I painted it.

No Title.
My girls at a concert last year, front row and center...

My girls at a concert last year, front row and center...

There are those things that make me really stop, as I know they have done to you. That is why I can't even come up with a title for this.

The fact of the matter is that we are left wide open to the casually and purposely cruel who are out roaming the world, wielding guns and home made bombs, pushing the gas pedal to the floor, heading towards crowds. When we wake up on days where overnight someone's world has been rocked to it's core, our eyes are forced open wider than before.

And so here I am, my teenage daughters are inside The House of Blues in Boston in a sold out show, likely in the mosh pit of teenagers, screaming against the stage and attempting to take a selfie with the band in the background, and touch the lead singer as he leans out over the crowd. I am walking circles around the block. I am stepping in for another appetizer two doors down at the Lansdowne Pub. I am walking back up to the front door of the concert venue. I am texting them to be sure their phones are still charged and they are standing upright, happy and safe.

My youngest daughter went to school without my seeing her face a few Mondays ago, and was shown a video of the Las Vegas massacre in her History class. 

Like everything, what becomes history is feeling bigger and bigger every day.

When I was my kids' ages, things that I remember worrying about were earthquakes, fires on the hillside and the homeless clan that lived under the bridge on the beach below our house. I know there were more worldly problems at the time, but we were protected by the non-existence of text alerts, the internet, and our household rule of limited television. We had drills to protect from falling earthquake debris and fire, not ones that taught the standard protocol for a bomb scare or a shooter in elementary school hallways.

In 1986, I distinctly remember the school administration wheeling a television into my 7th grade science class and playing the footage of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, which had happened earlier that day. But that...while that was history, it was an accident that occurred due to science, malfunction, and really really bad luck, not the malfunction of unconditional love for the human race, which is occurring more and more every day.

When that Sunday night happened in Vegas, my thoughts went to our day this past May at the Boston Calling Music Festival, less than a week after the bombing at Ariana Grande in Manchester, England. Within days of the bombing, I was the point person for every child we knew who was going to the festival, as I was the lone local parent who would be inside the gates with their children that day. 

I drove down to Boston alone with my two teenage girls, I didn't know the area or anyone else attending. Once we got through security, it was just masses of people walking around green lawns in the sunshine, music playing, with beer taps, lobster rolls and steak sandwiches. In retrospect, I don't remember seeing security inside the event, but I know they were there, perhaps disguised as a concert goer. The spotty cell service and crowds caused me to plant myself on the turf in between two stages where a text message could slowly eek in and out to my kids, with a stack of snacks and pile of water bottles, my phone charging three times over with the help of my back up battery pack.

When I was browsing around the internet this week, trying to find a ticket for myself to go inside the House of Blues concert with them, having second thoughts about dropping my girls off in line, I stumbled across the information that U.S. has already suffered 273 mass shootings in 2017. They say that likely we didn’t hear about all of them. I know I didn't. How is this even possible? 2017 isn't even over yet. That is almost "one per day" if my terrible math talents serve me right. Even if my math is wrong, that is 273 too many. 

I suppose that now, we have more to fear. Or we know to fear more. I am not sure sure which way it goes. As my girls strike out in independence, on the train to the city, flights across the country on their own, I breathe deep and try not to browse the internet too much to read of tragedies that happened too close to home. As they go to concerts with me, or without me, that's when I realize that there is no way to save ourselves from what can come at us in the world. I am just their mum sitting outside on the front steps of the venue because I was letting them be independent and didn't buy a ticket for myself. T I was raised to pray, and even still, I don't know how to do that. I was raised to trust, and even now, I am not sure how I can do that. It is all about learning, teaching, taking the right, sound steps, making decisions, and breathing deep and getting through.