What to do with all your stuff?

Today, I’m going to talk about that less-than-manly accessory, the Man Purse. Ladies, I don’t think there will be any revelations you are not aware of, I’m talking about the Man Purse due to the reaction of many people I know once I started carrying one. I’ll also give you a peek at the bags (yes, plural) I own.

A little history about why I started carrying a bag.

Two years ago, my wife and I were in Paris, France celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary. The main thing I was concerned with during our visit was the possibility of becoming a victim to pickpockets. Before we left, I purchased a new wallet, one that is thin and easily fits in my front trousers pocket but still allowed me to carry a couple of credit cards, driver’s license, insurance cards, and cash. I figured that would be all I needed. Arriving in Paris, I was vigilant anytime we were in a crowded area. We were having a good time enjoying all the history, architecture, and art Paris offers. We stayed away from most of the touristy areas, experienced wonderful food, great weather and a renewed sense of being a couple.

Of course, it happened. At least, it almost happened.

We had decided to venture over to the Eiffel Tower just so we could say we visited the iconic monument. We entered the metro station to board the train to save us walking; it was already late in the day. As we began to enter the train I felt someone pat me on my butt, both cheeks. In any other situation I would probably have enjoyed a welcomed boost to my aging ego, however, this time, the red flags went off. The doors to the train had no sooner closed than I felt a hand slip inside my front pocket, the pocket with my wallet. I immediately grabbed my wallet and looked down to see a hand, not my own, in my pocket. This strange hand was attached to the arm of a young girl approximately 14 or 15 years of age. As soon as she realized she was busted, she yanked her hand out, sans my wallet, said something to another girl who began yelling and prying the doors open so they could jump off the train before it left the station. Needless to say, I was a little rattled.
I recovered and my wife and I enjoyed a wonderful evening on the Champ de Mars watching the Eiffel Tower sparkle at night.
The next day, we headed out in search of a bag to securely carry my belongings without fear of pickpockets. What we found was this bag by Longchamp.
Longchamp BagA simple black back with two zippered compartments under the magnetic closure flap, a spacious main compartment with a zippered inner compartment, finally a snap closure compartment on the back, all held with an adjustable shoulder strap so you can wear the bag cross body or just on one shoulder. As it turns out, Longchamp is a luxury designer bag. So, yes, it came with a luxury designer price. But, what the hell, I was in Paris, celebrating 30 years of a great marriage, I splurged and bought myself a Parisian designer bag.

It was probably the most sensible purchase I made. I easily fit my wallet inside. I was able to separate cash and cards; I was also able to carry a bottle of water and my Pentax DSLR camera in the bag. I even took a few items out of my wife’s purse to help lighten her load (I’m a nice guy that way). For the duration of our stay, not once did someone try to get in my bag, or my wife’s either.

Back home, I realized I liked not having all that stuff in my pockets. Car keys, wallet, chapstick, pocket knife, spare change, cell phone, etc. I’m sure everyone has seen “that” guy walking around with all of his “stuff” shoved in bulging pockets.

Not wanting to be that guy, I embraced my man bag.

Then, I had my cochlear implant surgery. Wow, talk about an increase in things to carry!

In addition to all the aforementioned “stuff” used to carry in my pockets, I now had a remote to control my processor’s sound. As options for my processors, I opted for the wireless mini-mic and Bluetooth enabled wireless phone clip, that’s three more items to add to my “stuff” I need to carry. And let’s not forget spare batteries just in case they are needed. Seriously, looking at all the “stuff” I carry, without my bag I would be a walking advertisement for cargo pants and photographer’s vests. All of my “stuff” fits in my man bag/purse/murse/whatever, very easily.

Not too long ago, I mentioned to my wife I would like to look into purchasing another bag. My logic being, with the amount of money I spent on the first bag, I wanted it to last. An everyday bag would be practical and I wouldn’t constantly fret over whether it was raining, or going to, bumping against a rough rock wall scratching the leather, or just normal wear causing my bag to wear out too quick. So, for father’s day, she took me out shopping for a bag. You can imagine how that conversation went when a co-worker asked what I was doing for father’s day. “Oh, you know, just going shopping for a new bag.”
Having experienced purse shopping with my wife, I prepared myself for a day long outing, not that it takes my wife all day to shop for a purse. I knew it would take longer to find a bag for me since the whole “man purse” thing isn’t big in the United States. You can find them in Europe, or at least in Paris, easily. Here, not so much.

