The Penny

Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.

[Wednesday, April 22, 2009]

Stereo Sound?


Yesterday, Laynie had a visit with her cochlear implant surgeon, Dr. Della Santina, and I went along to interpret. She's looking to get a second implant.

Before the appointment with Dr. Della Santina, I was thinking that bilateral implants would certainly be great, but I doubted it would happen. The insurance companies tend to put up a fight with putting bilateral implants in kids, and I figured it would be worse with adults.

Dr. Della Santina was surprisingly encouraging. He really is such a nice guy. He checked Laynie's vestibular (balance) function, asked her which device she's like to use (Med-El again, of course), asked when she'd like to have surgery (third week in August), and told her to remind him on the day of surgery to mark where her current coil goes so that the two coils will be even. He also asked her what she uses her current implant for and how it's going. She told him that she uses it for everything, that she keeps it on morning until night. In fact, she wishes she could sleep with it on and is sad to take it off at night. She is learning to recognize many sounds and understood her first word in conversation, which was "OK." Laynie asked him about insurance and the likelihood of actually getting a second implant. He was phlegmatic about it. "Oh, it will happen. We might have to write some things for them and go back and forth with paperwork for a while. It can be frustrating when they wait until the day before surgery to request that sort of thing, because then we have to cancel surgery. So we try to avoid that by giving them plenty of time to review the information." I was surprised that he was so confident that it would work out.

I hope so, because Laynie feels like her hearing is pretty uneven right now. Hm, the left ear hears at around 30 dB (she can hear a whisper) and the right ear hears nothing. Yup, pretty uneven.

[Tuesday, April 21, 2009]

Easter Dinner


Strawberry salad.


[Sunday, April 12, 2009]

We Moved


Well, Laynie and I are in our new apartment, which is a larger unit in the same development we already lived in, Riverstone. The main benefits of this apartment are the second bedroom and the garage, which has a little area for storage. It's so nice to have the Christmas tree out of the laundry room.

Moving stinks. I hate it. But it's worth it to get into a place that can fit all our stuff. I suppose that having less stuff might be an option, but what to get rid of? Therapy materials (I have tons of toys, games, and books)? Books? Cooking stuff? I have definitely dejunked things are not often used, as well as my thin clothes (sniff), but there's still so much.

The best thing about moving is getting a fresh start with the refrigerator. No, the freezer. A fresh start with the freezer is the best. I felt guilty throwing away all of the freezer-burned food at the old apartment, but I loved putting only decent stuff in the new one.

I've been unpacking the kitchen stuff, since that's more my domain. I love to bake, and I'm beginning to enjoy cooking, as well. So it makes sense for me to unpack that area. After we sorted the boxes together, I went to the kitchen and Laynie went to the blue bedroom, and we didn't see each other for several hours. Now it's Laynie's siesta time, so I'm with my best friend, iMac.

Our new apartment looks exactly like our old apartment, except for different countertops and an older microwave. But the off-white walls and white baseboards and molding are the same. You might wonder why I mentioned a blue bedroom. It's not that the walls are blue...

As I began packing, probably Tuesday of last week, I had a stroke of brilliance. Color coding! I knew that our movers would be unobservant (they would be men, after all), so any writing on the boxes would be ignored. Also, I have learned from my many moves that in order to read what is on a box, I have to move all of the boxes on top of it. Don't be intimidated by my intellect. So, I got colored plastic tape and labeled all four sides and the top of each box. Laynie was on board with this and followed my system with only a few reminders. Then, Laynie and I got matching crepe paper streamers (and one package of napkins... why no brown streamers?) and put them on the walls/doorways of the new apartment. The bedrooms were marked blue and green, and those names seem to have the stuck. Well, the color names are superior to what we initially called the rooms: the bedroom and the other bedroom.

Unfortunately, due to a lost keys delay (Laynie accidentally packed the keys to the new apartment and realized this as we pulled up with the movers and their full truck) and pouring rain, I ended up not making the movers follow my system. Instead, I stayed downstairs, watching the guy in the truck, so that he would not put our stuff in the rain for the other guys to bring into the apartment. I'm glad I did, too, because there were a bunch of wet boxes when I went down there. But the colors... best laid plans, I guess. Well, that system did help Laynie and I sort the boxes very quickly today.

