I got hearing aids this week

There are a bunch of posts worth of content talking about this new development in my life, and my goal is to be as open as I possibly can be to harbor conversation and help dispel some of the harmful assumptions I know people make about hearing aids.

But, we’ll start with this: the great deal of thought I put into talking about my hearing aids. How you start the conversation regarding a development, particularly one that will leave people uncertain whether they should be expressing sympathy or excitement, completely sets the tone for how others view your development. Apparently I gave that advice to a friend going through a divorce who wanted people to realize that her life was getting better, not worse, and the same advice applied to me with this so she gave the advice back.

Initially I was hesitant about how wearing hearing aids could affect my perception at work. My hearing loss does not negatively impact my ability to do any aspect of my job. The hearing aids and self advocacy prevent me from having any fear at all about my continued ability to do the job that I currently do –in fact, I’ve been doing this job for a year now WITHOUT hearing aids, without anyone noticing. But I still had (have!) anxieties that simply the presence of hearing aids will influence coworkers to assume that I am limited in some capacity, even though my actual hearing loss did not lead them to these conclusions. I’m not in a scary situation where I’m having to worry about my capability to do my job, or searching for an alternative career path because of it. So don’t panic on my behalf.

I also wanted to be very clear up front that no one needed to feel sorry or worried for me. There are of course some moments of dwelling or self-reflection where I start to get a bit bummed, but in general hearing loss is a known struggle due to my growing up with a mother with hearing loss, one I’ve at least theoretically prepared for my whole life, and most certainly not the end of the world. I’ve chosen to take a very proud and head-on approach to this hearing loss, and to both recognize it as a disability in certain situations but also simply as a quirk, a personal trait of my body and life. It is not a secret any longer, and I have a sense of humor about it, so I want other people to feel they can have a sense of humor about it too. It’s not a death sentence (ALMOST WROTE DEAF SENTENCE) and in reality, it’s not that much different from someone who needs glasses and to sit at the front of the room so they can see the board.

So after much thought about the best way to do so, I finally announced my hearing aid acquisition this morning. First I tweeted

I then tweeted

Followed by a third tweet saying

I copied this same thing over to Facebook and let the words work their magic.

My hope is that I’m setting a tone that will let people know that (if they even notice the hearing aids), they should feel comfortable mentioning them. I’ll be decorating them, so that should also help –you can compliment my hearing aids just like you would compliment someone’s cute eyeball aids– I mean glasses. And I’m hoping that making people feel comfortable with the existence of hearing loss can aid in discussion about hearing loss in general and help dispel this fear that still exists in a large amount of the population in interacting with people with hearing aids.

So step one: make Twitter jokes, done.

Step two: polka dotting these babies for ultimate fashion.

Step three: Answer questions as they come up, but otherwise not lead my life significantly different in any way due to the use of hearing aids.

Step four: Find an excuse to buy and wear these FAIRY WINGS THAT ATTACH TO YOUR HEARING AIDS: https://www.etsy.com/listing/171272868/custom-hearing-aid-fairy-wings-made-to?ref=favs_view_21 

 

Chaing Mai – Day One

Our first day in Chiang Mai, coming off the overnight train up from Bangkok, was actually a pretty slow and lazy one. We caught a cab across town into Old Town, where we stayed at the beautiful Rich Lanna Hotel. Easily the nicest room I’ve ever stayed in, and because they knew we were coming on our honeymoon, they even had towels in the shape of swans, rose petals, and a printed out Bible verse about love on our bed.

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We weren’t able to check in right away, so we dropped our things off and went for a walk to find lunch, explore a bit, kind of get our bearings. We napped in the afternoon, realizing that the dog that had been barking all morning was not going to stop (and never did stop in the four days we were there…)

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The real fun for the day though was wandering over to the Night Market. I’d heard this was one of the best nightmarkets in Thailand, and it did not disappoint. We chose to walk there, which took much longer than we’d expected, but it was absolutely worth the walk.

Stalls, lights, food everywhere. Tourist trinkets, household items, art, clothing, you know it. It was somehow less overwhelming and more magical than the market in Bangkok, maybe because it had cooled off at night and the lights overhead made it seem like a party.

