Perseverance or sheer stubbornness?

It’s the Christmas holidays and I’m spending the holdidays just like I have most of the past 6 months, fighting to breathe and survive allergic reactions.

I’m not sure at this point if I’ve survived the past 6 months due to perseverance or sheer stubborness.

Regardless of which it is, I’m still here and fighting.

Some days it’s hard to remember why.

When you’ve spent the majority of your life believing that your self-worth is all about how you take care of, and support, others or what you contribute to society and almost overnight you’re limited to fighting to simply take care of yourself, and housebound, it’s hard to find value in yourself.

It is at these times that I’ve had to work especially hard on my self-help skills. One of the websites that I like a lot, and that has helped me in these times is the Positivity Blog.

One of my favourite Blog posts is simply a collection of quotes about self-esteem and self-love.

As part of my Christmas traditions I watched ‘It’s a Wonderful Life‘ this week. I love the point that the movie makes about how we all have an impact on others, whether we see it or not at the time.

However, where I struggle with the movie is that while it makes clear what impact George has on all the people in his life his value is recognized in the same way. That is, that Clarence makes him see that his life has value because of how he has impacted others not because he has value in and of himself.

I’m not quite sure how you’d change the movie to help George recognize his self-value intrinsically but it’s a thought worth pursuing.

In the meantime I’m focusing on the last quote identified on the Positivity Blog:

“It is never too late
to be what you might have been.”
George Eliot

St. Nicholas Day & Christmas Baking

Normally I would go away in the odd years for the Christmas holidays. However, last year I was in the midst of moving so as I was in the middle of unpacking, and having the back yard (garden) fenced before the ground froze, I stayed home.

Ironically, given my current circumstances, I’d had to move as I was finding living in an apartment difficult due to the shared entrance way and laundry facilities. My allergies were making it very difficult to keep myself safe. However, I promised myself last year that I would make up for missing my normal trip this year.

Unfortunately, as my allergies and reactions are currently so much worse that plan has also had to be placed on hold. For years when I stay home I have established a number of traditions. Whenever I travel anywhere I try and find a Christmas ornament that represents the places that I have visited. At Christmas I then treat myself to a real tree and delight in hanging these ornaments, taking the opportunity to reflect on all the great memories from those trips.

This year, I can’t cope with the scent of a real tree so my ornaments won’t be hung this year. Despite that I may well take an evening to unpack and repack my ornament collection, just to enjoy those memories one more time. Unfortunately, I don’t have many new ones to add this year. 

Other traditions include watching the Santa Clause movies on the weekends in December on the run up to Christmas. With ‘The Polar Express’ and ‘Miracle on 34th Street’ also being firm favourites. 

Christmas Eve is dedicated to shopping for stocking fillers (with an agreed limit at the $ store; another tradition that I will have to miss this year) and watching “It’s a wonderful life”. 

If I can find one, I’ve attended a church service on Christmas Day. Christmas Eve services have always tended to be too much of a risk. For some reason, oranges and Christmas always seem to go together. Either as a Christingle or as a special treat in a stocking. Either way, they become a huge problem for me in the Christmas season. If I can, I try and attend a “Nine lessons and carols” service or a “Blue Christmas” service.

Traditionally, being English, Christmas dinner for me is turkey, roast potatoes, stuffing and vegetables including the infamous brussel sprouts. Personally, I don’t have the traditional Christmas pudding and Christmas cake as they’re fruit based. Though I did use to make them for years until I could no longer tolerate handling fruit peel. Over the years I’ve dropped the brussel sprouts and added in a couple of southern US dishes, from American Thanksgiving meals, such as sweet potatoe casserole and sweetcorn casserole. Dessert is usually something richly chocolate! 

When I was young, and visiting my grandparents for Christmas, Christmas dinner may well have been a curry as my Grandfather wasn’t a fan of the traditional meal for some reason. However, there would still always be a roast turkey dinner at some point over the holidays. 

This year, as I’m still housebound and needing to avoid scents and allergens as much as possible these traditions that I have developed over the year mean so much more than usual. They’re a touchstone in this weird reality that is my life currently. While so much has changed in my life this past year, these traditions can mostly remain the same. 

Today, for many western European countries is St Nicholas Day (December 6th). One year, I was actually in Bari, Italy for this day. Bari, is where he is believed to be buried so, as you can imagine, this date is a big deal there. In other parts of the world it doesn’t have as much meaning. However, one of the advantages of travelling a lot during my life is that I feel free to collect traditions from other countries along my way. 

