31 May 2009

Albania: 6. Riding on Buses with A Boy

I am still scrolling through all my picture files from the Balkans. I have a few ideas in mind with things I'd like to do with some of the pictures, but I keep changing my mind as to which shots I want to use. So, in the meantime, y'all get to enjoy a few shots from the many buses My Love and I rode on during our adventures.

29 May 2009

Mantra

There have been three little words rolling around in my head this past year. At times, those three little words have been seductive, addicting, irritating, motivating, stressing, and always stuck in the front of my mind. However, the one thing I can't deny is that those three little words have forced me to slow down and really take a deeper look at my life.


Curious yet?


What could those three little words be?


"When pigs fly?"
Hmm, no.


Yup, that's it. "Streamline and simplify." Say those words. Feel them roll off your tongue. Seductive, aren't they? And really, quite powerful.


I can't pinpoint when I was aware that those simple words became my mantra this year, but now that it is, I have not been able to let it go. Every time I say those three little words to myself, another idea pops into my head on how I can embrace and live the concept of "streamline and simplify."


"Streamline and simplify." Weed out those clothes. What fits? What's too old for the public eye? What can be donated? Do you really need that many shoes? Really?


"Streamline and simplify." Get those finances in order. Make extra payments on those damn student loans. Contribute the maximum to the 401K. Discover that you have enough savings for several exotic trips abroad. Reassess spending habits.


"Streamline and simplify." Work efficiently. Eliminate extra papers that you have lug back and forth between office, home, client, home, office, home again. Find the simplest way to complete projects. Streamline routine tasks.


"Streamline and simplify." Eat healthy, wholesome foods. Eat seasonally. Spend less money and less time in the kitchen. Still manage to lose weight.


"Streamline and simplify." Stop worrying. Stop obsessing. Start planning. Keep dreaming. Focus on the healthy relationships. Let the toxic ones go. Prioritize.


Every time I think I've mastered the concept of "streamline and simplify," I look around and realize that I could simplify my life even more if I do X. In that sense, it is both freeing and addicting.


Do you have a mantra you live by? What keeps driving you on, in good days, bad days, and the ordinary days?

27 May 2009

Bibliophile Bookstore

After a slow start to our weekend (ahem!) Tiffany and I wandered through the city. On our rambles, we stumbled across the kind of bookstore that makes every bibliophile's heart skip a beat:

Seriously, with such a great opening line, who could resist?

Not us.


Who wouldn't want to spend all day just discovering all the treasures hidden in here?

21 May 2009

Thought for the Day

On my iGoogle page, I have a box dedicated to inspirational thoughts. Sometimes, those thoughts are worth keeping in mind. Today's thought:

"Enjoy life. This is not a dress rehersal."

~Unknown~

20 May 2009

Practically Paradise

I have been working a lot in the past week or so. A lot. While I'm working like a fiend, my thoughts keep wandering back to this lovely little park My Love and I found while wandering through Dubrovnik.

The park was tucked away below street level (down approximately 157 steps) so it almost felt like a secret. It was long and narrow and overgrown with the first spring wildflowers. The view of the Adriatic Sea was simply stunning. And the park benches felt like heaven after hours of wandering up and down Dubrovnik's many, many hills.

I would love to be sitting on one of the park benches with My Love again right about now. I wouldn't even mind his tickling me (too much).


If there had been a hammock, I proably would never have left.

14 May 2009

He,he, he, Ha, ha, ha, Ho, ho, ho....No.

Eek! I'm sorry peeps, I just realized my last couple of blog entries have been a bit heavy. So,it's time for a little lighthearted post. Here's something My Love would do very well to remember next time he wants to tickle me....























(From here)

13 May 2009

An Anniversary of Sorts

It's been in the back of my mind this year. Lately, there's been enough reminders that I have been taking time to muse and reflect on the fact that it has been ten years. Some days, it seems like it was just yesterday. Other days, it seems like three lifetimes ago. And it is absolutely incredible to consider all the ways my life has and has not changed in the past ten years.


Today, I am deaf. Technically, legally, truly deaf. Without the wonder of modern technology, I cannot hear a thing. Even ten years down the road, I still have a hard time thinking of myself as deaf. In my heart, my lifestyle, and in my mind, I am simply hearing impaired. Always have been, always will be.


I was born with a hearing loss, which was discovered when I was a toddler. I was promptly retrofitted with hearing aids, that at the time, I preferred in my cheerios and milk - much to my Mom's chagrin. I was sent off to school, and, honestly, thanks to the hard work of so many people, excelled. I was spunky enough to scold my kindergarten teacher, silly enough to lay down next to my baby brother without his diaper, and smart enough to be able to overcome the disadvantage being hearing impaired presents in the classroom.