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Frank spotted one of those tanks where you get a fish pedicure. Two other tourists were perched at one, giggling to the point of tears. Frank jokingly said we should try it and of course I’m all in, so we tossed our shoes in the back, paid our Baht for 15 minutes, and plunged our feet in. The sensation is so so so difficult to describe. It’s exactly what you think dozens of tiny fish nibbling on your feet would feel like. Every once in a while one of the larger breeds would nip me enough to make me jump, and it was really discomfiting when fish would work their way in between your toes to nibble there. I bet I’m making some people squirm just writing this.

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This is also when I learned Frank is painfully ticklish on his feet. After 10 minutes, he was still cry-laughing. I really thought he’d wet his pants (he assured me he didn’t). For 15 minutes we and the people on the other two tanks drew a crowd with our reactions which put the fish pedicure place in a steady business for the rest of the evening. You’re welcome!

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We continued to wander, listened to some country western music streaming from a bar in the market, perused candles and teas and instruments and everything you can really imagine.

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Eventually we headed back to try and make an early night of it, stopping to get some yummy candy on the way, because the next day was our first full and busy day and we had to get an early start! But not before buying a bajillion bean and pork buns to snack on!

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Things I learned this week

OK, back to this. Let’s see, this week I learned…

  • I run the fastest and furthest at night
  • Call your dad more often
  • Go running as soon as you think of it because you live in Boston and it’s probably going to start raining soon, even if it TOTALLY doesn’t look like it’s going to
  • When you feel really bad about yourself, you probably just need a haircut
  • Frank and I started working on ASL and while he doesn’t feel any urgency about learning, it is neat to see him working on it
  • How to sew sew-on snaps (NEVER GOING BACK TO VELCRO NEVER)

 

Things I need to focus on/continue to focus on:

  • Saying no to things that I just don’t want to do, without offering excuses
  • Not apologizing for my knowledge on something before giving my opinion/advice/experience
  • Find more places/things to do in which confident Asian grocery store Frank feels in control
  • Not injuring myself every time I’m in the kitchen

Last Day in Bangkok

Our last day in Bangkok was also our laziest. We slept a bit later, checking out of the hotel and leaving our stuff there. Frank had taken on the task of choosing what we’d do from a list I’d made, knowing that we had the whole day to kill before catching our overnight train that would take us to Chiang Mai. He chose the Queen Saovabha Memorial Snake Farm, aka the World Health Organization and Thai Red Cross sponsored Snake Farm of Bangkok.

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The first thing I like about it is that it’s the second oldest toxicology research center in the world (first place goes to Brazil). They research venom and produce anti-venom serums, and also run a couple pretty awesome snake shows every day. We made it in time for the first one in the morning, a snake milking demonstration run in a medical ampitheater setting, behind glass. Two men went through the process of milk half a dozen corn snakes while a third one talked about the process. Considering how poisonous and annoyed the snakes were, it was awesome to see.

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We left to eat lunch, wander around a mall dedicated almost entirely to golf, and see if there was anything worth seeing in the daytime of Pat Pong, Bangkok’s red light district. There really wasn’t; it just looked like a normal bar area except for one alley marketing to those interested in gay sex clubs and a theater showing off some scantily clad women.

We returned to the Snake Farm in the afternoon to catch the coolest live snake show I’ve ever seen. Workers brought snakes out, sometimes 1-2 at a time, and let them run around on the floor or dangle on sticks while a spokesman talked about what the snakes were, where they live, and how dangerous they are. If this sounds a bit out of control, it was.

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Largely, one the snakes were loose on the ground, the handlers were responsible for distracting the snakes so they didn’t run off. Sometimes this just meant walking circles around the snakes to keep them focused…

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Other times it meant antagonizing them to keep them lunging at the handler (instead of the guards standing on either side of the demonstration area.

One snake got a bit too frustrated and bit a handled on the hand, but not before I got some pretty awesome photos of the face-off.

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Seeing the methods used to distract, swoop in and grab, or just in general handle these venomous snakes was mesmerizing. The show ended with them bringing out a beautiful Burmese python and letting us know we could pose for photos. Of course I leaped right up to do so. Yay cool honeymoon photos!

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We took one more parting glance at the anaconda that was exploring the door of its cage…

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And the freaking homongous ball python…

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before heading back to the hotel to grab our things and make our way to the train station. That process took houuuurs, and lugging suitcases through the protesting crowds to get to the subway station will forever be one of my least favorite travel memories. But we made it to the train station and hung out on the ground for the wait, reading books and occasionally glancing over at the seating area reserved strictly for monks.

