Wednesday, September 30, 2015

It's the little things (again)

We painted the pink bathroom (walls were a light coffee/khaki color) and then I found this cool shower curtain online. And then I found the aqua towels at Ikea. I sure didn't think I'd find that exact color! Isn't it fun?

Sunday, September 27, 2015

I bought us more time

This won't look like much, I'm sure. Just a couple of open windows, right? But they didn't always open.

The woman we bought this house from renovated the kitchen, living room and dining room. As part of that big remodeling project, she put in new windows everywhere except the bedrooms. So all but eight of our windows are quite good and work beautifully.

The ones in the bedrooms are in decent shape,  as good as you could hope for with windows that are 57 years old. The storms, however, are a very different story. They are aluminum and have gotten grimed up in the grooves and in the latches that let you open and move the screens and panes of glass. We'd originally thought about replacing those windows but unfortunately we needed to get some expensive foundation work done, and as seems to be always the case for us, we have to replace the HVAC this fall. Those are/were necessities, not nice to haves.

It's important to me to have working windows. I love fresh air and I don't like running the AC when the weather is lovely. But our windows were so horrible that Kent actually threw his back out trying to get one of them open. I Googled "how to maintain aluminum storm windows" and found a great article that spelled out what I needed to do.

It turns out that WD-40 makes a silicone spray that unsticks those storm windows in a jiffy. OK, it takes a little longer than that but after about two and a half hours of work yesterday, I got all but one window opening and closing easily again. The lone holdout looks to be stuck shut because of paint; I can't even get the window open to get to the storms.

I'll take the seven windows that work. Now we'll be able to enjoy the cooler breezes with our windows open, and once winter arrives? We can put down the storm windows. I'd say we can live with these windows for a couple of more years.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

When you hear hoofbeats

I’ve always had a hard time accepting that (a) anything was ever wrong with me and (b) if something was wrong, that it might be unusual.

For example:

  • I waited three weeks to go to the doctor when I was 19 and had all the symptoms of acute appendicitis. Three weeks! And because of the way my appendix presented itself (small colon and attached length-wise—which I also had a hard time believing), my intestine was compromised and I had a nasogastric (NG) tube. But I didn’t realize that either until a few years ago when a friend of mine, who’s a med/surgical nurse, told me that. And when my surgeon told me that if I’d have waited another day to come in to be seen, I would have died. Didn’t believe him. 
  • Same thing with the incisional hernia I developed after six major abdominal surgeries. How on earth could the ongoing pain I had be a hernia? But of course it was and once it was repaired, bam—the pain went away. 
  • Same thing with my ears. When the audiologist got nearly giddy last year because I had such a rare hearing loss, I thought surely he was wrong. But of course he wasn’t and my results this year confirmed that diagnosis. Now I’m sitting here in my office typing this post wearing my new hearing aid. And I can hear. 

In fact, when I was in the audiologist’s office and he was doing his thing and finally turned on the hearing aid, I gasped and teared up because I could hear in stereo. I didn’t even realize I’d lost that.

Low frequency hearing loss isn't well known and not well researched or addressed; there are just so few of us who have it. So I'll need to go in frequently over the next month so he can evaluate how the hearing aid is working for me and what, if any, changes need to be made to the programming. And yes, he’s still giddy about me and my hearing situation. I think he might write a white paper about me because my situation is that rare.

Sometimes it’s a zebra.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Things you don’t learn from a book

I’ve read a bunch of books and articles on managing. Some are good, others less so and generally they cover typical scenarios in an office environment—providing feedback in a way that fosters change, modeling good communication skills, time management skills, things like that. A few of those resources have touched on the trickier topics—letting someone know that their attitude is holding them back, stuff like that. But there are others that defy easy categorization or are inherently not a lot of fun but must be done regardless. For examples, over the course of my career as a manager, I’ve had to do the following:

  • Tell someone with combat-related PTSD that he couldn’t work for me anymore because of the breakdown he’d had with our clients. I feared he might commit suicide or go on a rampage—thankfully he didn’t, but it could have gone that way pretty easily.
  • Tell someone else that I didn’t have full time work for him, only part-time and not much at that. I knew he was living paycheck to paycheck augmented by credit cards. While not my fault or responsibility, I knew that was a hard place to be. 
  • Tell another employee that in order for her to go in front of our clients, her skirts needed to be longer and her necklines higher. Yeah, that was an awkward conversation.
  • Tell yet another employee that when the dress code said dress pants and dress shoes (no athletic shoes), that’s what it meant and no, he wasn’t exempt.
  • Counsel another person that while we absolutely would make accommodation for her disability of narcolepsy, I needed her to take her naps some place a little less public (she’d been tossing her sweater over her head while sitting at a conference room table with the rest of us and then going to sleep).
  • Attend the memorial service for the father of one of my direct reports. He died very suddenly and she hadn’t known that he was that ill. 
  • Tell employees on my team who’d applied for a promotion that they didn’t get it—and hopefully in such a way that they weren’t demotivated or wanted to quit. 

How do you prefer to get feedback? What’s been most helpful to you when you’ve needed to change what you do at work?

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

I don't even know what to title this

How's that for real?

I've spent the last couple of weeks alternatively bummed and irked and accepting. No, this hearing loss isn't huge on the face of it and yes, others have it far, far worse (aren't there always others who have it far worse?). But this is my reality and I don't much like it.

For your viewing pleasure, here's my hearing test results. The results for my left ear are on (oddly) the right: the Xs are the most recent results, and the dots are from last year. The biggest not good changes have occurred between 500 and 2000 HZ. The reason this matters is that's a big drop over last year. I'm still considered moderate in terms of the loss, although it doesn't feel all that moderate to me and probably not to the people who end up having to repeat themselves.

At any rate, I've met with the audiologist and ordered a hearing aid. It will be here next week and then we'll see if it helps and how much. Fortunately there's a 30 day trial period so if I hate it or it doesn't help me, I'll "only" lose $150.

Funny aside, the audiologist I met with today is the one who did my hearing test last year. At the end of today's appointment, he confessed that he doesn't really remember patients' names, just their hearing test results but when I'd mentioned again today that I'd been in the military, he fully remembered me. The reason I mentioned being in the military and being a musician again was he'd asked me if I had any tinnitus. Look, I said, I was a musician in the Army and we played the 1812 Overture with real howitzers, plus I fronted a rock back. Of course I have tinnitus. I don't know any musician who doesn't, to be honest.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

PSA: Those jokes aren’t funny

Why do people make stupid so-called jokes about others’ issues or health problems or conditions?

I mentioned last year that I have what’s called reverse slope hearing loss. That’s a fancy way of saying that instead of the typical high frequency hearing loss—which is associated with age and/or environmental factors and which I fully expected to have given that I served in the US Army and was also a professional musician for years—the loss occurs in the low frequency range.

I encountered a lot of those stupid not-funny jokes last year when I told people about this problem.  The most common comment was “What?” followed by a har har har. Yeah, you aren’t as funny or unique as you think you are.

The second most common response was “Wow, getting old sucks, huh?” Um—I just told you it’s not age related or caused by environmental damage. Maybe I’m not the one with the hearing problem?

Only a few said anything at all comforting.

I’ve just returned from a visit to my ENT and as I suspected but hoped I was wrong, my low frequency hearing loss has gotten worse. Since we ruled out any physical cause last year with an MRI, and since I don’t have typical symptoms of Meniere’s Disease, my doctor isn’t sure what’s causing the loss. But my left ear is definitely worse.

In fact, it’s bad enough that I need to start telling people—at least the ones I can’t hear—and I’m already dreading the stupid inane comments. I’m also looking into getting a hearing aid in hopes that I can get some hearing restored to that ear. While hearing aids are expensive as all get out and not covered by insurance in either Kansas (where I live) or Missouri (where I work), I’ll pay the money if I can hear again.

In the meantime, if your first urge is to say “what?” to me, don’t. Don’t be an ass. Be kind and if I ask you to repeat yourself, just know it’s a hell of a lot more frustrating to be on this side of my hearing loss than it is to be on your side.