Monthly Archives: January 2013

Me and My PowerPoint

There are two things in life that I am terrified of – spiders, and talking in front of a group of people.  The former is avoidable.  If there is a spider in the area, I leave.  Until it has been squished dead.  End of story.  The latter is harder to avoid.  My whole life, my heart has raced, my face goes beet red, my voice shakes, whenever I am called upon to hold court in front of a group of people.  It doesn’t even have to be a big group, and it can be people I kind of know – still terrible.  Even the “Let’s go around the room and everyone say your name and one thing about yourself that no one else knows” crap will get the adrenaline pumping.

So going to graduate school was a trial.  We frequently had to present research we had done, in front of our peers, in front of our professors.  And then I was tapped to teach an undergraduate course of 16 students.  Over time, I got used to the feeling of having people watching me, and I would just barrel ahead with my lecture.  The key was not giving myself time to think too much.  Show up right when class is supposed to start so that there’s no time to hang around and build my nerves up.

I figured that once graduate school was over and I was out in the real world, I could relax.  But NO.  Apparently, one of my duties as an audiologist is to go out into the community and educate people about hearing loss, communication, and hearing aids.  And – here’s the weird part – I love it.  My first one was small, only 5 people came.  It ended up being more of a dialogue than a presentation.  I did a couple more that were a little larger, and then last week I got up in front of 40 people, just me and my PowerPoint, and talked for over an hour.

I know why it’s easy – I love the topic, and I know the topic, and I could talk about it uninterrupted for hours and hours just to share my love of it with someone else.  That kind of enthusiasm about a subject is hard not to pass on.  It’s not really boring when the person who is presenting is in love with it, no matter what it is.  The topic could be the life and times of the dust mite, but if you really, really love everything about dust mites, it’s going to be interesting.

And now that I’m more comfortable with the terrible prospect of opening my mouth when more than two people are paying attention to me, I hardly ever go beet red.  My voice doesn’t shake.  I still feel my heart race a little, but I just tell myself, “Calm down.  You’ve got this.”  And I usually do.

 

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Big Art

Every once in a while we up and head out toward North Adams, Mass to visit The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art.  It’s a beautiful drive out Route 2, and we can get passes for free entry at our local library.  Last weekend we decided to go and check it out.

The weather was sunny and on the warmer side at home (about 40), but as we headed west out Route 2, up into the Berkshires, it started to rain, and as we got higher and higher the temperature dropped and we got into sleet, and then snow at the top.  After the summit, we quickly descended back into sleet, and then rain.  So many climates, so little time!

We were happy to make it to the museum.  Some of the exhibits hadn’t changed, but were interesting to see again.  Some of them were new and amazing.  In the large exhibit hall (a huge warehouse space), was an exhibit by Xu Bing called Pheonix.  It was two giant birds suspended from the ceiling made completely out of reclaimed building demolition materials from China.  It’s hard to see the immensity of them from my pictures, but it was breathtaking.

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This is a view of them from a balcony overlooking the space.

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Looking up from underneath the tail of one of the birds.

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Bird head.

The usual exhibits were still there, but we don’t really get tired of seeing them for the second, third, or fourth time.  There is usually something new we notice about the installations, some aspect that we can talk about that we didn’t think of last time.  Here is Aaron contemplating… what?  I don’t know what it is.  But it’s cool.  Aaron said he wished he was small enough to walk inside and make it his house.

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In that same room, there is a back wall with a doorway leading to another gallery.  The wall looks like it’s been splashed with random, modern-art-looking paint all over it.

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Until you get close up to it and see that it is intricately painted scenes from Japan.  The following picture was taken with the camera literally about a foot away from the wall.

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We had a great time, as usual.  As we were walking through one of the many walkways between buildings, I noticed that the rain had gone away and it was a gloriously sunny day once again.  I snapped this picture as we were going.  I like the lines and the puffiness of the clouds.  I guess after seeing so much art, I had to make my own little contribution!

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Not art. Just a picture.

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Malingering

As an audiologist, some of the most time-consuming patients I come across are the malingerers.  These are people who don’t have a hearing loss, but for whatever reason pretend that they do.  There may be a financial incentive (like someone suing an employer for damage to their hearing, or applying for disability based on a hearing loss), or they may have mental illness, or they may be school-aged kids desperate to display some kind of reason for poor performance in the classroom.  Whatever the reason, they take a lot of time when they appear on my schedule.

I will say that it is very hard to fool an audiologist.  I can tell almost right away when you’re a faker.  And it’s easy to tell during testing when someone is faking.  Not only are there specific tests that will highlight fakery, but you can just tell.  No one fakes a sloping hearing loss.  They pretend they have one ear with no hearing, or both ears with no hearing.  I saw in 8 year old once who wouldn’t respond to any stimuli at all.  This was  after I had had a completely normal conversation with him while I was taking the history with his mom.  I stopped everything, did OAEs (completely normal, of course), read him the riot act, and eventually got a completely normal test.  It turned out that one of his friends at school just got hearing aids.