Speaking of the movers... why can't movers just be honest? I'm not saying that there are no honest movers. But so far I'm one for three with hiring honest movers. When Laynie and I moved from south Provo to north Provo, we rented a truck and hired hourly workers. There were supposed to be four men, and three showed up. Czechs. They were OK. The driver was a fast talker, of course. Oh, my men, good workers, good men, three move you fast like four. Whatever. What could I do, say no? They stayed half an hour later than I had initially asked, which I expected, since they were a man down. But then the boss tried to charge me more. Right, like I was born yesterday.

For the next move, from Utah to Maryland, I was pretty stressed out about finding someone who wouldn't steal my stuff or change the price when it was time to unload. Stupid internet gives me agita. I ended up finding a good company, and the move was expensive, but they did a great job on both ends. And everyone spoke English, which was a bonus.

This time, I got Russians. If I thought the Czech guy was a fast talker... oh boy, he was nothing compared to the Russian driver. Of course, he tried to get me to sign everything quickly, but I read everything before I would sign. I refused to sign the time they finished and that I had inspected the truck and found it empty, because they were just starting to load. Again, I was not born yesterday. They took an hour and a half to load the truck, and when we got to the new place, the driver again tried to get me to sign the end time and the truck inspection. He put 12:40 as the end time. It was 9:15. I asked him if he really thought they would be there until 12:40. That would be 5 hours (plus a paid travel hour, naturally), as opposed to the 3 they had said. I expected unloading to take longer than loading, because they had to go up stairs and couldn't use the hand trucks. But come on. He said, "I finish 11:40, I give you money back." I was paying cash (like I'd give these people my credit card number), and I knew that if I gave him money, I would never see it again. I said, "You stay after 11:40, and I'll give you more money." I suggested 11:40 mainly because I didn't have the keys (remember, packed) and the office wouldn't open until 10:00. He wanted to argue with me. I told him, "You don't need to overcharge me, I'm going to tip your guys." The man with the missing tooth smiled. He was the nicest one. In fact, he picked up on my color code and tried to follow it for a while. He told the driver to lay off when he kept pestering me to sign that I had inspected the truck and found it empty, when they hadn't even begun unloading it. 

Anyway, after I mentioned tips, things went much more smoothly. I paid the driver and he started the guys moving stuff up to the vestibule. Luckily, Laynie remembered which box she had put the keys in (they were in the pocket of the pants she had worn the day before), and we got things going into the apartment at 9:35. They left at 10:50. Do you suppose I got any money back? 

But I did tip them. It's not the workers' fault that their boss swindles people. Besides, I know that my move was not easy for them due to the many heavy boxes. With my tons of church books and children's books, Laynie's ASL books, my sheet music, and both of our textbooks and "regular" books, we could supply a small library. Then there are the pictures, journals, scrapbooks... oh, gosh, our stuff is heavy.

Actually, I gave the Russians some extra money, because I had persuaded them to bring to Goodwill two heavy pieces of furniture (entertainment center and computer desk) that Laynie and I agreed we are sick of moving. 

The Russian driver emphasized SEVERAL times that I should ask for him by name next time I need to move. Hmmm... I'll have to think about that.

Anyway... nothing broke in this move. At least, not that I've unpacked so far, but I think I've found all of the candidates for breakage. Scratches and dings to everything made of wood, yes, but no breaks. This is due in part to my superior packing skills and in part due to the fact that we stacked the odds in our favor by moving all electronics on Friday. The TVs, computers, videophone, speaker systems, hard drives, DVD players, etc., were all in the apartment before the movers arrived Saturday morning. The piano, too.

I am so glad I did not let the Russians touch my piano.

I had piano movers and Comcast do their respective tasks on Friday. The piano movers from Maryland Piano were nice and did a good job moving my rather unwieldy upright baby grand up a 19-step, straight staircase to this second floor apartment. And I actually got a decent Comcast guy, which was a first for me. Literally. Let me tell you how great this Comcast guy was: he made the cable wire a little longer than it needed to be the reach the cable box, which was on the floor at the time. There was enough slack for the box to be place on, say, an entertainment center. This shows foresight and reasoning skills hitherto unmanifested by said company's technicians. Also, he tested the internet connection rather than just hooking up the modem, and when it was not initially working, he phoned home and got it working. Thank you, Comcast guy, for not increasing my stress. I'll even forgive your use of the f-word when talking to whomever it is you guys talk to (actually, I'd like to use that word when talking to Comcast on the phone). I pity you your dialect, which will likely prevent you from getting a good job, but I fink you was duh nicess Comcass guy ever come hur.

I'm glad the move is over. I think I'd like to stay in this apartment for two years.