We started our crusade at Bag and Baggage. We ended our crusade, a mere 30 minutes later. Bag and Baggage has a surprisingly large selection of bags for men. Price ranged from low double digits to several hundred dollars. After describing to the sales clerk what I was looking for, he began pulling several different styles and types. Frankly, I was amazed. Ultimately, I settled on this bag
Tumi bag
The bag is by Tumi. It features a ballistic nylon construction with several pockets, zip closures, a magnetic closure on the front flap, and an adjustable nylon shoulder strap that works quite well as a cross body bag. I can slip my cell phone in an external pocket on right behind the front flap, my wallet is secured in the main zippered compartment. My CI remote and wireless accessories fit in the front flap section. And I have room to spare. Yep, I like it.

It’s safe to say, I am sold on the man purse. It is convenient to carry all my accessories and essentials in one place, keeps me from jamming all the “stuff” in my pockets. And my wife gets a little kick out of it. As for those who have, and will, comment on the femininity of carrying a bag I say this, after 32 years of marriage and two grown boys, I am very comfortable with who I am. I carry a bag, you don’t. I would suggest those who will poke fun at a man bag should try one on for size. You’d be surprised how quickly they can integrate in to your life.

For those with “stuff” to carry, what do you use on a daily basis?

Until next time,

Rob … the deaf guy

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Who Supports You?

Emotionally, who supports you during trying, emotional periods of your life?

It was almost one year ago I began this journey of hearing again, without the support of my wife it would have been a much bumpier road traveled.  We will celebrate 32 years of marriage this Thursday.  She has supported me through all my wild plans, uprooting her from Texas, dragging her across the country and back, east to west, west to east, south to north … well, you get the idea.  Through it all, she supported me.  Oh, she would definitely let me know her thoughts on my decisions, she would make me weigh the pros and cons but, in the end, whatever decision I made, she supported me.

I was never the person who sought out support, I always preferred to travel my path alone.  It was easier that way.  I rarely asked for help in my life and truly believed support groups were the invention of those who weren’t strong.

Once I placed myself on the road to hearing, I found people who genuinely wanted to help.  I didn’t seek them out, not in a support manner that is.  I found people who were willing to share their experiences with me, gave me advice and tempered my expectations.  These people came from different groups I wholly intended to farm for information and leave.  To my surprise, I didn’t want to leave.   I found comfort in knowing people actually understood how I felt, they knew what I was going through.  After my implant surgery and activation, I found myself answering questions for newcomers.  It was fulfilling in a manner I had not experienced.  To that end, I want to share with you some of the organizations and groups I belong to in the hope, you can have your questions answered as I have.  Of course, you can always contact me through the comments section of any post and I’ll be more than happy to share my knowledge, or, at the very least, point you in the right direction to gain the knowledge you want.

NAD.org  This is the National Association of the Deaf which is a non-profit organization designed to empower Deaf and Hard of Hearing Individuals.  Lots of good information.

http://www.hearingloss.org is the home page of the Hearing Loss Association of America.  They advocate across the country and in our National Congress to bring equal access to those with hearing loss.  They have several chapters across the country.

http://www.alda.org The Association of Late-Deafened Adults.  I have little experience with this group but from what I can tell, they work primarily with adults who have lost their hearing late in life.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/ciexperiences/ This is a great Facebook group that deals specifically with cochlear implants.  I found them to tremendously helpful and friendly.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/CochlearTownUSA/  Another Facebook group dealing with cochlear implants.  They are brand specific, everyone who is a member of this group is either a Cochlear brand CI user or a family member of a Cochlear brand CI user.  Again, a great group of people.

That’s just a few of the groups I interact with.  If you know any others, let me know in the comments section.  I’m always looking for new support outlets now.

Until next time

Rob … the deaf guy

At the Drive-In

Last night, I watched a double feature of Jurassic World and San Andreas at the Boulevard Drive-In.  Now, for most people, this is nothing to celebrate but, here, this is cause for celebration.