The worst is when you have someone who is malingering, but who actually has a hearing loss.  So you know they have a hearing loss, but for whatever reason they are making it worse than it actually is.  This is bad, because if I were test someone like this and fit hearing aids on them, they would be far too loud – compensating for a hearing loss that is much worse than their actual loss.  I had someone like this recently.  She came in with a test from another facility and was asking to be fit with hearing aids based on that test.  As I was walking into the room with her, I asked a question when her back was turned.  I always do that, because it tells me a lot about how someone is hearing right off the bat.  I’ll say, “Did you have trouble finding us today?” or “How do you like this weather?” or something innocuous like that.  Sometimes they hear me just fine.  Sometimes they realize I’m talking but don’t catch what I’m saying, and sometimes they don’t hear me speak at all.  So I get a lot of information about how they’re hearing right when they walk in the door.  With this particular lady, she had no trouble hearing me, and I had a perfectly fine one-on-one conversation with her, which completely flew in the face of her supposed severe-to-profound hearing loss.  So I explained that I had to verify her test before I could order hearing aids, and to the booth we went.  It was clear that she had a mild to moderate hearing loss, but she wouldn’t respond to tones until the severe range.  It took a lot of counseling and three separate visits to get a test that I could accept as valid.

While it might seem like it would be completely aggravating to come across a patient like this, it actually is kind of interesting.  It allows me to use all of my audiology skillz – there’s a lot of critical thinking involved.  Being an audiologist is kind of like being a detective.   You gather data, you analyze, you decide what further information you need to get to the bottom of things.  When you have a malingerer, you really have to exercise all of those muscles.  It feels good.  As long as it doesn’t happen too often.

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Mini-Me

I don’t know how it happened, but when Lydia burst forth from my womb, it was like a little chunk of me broke off and started to grow again. Not in the looks department – when I look at her, I see Nate staring back at me.  But in the personality department, she is all me.  Arguing with Lydia is like having a slightly schizophrenic argument with myself.

She is bossy as all get-out.  She wants things done her way.  Everything must be just so.  She’s even started making lists.  At the age of 8.  Was I like that when I was 8?  Why yes, yes I was.  My mom tells a story about when I was 5 and playing with my dolls.  I was using some old towels as blankets.  The towels had a fringe, which I very patiently combed out to be all aligned and tidy.  Which, of course, my mom thought was a sure sign on mental illness.  But here I am – a productive adult just on the tidier side of mental illness.

We were trying to formulate a plan for what do with our weekend a few weeks before Christmas, and this is what Lydia came up with:

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What a fantastic list – so beautifully thought out.   Numbered, even.  I couldn’t have done it better myself.

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Winter Fun

One of the best things about winter is sledding.  Last year we had almost no snow, so did no sledding at all, despite getting a lot of sledding paraphernalia for Christmas.  Well, we got two significant snowfalls while the kids were on Christmas break, so we broke out the sleds and headed for the popular sledding hill in our town.  When we got there, however, we saw that everyone else had exactly the same idea we did – it was so crowded there wasn’t even anywhere to park.  So we did an about-face and headed for a lesser-known hill in our neighborhood.  It was a good choice – there was no one there and the snow was perfect!

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It’s hard to make a 45 year old man grin so big he looks like an over-grown kid, but it appears all it takes is a sled and three kids.

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Home Is Where the Hearth Is

Our house came with a big, iron fireplace insert.  Back when it was new, probably in the mid-60s, it had a working air-blower that would blow hot air into the room when the firebox was nice and hot.  The funny thing was that the fireplace itself seems like it’s really big, but the firebox in the insert was tiny – it fit just a couple pieces of wood and a little kindling.  Barely.  I searched and searched looking for a picture of it – this is from when we just moved in:

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So, we thought it might be nice to get rid of the insert and just use the fireplace.  We grabbed ahold of the insert and tugged and shimmied it forward.  It kept coming, and coming, and coming.  It turned out to be HUGE.  The firebox may have been small, but the whole unit was a behemoth!  And it was so heavy that there was absolutely no way we could even lift it.  Even a tiny little bit.  It was like trying to lift a car.  So we left it sitting in the middle of the living room for a few days while we arranged to hire some burly men to come take it away.  Which they did, with much difficulty.

Once it was gone, we had a lovely, nice big fireplace.

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And then one evening, as the nights were getting colder, I was standing in the living room and noticed a cold breeze wafting in through chimney.  We stuck our heads into the fireplace and suddenly realized there was no damper.  At all.  Chimney wide open.  So, we had to call chimney companies and get estimates on damper installations.  It took a long time, and in the meantime, the nights were getting colder and colder.  So, we took matters into our own hands, and blocked the chimney up with good old-fashioned plastic and duct tape:

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Klassy, right?

Then Hurricane Sandy blew in and we reinforced it with stacks of wood in front of it.  No picture available.  Sorry. We finally got a damper installed, and a beautiful screen, and can now are enjoying our fireplace almost nightly.

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Christmas Scenes

Hello?  Tap tap tap.  Is this thing on?

I have a blog!  Would you look at that!

Obviously, things have kind of gotten away from me over the past few months.  Here are some photos from the Christmas season.

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Christmas baking.

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Lydia is still a believer.

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As is Aaron, of course.

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Look Park had many fancy Christmas trees to look at while waiting in line to see the big guy. This was my favorite.

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Our tree complete with gifts.

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Snow! Just a few days late. This picture was taken moments before my iPhone got doused with snow. Luckily, it magically started working again once it dried out.

Tomorrow we are back to work, back to school… back to blogging more regularly?  I’ll try.  Here’s to a happy, healthy 2013!

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