[Tuesday, April 7, 2009]



Packing stinks.

Moving is such a pain in the neck.

[Monday, April 6, 2009]

Teaching at Towson


Today I taught four classes at Towson University. Laynie was sick, so I subbed for her classes.

The topics I was teaching were BORING--where you live, what kind of housing, and transportation--so I spiced it up by emphasizing the importance of making comments on their partner's answers. Well, social language is mainly what I do for a living, so it should come as no surprise that I noticed a deficit immediately during the 8:00 class. Their conversations went like this: "You live where? Towson. You live where? Essex. You come school how? Walk. You come school how? Car." See why I had to teach them comments? I taught them comments like cool, oh, nice, far, close, poor you, wow, and really. It went fine, I guess. A lot of the students were punks, but Laynie had warned me that they would be. I think they were fairly well behaved for me.

General Conference


I really enjoyed General Conference this weekend! I always enjoy Conference, and I thought this one was particularly good. What can I say about it? I felt peace and love, listening to these servants of God. I loved the talks of Elders Holland, Oaks, Scott, and Hales... well, so many were good.

Watch it online, get the podcast, or read it here.

I recommend the Sunday morning session.

[Saturday, April 4, 2009]



Gotta go for the self portrait, right?

[Friday, April 3, 2009]

This Is a Great Song


If There Was No You

When I see myself
I'm seeing you too
As long as I remember it
I'm feeling like I knew
My jokes aren't funny
The truth isn't true
If there was no you.

If you were my boat
In the deep blue sea
I'd probably sink you down
I know I should've thanked you 
For carrying me
But for you I would happily drown

And all along your way
The darkest night
The longest day
I know what to say
To make you laugh
And nothing you could do
Could make me turn my back on you
When you're looking for a fight
I'm your man
When you need a friend
You've got my hand

And what I really mean
What I'm trying hard to say
Is that I'm counting on you
And you've got me too
My secrets aren't safe
I'm singing out of tune
If there was no you

All along your way
The darkest night
The longest day
I know what to say to make you laugh
And nothing you could do
Could make me turn my back on you
When you're looking for a fight
I'm your man
When you need a friend
You've got my hand

Listening Laynie


Laynie has decided that she doesn't care who knows, so it's alright for me to talk about her cochlear implant.

Laynie's cochlear implant was activated on February 13, 2009, so her "ear" is 7 weeks old now. The first week was pretty overwhelming for her. A few sounds still really bother her (plastic packaging is killer), but she has mostly gotten used to it. In fact, she acts just like regular old Laynie, and it's easy to forget that she is listening.

The first three or four weeks involved a lot of "What's that?" and "I think I heard something." Now she hears few novel sounds (birds singing and rain on the roof of her car, recently), but she is beginning to respond "normally" to sounds. Instead of saying "I heard the toaster oven beep!" she just goes and gets what she was cooking.  Sound is being integrated into her life.

Her auditory processing is improving, and the sound quality is improving. A month ago, she asked me why anyone would write music for the upper third of the piano ("It's so plinky!"). Last week, she commented that those notes sound like music now. I think she was hearing it similarly to high sounds on a xylophone, or the very top piano note. Those sound plinky to me. Now she hears the slight reverberation of the notes and goes, OK, that sounds like music, I can see why people like that.

One benefit of Laynie's implant for ME is that we can watch the TV at a normal volume. With her hearing aid, she turned it up loud. Actually, now she likes it quieter than I do, because she doesn't quite have a realistic perception of loudness yet. It will come. For now, everything sounds a bit loud to her, because she's not used to that much input. Sometimes she asks me how loud something is, so she can compare her perception with mine.

It's difficult to imagine what her experience is like. When hearing adults become deaf and receive a cochlear implant, they very quickly (often on activation day) are able to understand speech. At first, they describe the sound quality as robotic, machine-like, high-pitched, or monotone. But within a few weeks, it sounds normal, just like natural hearing. This indicates that the cochlear implant mimics normal hearing fairly well. But hearing is only half of auditory comprehension. Maybe less than half.

Laynie has been deaf since birth. Before birth, I suppose. Her brain has never learned to make sense of sounds, since she was not exposed to normal sound. Hearing aids did not provide her much benefit, because she was missing so many cells in her inner ear. The hearing aids amplified the sound, but her inner ear distorted it beyond all recognition. Because of that, she didn't use her aids much as she got older. People don't use things that don't benefit them. At any rate, her brain did not receive enough usable input to make sense of things, and the auditory processing area of her brain probably did not develop well. fMRI scans of deaf people have shown that the visual processing areas of the brain are larger than those of typical people. In fact, the visual processing areas wrap around into where the auditory processing areas should be. It's not a myth that deaf people have superior visual skills.