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This was excitingly Frank’s first overnight train experience. I’d hoped to book us a cool room, but it turns out tickets sell out way in advance for this line, so we wound up with two bunks. Frank ordered our meals and we chatted as the train staff transformed the car into rows of bunks with privacy curtains.

Here’s the real important part though, that made the train a new experience even more me. Squatting toilets! And as an added bonus, squatting toilets in a tiny bathroom with no lights, once they turned the train lights off for the night! I will simply say that squatting over a small hole through which you can see and hear the railroad tracks rushing by, lit only by the moonlight coming through the window, while the train sways gently side to side is both one of the weirdest and most peaceful travel moments… but also super weird.

And so we were lulled to sleep in our cozy little cots by the rocking of the train while the beautiful Thai countryside rushed by our windows. It was a lovely way to sleep.

Ayutthaya

This was my favorite day in “Bangkok”, though Ayutthaya itself is a bit of a hike north.  We woke up super early to grab pastries on our way to catch a shuttle van that would take us to Ayutthaya. Deciding to go with this (instead of a train) because it was cheaper was a bit of a nightmare. We got to Victory Monument before the protest that lived there woke up too much, and then spent about 15 minutes trying to figure out which van we were supposed to get in. Eventually we crammed into the back of one and hoped for the best. Fortunately the driver spoke enough English and remembered where we were going, so he told us when to get off, which was at a gas station.

Knowing we were going to need to haggle a driver for the day, I had insisted we get coffee and food immediately on our arrival so that we’d have time to reset from the drive out and get our heads on straight. Frank and I both HATE haggling. So we drank our coffee while drivers lurked outside. When finally it was time to go, I had my “good” price. First a driver approached us, agreed to our price, and then led us to his shiny black car with air condition. I said no, I wanted one of the open air tuk-tuks. Experience, you know? He was SO confused, and then all the drivers were dying laughing but I didn’t care, I wanted my open air tuk-tuk! And it worked out nicely because our driver was very kind and very helpful and smiled at us, which meant a lot at the time because despite what the guide books say the people of Bangkok are not “always smiling and happy to see you.”

We visited so many places that day, it’d be an epic long blog, but I’ll post some pictures and talk about my absolute favorites.

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Me in our tuk-tuk, heading onto the highway.

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First stop in Ayutthaya, Wat Yai Chaiyamongkhon. The yellow drapers are symbolic.

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I’ll use this cheesy photo-op to explain that Ayutthaya was the capital of Thailand until the Burmese razed it to the ground in… the early 1700s I believe?

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Lounging Buddha of Wat Yai Chaiyamongkhon.

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Still at Wat Yai Chaiyamongkhon. We actually climbed up and went into this Chedi.

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Gigantic sitting Buddha of Wat Phananchoeng, our second stop in Ayutthaya.

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Stop #3, Way Mahatha. I liked this place a lot. As someone who loves ancient ruins, it was right up my alley.

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Wat Mahatha’s most famous area is this Buddha head in the tree.

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Wat Rathaburana. Wide grounds again and then we climbed up that and went inside.

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Inside the giant tower in Wat Ratchaburana, in the middle room down a narrow stairwell were these faded drawings on the wall.IMG_7749
If you climbed further down still and then stuck your head up an opening, you were suddenly inside an old king’s tomb! It’s empty now, of course, but the paintings on the wall are beautiful.IMG_7758 IMG_7769
Stop #5, Wihan Phra Mongkhon Bophit. There was some sort of festival going on.

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We peaked inside and there sat another gigantic Sitting Buddha.

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Next door, Wat Phra Si Sanphet.

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Wandering around Wat Phra Si Sanphet. I love these parts of the ruins, that remind me so much of Rome.

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By this point of the day, the sun was scorching overhead and we were exhausted. We had one more stop, and it turned out to be an awesome one! It was fun trying to imagine when this place had been in its prime, hundreds of years ago, surrounded by jungle and in sight of the river. Now it’s a crumbling brick construction site with sentinels of headless Buddha statues. The final stop and maybe my favorite of the day in Ayutthaya, Wat Chaiwatthanaram. You couldn’t go wander around the middle, but even just walking around the outside was really incredible.