Being deaf, a trip to the movies is usually more trouble than it is worth.  Sure, more and more movie theaters are beginning to provide devices to see closed captions, whether these are glasses or a device called CaptiView is up to the theater.  Few theaters provide open captions, these are the captions displayed directly on the screen.  Most people know these as subtitles.

But, last night, through the diligent advocacy of a local group, the Boulevard Drive-In played both Jurassic Park and San Andreas with open captions! So, big Kudos to them.

How was the experience, you ask?  You did ask, right?  Go ahead, ask.  I’ll wait.

I’m glad you asked!  It was fantastic!  I was originally a little concerned because I remember from the days of my youth, those little hang-on-the-car-window speakers had less than stellar sound quality, they still do but the way.  However, I was able to follow the dialogue referring to the captions much less than I thought I would.  My wife had her iPod with her so she tuned to a radio station to listen to the movie.  She stated the sound quality was much better.  Next time, I think I’ll take a Y-cable and my wireless mini-mic and just plug in to her iPod and enjoy the better sound quality.

As for the movies themselves, Jurassic World was very good.  There are several nods to the original Jurassic Park movie, pay attention and you can pick them out.  I’m not going to do an in-depth review because I really don’t want to give anything away.  Just suffice to say, if you enjoyed Jurassic Park, Jurassic World won’t disappoint you.

As for San Andreas, well, it was an enjoyable film.  Dwayne Johnson played his role well, the special effects were very good.  However, in this day of using CGI in almost every movie made, we expect our effects to blow us away.  The main I problem I have with this film, it reminded me of those overdone disaster films in the 70s.  The first couple of times they were entertaining, keeping you on the edge of your seat.  Now, however, they are predictable.  The world is ending, must save the world through improbable methods while encountering new obstacles every three minutes.  It was good but, if I was going to pay to watch one movie, this one I would have waited for it to hit DVD.

And that is what I did last night.

Until next time

Rob … the deaf guy

Cochlear Implants … are they worth it?

If you have followed my writings, you know by now that I have bilateral cochlear implants.  I’ve written about the successes I have experienced since my surgery and subsequent activation but, are they really worth it?

That depends on who you ask.

Medically, not everyone with hearing loss qualifies for cochlear implants.  There is also a psychological factor that needs addressed.  For some, finances keep them from getting an implant.  The common misconception is a CI will help everyone with a hearing loss to hear.

Can I get a resounding, Nope!

There are several reasons CIs won’t work for some people.  For those that do qualify for CIs, and decide to get them, there are several factors they must consider BEFORE going through the whole process.  The best way for me to talk about some of these issues is to recount my own experience.

To qualify for a CI, you must have a severe to profound hearing loss and gain no benefit from Hearing Aids.  You also need realistic expectations (this is the psychological part).  There is so much misinformation out there, you have to commit to doing research to sort through all the crap and get to truth of what a CI is and isn’t.  Once you’ve done this, you’re ready to move on.

You need to ask yourself why do you want a CI?  For me, I grew up hearing.  I performed on stage in plays.  I came from a musical family, everyone played at least one instrument, I played the saxophone, participated in jazz bands, swing bands, any band I could play in.  When I wasn’t performing, I enjoyed watching live theater and concerts.  I also had a very artistic uncle who was talented enough (or fortunate enough) to make a living from his art and knowledge.  Knowledge he would impart to me whenever we visited him.  As I lost my hearing, I started losing all this.  Eventually, I could no longer play my sax, perform in plays.  I couldn’t even sit in the audience and gain any enjoyment from performances.  But, I think what was the turning point for me, what really got me thinking about a CI was taking my wife to Paris for our 30th anniversary.  We climbed to the top of Notre Dame and was standing right beside the bell towers when they chimed.  And I heard nothing.  I could feel the vibrations of sound, but I couldn’t hear the peal of the bells.

A year later, I went for my initial consultation.  Two months after that I was implanted.  Two weeks later, I was activated.