Normally, after a few intensive years in preschool and regular follow-up throughout my school years, I would have been all set. I was taught that being hearing impaired was just a fact - much like my hair is brown or that I have ten fingers - I was never told "you are disabled," or "you can't do that." Just "try harder," "you can do that," or "speak up for yourself - tell them what you need." And I took those lessons to heart.


However, I further had the disadvantage of having a fluctuating hearing loss. A fluctuating hearing loss meant that, at any time, for any length of time, for unknown reasons, I would wake up without my hearing. In essence, I became temporarily deaf. Sometimes, I would be without hearing for a couple of days, or a couple of weeks, and in a few instances, a couple of months. There were certain times of the year that it seemed to happen more often than not, and my hearing loss was usually accompanied by dizzy spells. Losing my hearing was always a discouraging, but temporary, setback.


I can't imagine how my parents handled it before I could read, but once I learned how to read, I would rely on lipreading, finger spelling, and abbreviated notes to fill in the gaps when I couldn't hear. Because I was raised as part of the Oral tradition, I was never formally taught sign language. My parents, cruel but brilliant tyrants they were, insisted that I continue to go to school even when I couldn't hear. On the bad days, I'd sit there in my own little world. On the good days, I had a clue of about 25% of what was going on around me. Then, magically, my hearing would come back and life would be good again.


Now, don't get me wrong. I had a very happy childhood. Almost all my childhood memories are happy. I was a happy-go-lucky kid. Because a fluctuating hearing loss was all I knew, it never occurred to me that life could be different. I didn't like losing my hearing, but man, the mornings I woke up to find it had come back were greater than Christmas. Truth be told, I once told my favorite teacher that the only thing I was truly scared of was losing my hearing permanently. He sagely told me, "That wouldn't be such a bad thing," and I remember thinking he'd totally gone off that rocker.


My freshman year of high school, the fluctuations became much more severe - lasted longer, happened more often, and then, the bottom fell out. I'm fuzzy on some of the details - I think I selectively blocked out many of them:


I woke up one morning in January and was falling down dizzy. So dizzy that after two days on the couch without moving one inch, I wound up in the hospital in an attempt to stop the dizziness and bring back my hearing. Months passed, the dizziness slowly got better, and my hearing didn't come back. The doctors tried one thing after another, without success.


The day before spring break, I sat in the doctor's office with my Mom, and cried as the doctor finally told me, "I'm sorry, I've tried everything, I can't bring your hearing back."


Through the rest of the spring, there was much debate. I had, several years back, been implanted with a Cochlear Implant in one ear. For some reason, that implant has never worked. Should I try again with that implant? (No go.) Should I be reimplanted in that ear in case my hearing comes back? Should I be implanted in the other ear? Should I have a Cochlear Implant at all?


Eventually, it was decided that I should be implanted in my other ear. Three weeks after surgery, I was sitting in a tiny room with a computer hooked up to my head via lots of crazy wires. I had to sit, hooked up to a computer, and tell the doctor how loud I could tolerate a noise, and when the first time was I could identify a beep. My implant has 22 electrodes, which means that every time I get mapped, I have to sit there and identify the first beep and the "I can't stand it this loud!" beep 22 times. And then we have to re-test each of those 22 electrodes. It takes a long time. Even now, when I go to get the hearing levels adjusted, I'm physically exhausted afterwards.


When you go for 8 months without hearing anything, you can't tell if you're truly hearing something or if your mind is playing tricks on you. You see, deafness does not equal silence. I usually have some ringing in my ears, which can fade out or intensify at times, and sometimes I think I hear a melody. So, it took a long time that day for me to realize I was hearing those first few beeps as opposed to thinking I heard them.


My Mom finally went to get me something to drink, and while she was gone, the doctor turned on my implant. When she turned it on, I remember physically recoiling. It is jarring to the senses to suddenly go from silence to noise. But I also remember the excitement when we all realized I could hear my Mom instead of reading her lips. The way my hearing sounded when the implant was first turned on is nearly impossible to describe. Some say it sounds like Donald Duck talking; I thought it was like a really, really bad robotic voice. It didn't sound right, but I could hear!


The rest of that afternoon was full of excitement, surprise, exhaustion, and confusion. I could hear, but it was slow and difficult learning to understand what others were saying to me. I was hearing things I had not heard in 8 months, but I was also hearing things for the very first time too (I could now hear, at my worst level with the Cochlear Implant, better than I could hear with the best level of my hearing aid). Mom laughed when she had to tell me that the noise in the bathroom was me peeing. Who knew it made noise when you peed? "What's that?" became a common question.


Some of the new sounds I could hear included the fizzing when you open a bottle of Coke, birds, the refrigerator humming, clocks ticking, and on and on....even now, ten years later, I'm still learning and hearing new sounds. Some sounds make me happy to hear, others drive me insane. I turn my implant off when I'm vacuuming, or blow drying my hair, or when I can't figure out how to block an annoying sound.
It took a while to learn how to hear again. Yes, I could hear, but this was a different kind of hearing than I had before. I could easily say that even now, I'm still learning how to hear. It isn't always easy, but it has been a vast improvement over my fluctuating hearing loss.