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Frank is exhausted and ready to go home but humors my need to explore history.

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We bought a coconut to drink as our driver took us to the train station, where the man selling the tickets were horrifically unhelpful and refused to let us buy tickets with anything but the absolute smallest bills. This would be like Amtrak not letting you buy a train ticket with a $100 even though your ticket is $83. Come ooooon.

The wait for our train was fun –train stations are the same wherever you go, really, except that this one had monks. The train ride back was nice, and our first experience with Bangkok’s subway system was nothing like I’d feared. We made it back to the hotel in time to eat dinner and then collapse from the heat and the walking. But I, for one, was thrilled with the day. I checked off another UNESCO World Heritage Site, and I got to see old ruins, which is a successful day of travel in my book!

 

Happy Easter from Nellie

Happy Easter from Nellie

My brother asked why she didn’t have bunny ears on. She naturally does!

Neeeeeeeeeew Sewing Machine

Previously I had been using a crummy machine my mom purchased from Wal-Mart for a grad school project and had no need of anymore. It was a lightweight, basic Brother machine that served its purpose well in teaching me the basics of working a machine, and also helped me get a feel for whether sewing was something I might actually enjoy before investing a ton of money into it.

Some 15 projects later, I can for sure say I greatly enjoy sewing. And not just sewing, and not just admiring historical fashions (which has always been an interest; I used to have FLOPPY DISKS full of period gown photos), but I’m also interested in designing my own projects, drafting patterns, the whole shebang. And just as I began a course on pattern drafting, the old machine broke.

We took a quick trip to a machine shop to see if I might be able to quickly buy a new one, but machines tend to run $400-$1800. And while someday spending $800 on a REALLY cool machine may not be a huge deal, right now that’s a bit beyond our budget.

But Frank found this great and affordable machine on Amazon. I haven’t had a chance to start it up yet, and for maybe the first time in my life I will carefully read the manual before plunging in, because this machine is my new baby. But it does fancy stitches! And it’s got an interface! And he even got me a package of bobbins, which pushed me into a fit of glee, because I only had one bobbin for the old machine, which meant lots of wasted thread.

Of course, I get this beautiful gift right before a giant video game convention where I’ll be working for days on end, but Monday I’ll have the day off for recovery and then? Then, we sew.

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A Dumb Thing I Signed Up For

I have never been a distance runner. I distinctly remember not making the basketball team in junior high, because my coach didn’t think I could be a team player, and realizing quite clearly how that completely would impact my junior high and high school career. And it did, aside from the social stuff, because it basically steered me away from getting involved with athletics. Which meant I got my “athletic” education from that point on in the general athletics class, which meant putting on mesh shorts and an over-sized T-shirt every morning and going for a run through the local neighborhoods. Without water or music, painfully aware of how unattractive this outfit was, how greasy I would be afterwards since we weren’t left with much time to shower. Athletics was one of several things that left me with a desperately low self esteem, a painfully clear understanding of the difference between me and the cute, sporty, pretty girls. Ugh. Running seemed to embody everything I hated about myself.

Fast-forward to college. I loved to just meander around the city and would go walking for hours at a time. Over time, the walking turned to running, because I’d be listening to great music and felt like running, so why not? There wasn’t any point to the running, I didn’t really push myself to reach any distance or time goals. And despite how obsessed I was with weight and exercise the first few years of college, running somehow didn’t get roped into that. Going for a run was completely separate from going to the gym and biking or elliptical-ling for hours on end. Despite that it was exercise, and despite that I wound up purchasing all sorts of cold-weather running gear, it started off and largely remained a more thoughtful activity than really as a work out. When I’d go home to Texas, I’d still go running, sometimes so I could guilt-free eat that donut, but also just because I had an excess of energy and a desire to be outside.

Maybe I’m misremembering a bit. Maybe it was more weight-targeted than I give it credit for being. Because I do remember focusing on running even more that time my dad suggested I get a gym membership because college was making me fat (not his exact words, of course, but clearly what he was implying), and being happy to tell him I’d call him ‘after my run’. Maybe the fact that I actually enjoyed running a great deal saved it from the bad memories of weight obsession that I link with a lot of activities of that time period.