I honestly didn’t know what to expect.  I had seen a number of “feel good” videos of people hearing for the first time with CIs.  I had also seen a number of videos that were, shall we say, less than optimal?  Videos of people who were scared of the sounds, pulled their processors off, broke into tears, not from happiness rather, from disappointment or sadness.  I had read articles quoting people saying getting a CI was the worst decision they ever made.  While other articles raved about CIs being miracles.  How would I react?  I honestly had no idea.  Once I made my decision however, I never thought a CI was a bad decision.  Do i consider it miraculous? No.  But, the technology is pretty cool.

I can’t speak for anyone other than myself or those I’ve met with CIs and our experiences.  Of all the people I have met with CIs, only one has claimed a bad experience.  I personally believe that bad experience is due to not committing to the CI and the work involved to hear again.  That is another psychological point.  You have to realize, and commit to, a CI is a lot of work.  Yes, it gives you sound back but, to make sense of that sound and get your brain to understand this is now how that person’s voice sounds or how a flute sounds, takes a tremendous amount of work.  You can’t just sit back, do nothing and expect everything is going to be normal again.  The truth is, it is extremely rare for sounds to be exactly as you remember them.  You learn, and learn, and still learn until the sounds become the new normal.  It is a lot of work.

So, here I am, eight months later, listening to the TV, having conversations with my wife, hearing birds, appreciating music, feeling confident enough to venture outside on my own, participating at work, I even bought tickets to a concert my wife wants to experience, Kenny Chesney and Jason Aldean.  I’ll post about that experience in August, after the concert.

Are Cochlear Implants worth it?  Yes, oh HELL YES!  They are worth it …. for me.

Until next time

Rob … the deaf guy

Catching up

The weeks following the Renaissance Faire passed quickly.  Each week, for four weeks, I visited my audi and had my map updated.  Each week I made progress, small improvements in speech recognition, volume levels, and tones.  Bass tones started to come through, the higher tones were there from the start but, were now becoming clearer.  I was no longer making huge improvements, just small, incremental improvements.  My audi explained this pace of improvement is what she expected.

I began getting used to everyday noises.  The tapping and cutting in the kitchen while preparing meals, the dog’s toe nails clicking on the hardwood floors, even that annoying clock hanging on the wall.  They slowly became background noises.  Mind you, they didn’t completely disappear, I still hear them when it is quiet or I focus on them but they are no longer a distraction competing with voices.

Over they next several weeks, my word and sentence comprehension improved.  People commented on the improvement in my speech and the fact I was now interacting more.  My CIs had returned me to the world I once knew.   I had no idea it was all about to get better.

In February of this year (2015 for those keeping track) I received an update to my processors.  The FDA here in the States approved the software for Cochlear’s wireless accessories, a mini-mic, phone clip, and TV streamer.  After my processors were upgraded, my audi paired my mini-mic and phone clip with my processors.  She took my mini-mic, walked about 30 feet away and spoke in to the mini-mic.  This time, I really wish someone was with me to record my reaction.  I broke into a smile and said, “That is so cool!”  My audi’s voice was clearer than anything I had heard up to that point.  Shortly afterward, we tried my phone clip.  The phone clip connects to my smartphone via Bluetooth, then sends the signal to my processors wirelessly.  Again, it is so cool.  For the first time in years, I was able to have a phone conversation.  Once home, I was able to try out the TV streamer.  This thing is beyond cool!  I can listen to the TV, control my own volume, even mute the TV and the streamer will still give me sound so I can watch TV without disturbing anyone around me.  Again, the clarity was beyond what I had been hearing.

In March, I went in for my six month evaluation.  I was put in the sound booth and subjected to the hearing test from hell.  The first part was straight tones, just checking to see what range I could hear.  Pre-implantation, sounds had to be 90 to 100 decibels, or more, for me to even hear them.  Now, I could hear tones in the 15 to 20 decibel range.  To compare that to normal hearing, I hear tones better than most normal hearing people.  After that test came the hellish one.

Four different recorded voices, each saying a sentence I had to repeat.  These sentences do not relate to each other so there is no continuation of context.  One sentence may be a deep voiced male commenting on morning dew glistening on the petals of a specific flower and the next voice could be a high pitched female voice asking if you like her shoes.  It is a hard test, it is designed to be hard.  Before my implants I scored less than five percent recognition on this test.  This time, I scored 65%, a huge improvement.  Needless to say, I was ecstatic.