I can hear music (and sometimes pick out the different instruments); I can talk on cell phones while walking down busy rush hour streets; I get irritated by humming refrigerators; I talk to My Love on Skype; I can hear my dangly earrings jingle and jangle as I walk; I can hold my own in conversations (except when in crowded bars and restaurants); I now know the dull roar of the ocean; I usually like the lull of raindrops hitting a window; and despise how the horn on my brother's car sounded like a dying duck for years.


But even more importantly, I can look back and realize how lucky I was to lose my hearing, and to lose it when I did. I had the help of my family when I couldn't hear and when I learned how to hear again. I was able to gain complete autonomy - I handled college with minimal hearing assistance, I studied Arabic for two years (and managed a respectable B average!), I moved to a city all by myself, I worked in restuarants and as a bartender, I have a great job, I don't have to worry about explaining how I can't hear on a given day, I can call friends on the other side of the world and gossip for hours, and while I may still have off days where I struggle to hear, or there are things that are just beyond my hearing ability (like telling the difference between my dad and brothers on the phone), my overall quality of life is far superior than what it would have been if I had continued to live with a fluctuating hearing loss.


Now, with the distance and wisdom of time, I can look back and see that my sage old teacher was right. Losing my hearing wasn't so bad after all. And that, my friends, is an anniversary worth celebrating.

Emerging as a Butterfly

I have deliberated about this post. I am afraid it will make me sound vain and narcissistic. On the flip side, I'm afraid that it makes me sound shallow and insecure. This deliberation shows me that while I'm changing, I still have a ways to go.


A while back I blogged about how I have a hard time seeing myself as beautiful. Growing up, somewhere, somehow, I picked up this insane idea that a woman could be beautiful or she could be smart. It just wasn't possible to be both smart and beautiful.


Since schoolwork came naturally to me (don't count math though!), and I still like learning (except math....which is why my current position makes perfect sense somedays), I identified myself as smart. As such, I mistakenly believed I wasn't beautiful. Oh sure, I wasn't ugly. But just ordinary. Just average. On a great day, cute.


See? Cute, maybe. But definitely more along the lines of the average "girl next door."


As I've gotten older, I have become much more comfortable with myself. I am confident in my skin, and while I still have imperfections that annoy me to no end, I have slowly begun to accept that I am pretty. Even beautiful on the great days.


I have learned that my imperfections add to my beauty rather than detract from it. I have learned to accept compliments on my looks gracefully (except when I have been on a bus for two days and haven't showered in three).


That said, do you ever get caught off-guard by a glance in the mirror, a compliment, or a picture of yourself? A glance into how you truly appear to others? As opposed to the way you see yourself? Kind of like that whole being startled when you hear a recording of your voice and think, "I don't really sound like that, do I?"


When I first saw our vacation pictures, I was knocked off-guard. I saw those pictures of beautiful places, and a beautiful love, and a handsome man, and a beautiful girl. And I thought to myself, "There is no way that girl in those pictures is me." You see, the girl in those pictures was beautiful, and sophisticated, and elegant. Someone I would love to become, but most definitely am not.


Gradually, the more I looked at the pictures, the more I saw myself in them. The more I saw myself in those pictures, the more I realized I am beautiful.


This is not how I see myself when I look in the mirror every day.


I was not beautiful when I was younger. So why am I now seeing myself as beautiful? Did the ugly duckling become a swan? Did the caterpillar emerge from her cocoon as a beautiful butterfly? Have I just become so confident and comfortable with who I am that it shines on the outside as well? Am I beautiful because I am in love with a wonderful man? Is it just a matter of finally seeing myself as others see me?


Whatever the real reason is that I am now seeing myself as beautiful, I don't really care. I am smart, confident, capable, sassy, sweet, young, and beautiful. And that is enough for me.

For a Laugh

Check this out!

08 May 2009

Happy Friday!





Happy Friday peeps!

Even though it was a great workweek, I sure am thrilled to see the weekend finally.

Hope your weekend is fantastic!