When I started dating Frank, running wasn’t as much of a focus anymore. I’d go through periods of time where, for a few weeks or months, I’d start running again, but then other activities would rear up and it’d fall by the wayside. Being with Frank has by and large made me a much more social creature, which relegates long solo thinking excursions less relevant. I also did a lot of my writing planning and thinking while I ran, and since I don’t write as much anymore… well, you get it.

So I’m not sure what combination of restlessness, excitement that the weather is getting better, frustration that my winter weight is pretty high, and desire to get back into working out did it, but when Christine mentioned she’s going to Vegas in November to run a half-marathon as a belated birthday celebration, I joined. I signed up! I’ve already paid my race fee, and now just need to find cheap flights.

I think there’s an element of missing new experiences. The past year I was so focused on wedding and honeymoon, that my constant drive to learn new skills and set new personal goals sort of fell by the way side. And, for sure, I am frustrated with my current weight, though not from a self-conscious point but more because I am above the weight now at which my body functions the healthiest (and ok, sure, a bit of the self-consciousness as we go into shorts and tank top season).
But a great deal of it is because when she first mentioned it I scoffed and thought, “Haha, I couldn’t do that. I can’t run a half-marathon.” And that is what I will never accept of myself. It’s been a driving motivation of so, so many things in my life. It’s why I went to school in Boston, why I’m here, why I’ve traveled so much, why I’ve done so many of the quirky things. Because the world is full of people who will tell you all the things you can’t do, and it doesn’t matter until you start telling yourself the same bullshit.
So I signed up. And last Saturday went for my first run -1 mile straight of running, after which I thought I might die, but was able to pull it together and combo run/walk the next two miles. Sunday I ran again, and it was a bit easier. Tuesday, when I ran in the rain on my birthday, was a bit easier still.
I start my official training on Tuesday, through RunKeeper. I’ve broken in my beautiful orange Nike Free Run shoes I bought myself for my birthday by running several times in the past week already. I’ve got two weeks of stats tracked with my FitBit. And at some point in the new few months, I’m going to be able to run for miles at a time, something I never thought I’d be able to do.

Sibling Day?

Apparently Sibling Day is a real thing, and it occurred to me that though Thomas and I practiced wearing veils so long ago, only I followed through and wore one at my wedding.

 

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Past the Quarter

It was my birthday on Tuesday, and it was probably the birthday I have looked forward to the least in my whole life. This was the first time I didn’t feel like there was any impending magical day in celebration of me. Largely I felt excited about getting some presents, excited about eating some cake, and excited about knowing I could go to sleep at the end of it, because I am really digging sleeping lately.

The morning started off with a 3 mile run in the rain (MORE ON THAT IN ANOTHER POST). Frank had bought me flowers the night before, and then woke up during my run to have an omelet waiting for me when I got home, so that was lovely.

At work, I did normal work stuff except that a friend bought me a cupcake for lunch, and another friend gave me an armful of presents at the end of the day. And then several of my friends and Frank surprised me with a dinner at Koreana, the Korean BBQ restaurant Frank and I have been going to since our first date. And I was actually surprised! Suspicious, but ultimately surprised that it was more than Frank and my friend Christine, who is always game for anything.

We ate and yelled inappropriate things, as you do, and then I went home and opened way more birthday presents than a 26th birthday warranted. We’re talking toys, sewing machines, Easter decorations, books, wine. And that’s not including the running shoes and Fitbit I bought myself in the guise of birthdayness. Frank cut me a piece of cake he made –yellow cake with chocolate frosting and a giant glass of milk because it’s the best.

It wasn’t until the next morning I realized I didn’t blow out candles and no one sang Happy Birthday. Does it matter? It may mean I’m going to have a really shitty year until my 27th birthday, or it may mean I’ve just grown enough to realize that humans place a great deal of importance on superstitions and traditions because they give an apparent meaning to our otherwise chaotic and meandering existences. OR MAYBE I AM A JADED OLD PERSON NOW.

I have some funny old person jokes I want to make but I’ll wait… and then I’ll make them and you’ll know. You’ll be on the inside.

Here’s the only photo of me from my birthday. I guess I”m at that weird in-between age where, until I have kids that want to make a big fuss, it feels like my birthday isn’t much of a special thing. I mean, everyone’s got one.

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