With blind people, it's just the opposite. Their auditory processing areas extend into the usual visual processing areas. Here is a journal written by a man who was blinded at age three and regained some sight as an adult, following stem cell therapy and corneal transplant.

It's wonderful that Laynie has excellent visual processing skills, but what brain "real estate" is left for auditory processing? The reason that she can't understand what she hears is not because she's not getting usable input now. It's because her brain doesn't know what to do with that input. But it's learning. 

Laynie and I were just talking about how we had a reasonable phone conversation last week, even though she doesn't understand spoken language yet. We had practiced once at home. I told her that all she needs to be able to do is recognize yes vs. no (which she can do!), and then she can ask me yes/no questions. Also, she can tell me things, and I can say yes if I understand. So we had a conversation that went something like this:

Me: Hello?
Laynie: Hi. I am here safe.
Me: Yes.
Laynie: I love you.
Me: What?
Laynie: Thank you for helping me.
Me: Yes.
Laynie: I love you.
Me: I love you.
Laynie: I better go now.
Me: What?
Laynie: Bye.
Me: Bye.

OK, so I didn't follow the yes/no thing very well. It's just so natural to say, "What?" when you don't understand. We'll have to refine that. But the interesting thing is that we were talking about it today, and Laynie said she doesn't understand yes and no because of the /s/ in yes, which is how I thought she did it. She hears the shape of the word. She described it visually, so it's hard to write down, but basically "yes" looks like a steep hill and "no" looks like a shallow hill. She concluded that she doesn't really understand those words, because she doesn't hear each speech sound separately. I had to tell her that she's wrong, she does understand the words. It's normal not to hear each speech sound separately! We hear the shape of the word. A baby can't tell you that "mommy" is "m" "ah" "m" "ee," but she can produce and understand the word. In fact, it's not until preschool or kindergarten that kids learn to parse words into sounds, as part of the reading/writing process. It's often hard for them to learn.. and they've been hearing and understanding the language for years! It gave both of us something to think about.

Yeah, this is nerdy stuff.

Laynie's audiologist, Steve, said that, based on auditory nerve response, she has the potential to comprehend spoken language. It would certainly make life easier for her, particularly with employment options. I know she wants to be able to talk to her mom on the phone, which her mother would certainly love, as well. She'll need to improve her speech a little, though. So we'll keep plugging away at therapy, and Laynie will do great.



I know a wonderful child, whom I will call Blue. Blue is a worrier, who really struggles with anxiety. This child has had a rough life, so it's understandable.

Blue's grandpa died earlier this week. This child tends to get a lot of worries out during speech... I might be the only adult that this child is with privately, besides family. I like to think that I'm nonthreatening enough to make the child feel comfortable enough to express feelings. Blue lives with the grandparents, so Grandpa's lingering illness and death have been tough.

Blue told me that Grandpa died in his sleep and that he would be coming back in a box. He would wake up in the box. Blue's dog died before, but Grandpa and the dog will not be together, because Grandpa is in the box.

Grandpa can see Blue, but Blue cannot find Grandpa.

It is apparent that Grandma tried her best to explain death and what happened to grandpa, but it only made Blue more anxious. Now the child is scared to go to sleep. And to eat ice cream. Grandpa loved to eat ice cream, and now he is dead. The causal link is obvious.

Blue will NEVER die. Never.

I had to bite my tongue to keep from explaining that Blue will see Grandpa again. It really stinks that so many people do not know where they will go after death, and that families can be together forever. It's not fair that a child has to suffer with these horrible thoughts, that I cannot explain the truths that might help her feel better about the situation. I can listen, which is still valuable, I know.

Well, I did make it clear that ice cream is not lethal and that Grandpa will NOT wake up in the box.

Although I was sad when my grandmother died last month, and I still am sad about it, I was also happy for her. She's not in pain, and she can learn about the gospel now. And I know I will see her again.

I don't want to die, because I need more opportunities to improve before I meet God again, but I'm not scared to die.

April 4, 2009
Just as a postscript...

I asked a counselor to speak with Blue, and the counselor reported that this happened. The finality of death was emphasized. Not what I meant at all! Sigh. Oh, well.