And that, pretty much brings my story up to date.  My hearing keeps improving, my social life is better.  I can hear and appreciate some music again.  While my story makes cochlear implants sound like a miracle treatment for hearing loss, and in some ways it is, not everyone gets the same results I did.  I’ll talk about those next time.

Until next time

Rob … the deaf guy

I’m Cured?

So far, my blog posts have been in a linear fashion.  I began writing these posts a few months after my implantation and activation but something was said to me the other day I want to address.  In a conversation with a co-worker, she made the statement, “… but you’re not deaf anymore.”

The statement actually took me by surprise.  I then proceeded to inform her, I will always be deaf.  Yes, my CIs allow me to hear but, as soon as I take them off I return to my world of silence.  I don’t believe she was being anything other than misinformed.  In retrospect, I think normal hearing people who never had experience with anyone that is deaf or hard of hearing make the assumption our hearing aids and CIs cure us.

Of course, the thought of a cure for deafness is controversial.  Is deafness something that should be cured?  I’ll leave that thought for another day.  For now, I am content knowing I have educated one person about deafness and CIs, my co-worker now understands I am now, and always will be, deaf.

Until next time

Rob … the deaf guy

Complete Immersion

I have never shied away from new experiences, always jumping in with both feet to experience everything I could.  Most times, the experiences were positive, other times, not so much.

During my latest mapping sessions my audi gave me a series of listening exercises, along with a couple of websites that are designed to help people with cochlear implants understand speech again.  My wife and I worked through some of the exercises, yes they were difficult.  I became frustrated.  I wasn’t frustrated with myself, I knew I would need to work to regain my speech understanding.  I was frustrated because I felt the exercises were too limiting, not moving fast enough.  Or maybe, I wasn’t progressing fast enough, either way, I was less than thrilled.  I was used to taking giant leaps, not baby steps.

The following weekend, we attended the local Renaissance Faire.  If you have ever attended a Ren Faire you know it is a cacophony of sounds, smells, and food.  The Ren Faire has been an annual excursion for us for 30 years.  This time was different though, this time, I could actually hear the cacophony of sounds.

Upon entering the faire, we made our way past the patrons milling around trying to decide which way to go, we already knew.  We like to go early and go deep into the faire before too many others, it adds to the magical feeling of the faire when you’re walking and seeing everyone in renaissance dress before the normal patrons show up.  It only lasts a few minutes but, those minutes are wonderful to experience.

The vendors were open and already hawking their wares.  A gentleman at one of the numerous leather shops, was tapping a wooden mallet against a metal tool as he carved designs in what would become a intricate bustier.  I could hear the tapping from several yards away.  The performers setting up on stage, the glass worker with her propane powered flame heating and bending glass.  Varied articles of clothing hanging from shop windows, gently flapping in the breeze.  I could hear all of this, and it was wondrous.

As the crowds thickened, we began wandering in and out of shops interacting with the vendors.  Stopping and listening to demonstrations of swordsmithing, woodworking, and others, But, it was while I had stopped to talk to a lady who was weaving on a triangular loom that I had an epiphany.  Patrons were walking and talking all around me, traveling performers were engaging anyone, and everyone they could, and there I was, engaged in conversation with a woman explaining her style of weaving and I was understanding everything she said.  EVERYTHING.  I cannot describe how this made me feel.  It was at that moment I realized, I had my hearing back.  No, it wasn’t perfect.  No, it wasn’t exactly how I remember speech.  But, it was understandable speech.  I did what I was used to doing, I immersed myself in a very noisy situation and forced myself to hear.

I wouldn’t recommend this method for everyone but, for me, it was needed.  I needed to prove to myself I could hear.  From that moment on, I no longer shied away from conversations.  I no longer directed the person speaking to my wife.  I no longer felt I had to have accompaniment to venture out.  I realized I could go to the grocery store, the hardware store, even the local motorcycle dealer by myself.  It was liberating.

My wife however, now says she isn’t needed anymore.  Thankfully, we both know she is joking, she is as happy for me as I am for myself.  We can hold conversations again, debate the finer points of art, politics, religions, and daily news.  For someone who has not been able to do so for many years, the ability to do all this is wonderful.

Now, if I can just learn to appreciate that clock.

Until next time,

Rob … the deaf guy