6 AM Musings

I walked the long way into work this morning. Mostly because I needed to drop a few things off at the library, but also because it was a nice morning and I needed fresh air after a week straight of rain. (The weather report, unf, calls for more rain through Monday) As I wandered into work, I mused. Some of my random thoughts:
  • Early morning walks are my favorite. Everything is fresher and calm. It is, for an early bird like me, a great way to start the day. I really should just get into the habit of getting up a little earlier and start my days on the right foot.
  • On the flip side, insomnia sucks. I have been back in the good ole' US for three weeks now. This is not jet lag. This is "my body hates me." I try going to bed early because I'm exhausted, and I wake up in the middle of the night. I try ignoring the fact that I'm exhausted and stay up late, and I still wake up in the middle of the night. This is getting old, and fast.
  • Related to that...what's up with the crazy dreams?!
  • I love the smell of fresh flowers. Especially after the rain. But the smell of earthworms? Not so much.
  • Even after almost 3.5 years in this city, I still cannot get used to the fact that people stare at me like I'm from outer space when I dare to smile or say "good morning" in passing. It's cliche because it's true: I miss good ole' Midwestern manners.
  • "Movie dates" with My Love are my favorite part of the weekend.
  • I am no longer up for "Daughter of the Year." I was so focused on getting Mother's Day cards for all the "Moms" in my life this year that I totally forgot yesterday was my parents' 32nd wedding anniversary. I actually said "Oh CRAP!" when Grandma reminded me yesterday.
  • But then again, since it's a family curse, I've been forgiven. You see, among the traits I inherited from my Mom and Grandma are the tendency to need lipstick (or chapstick at minimum) on whenever I leave the house (no matter where I'm going or how I'm dressed) and a predisoposition to forgetfulness. I forgot my parents' anniversary, my Mom forgot to call me right back, so we're both forgiven.
  • 32 years. Wow.
  • I am hungry. Time to go scavange breakfast.

07 May 2009

My Kind of Town

This town has been on my mind a lot this week for a myriad of reasons:

1) This time last year, I was there, on average, once every other month. I miss it (and one of its resident charming smooth-talkers) much more than expected.

2) A friend and I were talking about live blues and jazz music the other day. No town can play live music quite like that town.

3) I am re-reading one of my favorite novels: The Time Traveler's Wife.

I can't quite say why I like such a melancholy novel so much, but the love they have is so hopeful, it keeps drawing me back. (On a related side-note, I'm curious to see how it translates to film later this summer!)

4) I bought a plane ticket this week to see my cousin get married on the Gold Coast this summer. I'm quite excited for this wedding, since he is the first grandkid to get married, so it should be a fantastic party.

5) Another friend and I were talking about the quote in my profile. (Look over there, to the right...your other right....yeah, right there.) It's from this song which could have easily been written about me. (Sorry I can't post the video - I can't remember how to post YouTube to Blogger.)

6) It is just a laid-back but vibrant city. Even on the coldest days of winter, it still has that Midwestern warmth I miss.

7) And, naturally, Old Blue Eyes' classic "My Kind of Town" was playing on a colleague's radio this afternoon.

Yeah, I suspect Frankie was right....

This is my kind of town, Chicago is
My kind of town, Chicago is

06 May 2009

It's a Suite Life!

For an afternoon outing with colleagues, it sure is amazing how this $20 view from the outfield


got turned into this insanely expensive, but incredibly priceless home base view.


Yes, that's right. Thanks to a Six-Degrees-of-Kevin-Bacon type twist, yours truly got to relax and watch the Nats tie the Astros 10-10 from the press suite directly behind home base.

Please excuse this terrible, awful, cheesy picture of me. But it is proof that I was living the suite life!

Turns out, one of my colleagues bumped into a buddy of his while in search of snacks. That buddy had the press suite to himself that afternoon, so he decided to share the goodies with us. Sweet! I call the tie a win for the Nats. And the suite a win for me!

04 May 2009

Macaroons

I woke up this morning at 4:33 from a silly dream.


I dreamt I was in a bakery somewhere with my friend Hurricane, her mom, and her sister. As there always is when those three are together, there was a lot of laughter and chit chatter as we took our time deciding what treats we wanted.


I asked, "What is a macaroon?" (I honestly have no idea.) Hurricane's mom decided that it was unacceptable that I had no clue what a macaroon was, and sat me down for a taste test.


There was a "chewy" macaroon that looked like a badly baked chocolate cake. And Hurricane ordered a "crunchy" macaroon for me to try. It looked like a large frosting-covered oreo.


I woke up because I could feel myself actually chewing. And disappointed to discover that I wasn't really chewing on a "crunchy" macaroon. Silly.


Now, what's a macaroon? And, where's a bakery around here for me try one?

02 May 2009

Return to Everyday Life

I know I promised stories of wild adventures. Believe me, there's a few juicy ones in there. But, every time I sit down to write about this vacation, words just fail me. I have stared for hours at my computer screen, trying to figure out the best way to capture the sights, the sounds, the smells, the feels of this trip. I have been unable to write letters or emails or even in my journal. I have one-line reminders jotted down, which will help tremendously. But for now, I'm calling it quits with the vacation stories. I've no doubt that pictures and "when I was in the Balkans..." stories will pop up from time to time, but it's also time for me to return, mind and body, (heart's another story) back to my every day life.