So today, I dropped of Christmas baking at my neighbours in honour of St Nicholas Day. It took me a lot longer this year to manage the baking than it has in the past and was completed over almost a week. However, today they were gifted with peppermint creams, vanilla fudge, rum balls and gluten free sugar cookies (hopefully nobody is diabetic). My neighbours have been amazing this year. Last Christmas they picked up my snow clearing when the company I hired failed to honour their contract. This year, they made sure that I knew not to hire a contractor and that they would take responsibility for it again for me. Not only do they do an excellent job, but as they know I often have early doctors appointments they often do mine first, even before their own. Another neighbour volunteered his teenage son to cut my grass this summer, for pocket money (allowance), including picking up some of the poop that I hadn’t been able to stay on top of. 

In general they keep an eye on me and check that I’m safe. I’ve honestly never had such great neighbours. So hopefully, they’ll appreciate a little Christmas baking as a thank you for their help. 

While I am usually known as Nikki, my legal name is Nicola, which is the feminine version of Nicholas. So today, has special meaning to me. However, I realised after I dropped off the baking that I forgot to explain this in their packages. So just in case, they’re reading this:

Happy St Nicholas Day!

Why can’t the anonymous just be left alone?

I’ve noticed a common trend recently. That is that when somebody does something nice for another, firstly it’s no longer considered ‘normal’ but makes the news and gets splashed all over the internet but secondly, that people then go out of their way to find out who the anonymous person was.

As an example, this story talks about a grave marker being removed, presumably as an act of vandalism and it being replaced by an anonymous individual.

However, rather than that being the end of the story the anonymous individual had to be not only identified but also filmed.

Why?

Why can’t those who wish to be anonymous, be left alone?

It seems to be the case with almost all of these kinds of stories. That those concerned get ‘outed’.

In some cases, they appear to not be too concerned about it. However, if you were being filmed and splashed all over the internet I suspect that you’d just make the best of it rather than be perceived as a grouch!

I just don’t understand why they can’t be left alone, though.

Surely the act in itself is what is important. The person concerned chose to be anonymous for a reason.

In some cases, I actually wonder if people are being placed in danger as a result of this need to identify such individuals.

There have been times in my life, where I lived as anonymously as I could for my own safety. If I’d helped somebody anonymously during that time and had my photo published as a result I might not be alive today.

Now, that may be an extreme example. However, there are people in legal witness protection programs, or like myself in police supported anonymity. There are others who live in situations where their actions may actually bring them difficulties and problems in their home lives.

Some people may simply just want to get on with their lives without any fuss and are just living a kind life.

Others may have more resources than others, and need to be anonymous so that they are not assaulted with demands for help from others.

What right does anybody have to breach anonymity in such circumstances? The publics’ right to know?

Their right to know what exactly?

They already know what the issue was and how somebody kindly addressed it. Isn’t that enough in itself?

A few years back the “Pay it forward” concept was very popular. There were also a book and a film by the same name. In simple terms, when somebody does something nice for you, instead of paying them back you do something nice for somebody else.

There’s actually a “Pay it forward Day” each year that originated in Australia in 2007 and has now spread to 79 countries worldwide. In 2017 the Pay it forward day will be April 28th.

In my childhood, the equivalent of Pay it forward was ‘The Water-Babies”, by Charles Kingsley, and his character Mrs. Doasyouwouldbedoneby. In this case, the premise being that we should treat others the way that we’d like to be treated, regardless of how they treat us.

Off-hand I can think of a number of other works that all point to the same moral concept: Be kind to others.

Yet, nowhere in any of these do I find anything about taking credit and praise for doing so.

Have we become a society that simply can not do things because they’re the right thing to do, without seeking adulation for doing so?

It would seem that there are at least some people, not seeking such praise and attention by their desire to be anonymous in their actions.

Perhaps it’s time to respect their wishes and rather than seek to identify such individuals, just ‘pay it forward’.

How loud is too loud?

It’s Hearing Awareness week and as a result, there are some good video demonstrations of how easy it is for people to damage their hearing.

One of the best is this one, available on Facebook.

This is a short video that demonstrates the noise levels of a variety of entertainment sounds, environmental sounds and tools and how long you can safely listen to them without risk of damaging your hearing.

If you can’t access the video on Facebook there is a noise simulator on the Australian Hearing Awareness website that allows you to choose the sound for yourself and hear for yourself how loud it actually is, and see how long you can safely listen to it before damaging your hearing.

Why is this so important?

It’s important because deafness can’t be fixed in the same way that issues with your eyes can. If you are short-sighted or far-sighted you can wear corrective lenses and your sight returns to 20:20 or pretty close to it.

Even with the newest technologies, such as cochlear implants, a deaf person is still deaf. This video demonstrates what sound is like for somebody with a cochlear implant.

In contrast, this video demonstrates what sound is like for somebody using a hearing aid or FM system in a classroom.

As you will realise, neither technologies are returning the deaf person’s hearing to normal.

Deaf-People-Can-Do-Anything-Hearing-People-Can-Except-Hear.-»-Dr.-King-Jordan

Yes, deaf and Deaf people can do anything but hear. However, it is hard for us to make sense of the world around us. So as somebody who doesn’t have a choice about my hearing loss, it astounds me when I see people not wearing ear protection and constantly risking hearing loss.

The worse culprit is all the MP3 players and in the ear headphones with no sound limiter. If I can hear what you’re listening to there is a problem. You are damaging your hearing.

Age-related-hearing-loss

The assumption has always been that aside from a few people who are born with hearing loss that most loss occurs in old age. However, as this chart below shows that’s not actually the case. We are seeing increasing numbers of people with hearing loss right from young adults all the way through to old age since the invention of personal stereos in all their different forms.

hearing-loss-pie-chart_300x2561

In fact, the cause of hearing loss is most often due to loud noise exposure!

hearing-loss-causes

Even a little hearing loss starts impacting your life pretty quickly. This is an audiogram which is used to measure hearing. The x-axis (left to right) is the frequency of the sound and includes high-pitched sounds and very low bass sounds. The y-axis (up and down) is the amount of

This is an audiogram which is used to measure hearing.

The x-axis (left to right) is the frequency of the sound and includes high-pitched sounds and very low bass sounds.

The y-axis (up and down) is the amount of decibels in volume.

So if you had your hearing tested and measured around the 40Db range you can see instantly that speech becomes impossible for you to understand.

Now most people don’t have a flat line of hearing loss. The pink line shows the common banana shape of most hearing loss.

familiarsounds

Basically, this means that you would have to have sounds amplified by the amount of your loss to bring you to somewhat normal volume but as the previous videos showed you hearing aids and cochlear implants don’t sound the same as ‘normal hearing’.

You still have to learn to interpret what you hear and as soon as you take them off, for a shower, to swim or to sleep then you are deaf once more.

So as somebody who has no choice about my hearing loss, who has accepted it culturally and believes strongly that the deaf/Deaf can do anything I still think it’s incredibly important for the hearing to protect their hearing.

Why?

Helen Keller said it best,

“Blindness cuts us off from things,
but deafness cuts us off from people”.

This obviously worked well for Beethoven in terms of his productivity but did nothing to assuage his loneliness as a person.

Ludwig-van-Beethoven-Famous-Failure

Deafness is very isolating unless you’re fortunate enough to have friends and family that work with you and assist you in communicating. Better yet, if you’re able to access the Deaf culture within your local community and be a part of it that can help mitigate the isolation.

However, as so many people are starting to experience hearing loss in mid-life they’ve already established their families and social community. It’s hard to leave one for another, even if that other is available to you. It has been very rare in my life that there has even been a Deaf community available to me simply due to where I have been living.

So, please, please consider your hearing. Buy the headphones with sound limiters, not just for your kids but for yourself as well. Turn down the TV, the stereo; attend concerts and go to nightclubs but use earplugs – take regular rests from the sound. If you have noise exposure at work insist on ear protection and wear it!

Being deaf doesn’t mean that you’re stupid but some people do seem to become deaf due to their acting stupidly!

Protect your ears!

Music and movies: The soundtrack to my life

It would have been Robin William’s 65th birthday yesterday (21st July 2016). When watching a review of his life I somehow ended up watching a video of Patrick Swayze singing ‘Love Hurts’. I hadn’t realised prior to this that Patrick Swayze had performed “She’s like the wind” on the soundtrack for Dirty Dancing. It’s hard to believe that both these actors are dead now: Patrick Swayze in 2009 from pancreatic cancer and Robin Williams in 2014 from suicide, attributed to long-standing mental health concerns and the recent onset of dementia.

When thinking about their work, certain memories were evoked for me, of where I was and the point I was at in my life when specific pieces of their art were released.

Most of my most memorable movies by Robin Williams were released when I was a student:

As a result I remember many a night walking down the long hill to the local movie theatre, usually with a crowd of up to a dozen friends from the University Christian Union to see the movies on a cheap night, sharing sweets (candy) and pop (soda) between us as we couldn’t afford our own.

I do remember that ‘The Birdcage” is one movie that I went to on my own, as I’d have been excommunicated from the Christian Union for even suggesting seeing a movie with openly gay characters and drag queens.

I thought at first that it was the first movie that I went to on my own, but then I remembered David Bowie and Labyrinth.

That was definitely my first adventure in seeing a movie on my own, a tradition which I continue to this day.

My reason for going on my own – I was 15 years old – and David Bowie looked great in tights!!

Dirty Dancing, on the other hand, came out in 1987 when I turned 16, just like “Baby” in the movie. However, I wasn’t allowed to go and see the movie when it came out; though I was delighted to watch it, while babysitting, when it came out on VHS a year later!

Looking back I probably wasn’t allowed to see Labyrinth either – but I did – several times! Sorry Mum!

Reminiscing in this way brought to mind other songs and movies that remind me of specific points in my life.

When I was very young and in fact to this day, my mother was besotted with Adam Faith. Now why, of all his songs “Mix me a person” has always stuck with me I’m not quite sure. Also, given that she was born and raised in Liverpool how she fixated on Adam Faith rather than the Beatles I’m not quite sure.

Visiting with my grandparents and it was all the classic movies with Cary Grant and Doris Day that made my holidays. I can’t imagine how they put up with me repeatedly watching Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Calamity Jane, Operation Petticoat, Father Goose and similar. My grandfather liked John Wayne movies but somehow I always seemed to persuade him to watch the musicals that I loved instead!

Taking dance classes at age 9/10 I worked so hard on a piece to ‘The Lion Sleeps tonight’ and was so disappointed when I went to my first (and only) school disco to find out that nobody danced like we did in my classes, but rather just did this odd hop from one foot to another.

The first cassette tape that I bought myself, with birthday money, was in 1984 and was one of my few forays into popular music. I was 13 years old and bought “Make it Big” by Wham! I still had the tape until very recently.

Shortly thereafter I fell in love with a country song in a movie, that to this day I’ve never been able to fully remember the song or the artist. When trying to find it I came across Crystal Gayle and “Cry me a river”. That was the start of my love affair with country music. Living in England at the time, country music wasn’t very popular so I could often find tapes greatly reduced and at one time I had a very extensive tape collection.

As I grew up I loved Garth Brooks music, especially “The Dance”. That was until I came across Kenny Chesney and his music with “Old Blue Chair” becoming a particular favourite.

I was so disappointed when I realised how short he is (I’m just under 6’ tall) let alone when he married Renée Zellweger; though that was one of the shortest marriages on record being annulled after just 4 months.

I still live in hope that he’ll grow a few inches and sweep me off my feet, to his home in the Caribbean one of these days!

In 1997 I was writing up my PhD and ended up having to completely rewrite my thesis in three weeks. By now I had graduated to CDs, from my cassette tapes, at least some of the time. The Beautiful South was my go to music during this time. To this day, I can’t hear their music without that crazy time coming to mind. I must have had every single one of their CDs and just had them playing back-to-back.

In 1999 I visited Australia for the first time and came across Lee Kernighan’s music. This was my introduction to Australian ‘country’ music; which is hard to find outside of Australia and , much like in England, is not often that popular in Australia either.

Interspersed with my love of country music I have loved many other genres. Having intended to be a music teacher I studied all kinds of music at school and to this day still love pretty much all genres the exception of Heavy Metal, Rap and psychedelic/electric.

While I’ve now graduated to an iPod and often buy music online, I still have shelves of CDs, which I’m slowly copying over to my iTunes library. My music library is very eclectic, though still dominated by country.

As my hearing deteriorates I find that I am more drawn to some of the male artists. Especially those with deep bass voices like Josh Turner.

Being deaf I do find that sometimes my understanding of a song is quite different to that intended by the actual lyrics. The first time that I saw the real lyrics to some of the songs from Grease I understood why that was another movie I wasn’t allowed to watch when it first came out!

It’s funny how people assume that the deaf do not enjoy music. My experience, in contrast, is that many deaf people love music. We don’t just hear with our ears we hear with our entire body. Live music is best! Though it would be really helpful if more concerts would include live captioning, please!

If you want to understand more about how to hear with your whole body watch, and listen, to this video of a concert that was put on specifically for the deaf.

These days, one of my favourite songs, since long before Nyle De Marco popularised it on Dancing with the Stars has been “The Sound of Silence”, as originally performed by Simon and Garfunkel. Though the Disturbed version is pretty amazing as well.

Another song that still really resonates with me is “The Bargain Store” by Dolly Parton. It seems like it should be the theme song to my life.

Finally, the song that never fails to bring a smile to my face is “African Queen” by 2Face Idibia.

I’ll leave it to your imagination as to why that might be!

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