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Friday, August 29, 2008

Do You Believe Me Now?

My husband landed in hot water with me this week and the story is pretty amusing (as told by me naturally) so I thought I'd share it.
On Monday I heard the strangest noise coming from the basement. I was upstairs in the kitchen at the time. I went down to investigate and traced it to the hot water heater. Bang, bang, bang. Alarmed, I called my husband to come down right away. He looked it over and announced that it was just the pilot light. Unconvinced, I pointed out that in the fifteen years we have lived in our house, I had never heard such a racket. C'mon, if your spouse who's HARD OF HEARING notices the noise from another floor of the house, it has to be quite loud, right? Hubby was unconcerned.
That evening my son announced his bathwater looked yellow like pee. Eewww. My bath after his was the same. When I told my husband about it, he said "The hydrants are probably being flushed." At 9:00 at night?
The next day I noticed water on the floor next to the water heater. I dutifully pointed that out to my better half. He said that was normal overflow and not a problem. I moved a container underneath the pipe he said the water had come from and resolved to check back on it.
The following morning when I took a shower there was no hot water. I mentioned that to my dear husband. I think he still didn't believe me because he started running water in the kitchen sink. Grrr. I looked downstairs in the basement. The container under the pipe was dry while the floor all around was wet. Aha! I brought my sweetheart downstairs to see. He turned to me and said, "We need a new water heater."

Thursday, August 28, 2008

What's On Your Nightstand?

The people at Five Minutes for Books have issued a "What's on Your Nightstand?" question for bloggers. How it works is you take a photo of the books on your nightstand if you like to read in bed like me or a photo of your shelf or wherever you tend to pile them if you read somewhere else. Then you write a few words about the books and share why you chose those titles. Here's my nightstand photo:

A cozy mystery lover, I am enjoying reading The Cat Who...series by Lilian Jackson Braun. I've seen these books whenever I've browsed a library's or bookstore's shelves but I have never gotten around to reading them until now. Before I took my recent vacation to Michigan, I stopped by my local public library for some light reading material. Just inside the front door, they had shelves of paperback novels for sale. For a mere fifty cents, I was able to pick up two of the Cat Who titles.

As a diehard mystery series reader, I enjoy reading a new series beginning with the first book and continuing on in order. I like seeing how the main characters develop and knowing what the references to past events are about. Fortunately, one of my purchases was the first book in the series, The Cat Who Could Read Backwards. Admittedly it took me awhile to get into the novel but once I did, I became charmed by amateur detective, Jim Qwillerman. He's a middle aged divorced man trying to resurrect a career in newspaper reporting who's forced to accept a job covering the art beat for a Midwestern city paper. The story gets more interesting with the introduction of Koko, a Siamese cat with the amazing ability to communicate crucial mystery clues to his new owner. Eventually Qwillerman learns to trust the cat's instinct and tune in to his own mustache's sensitivity to omens of trouble. Lilian Jackson Braun's stories have a gentle humor and interesting characters. They aren't scary in the least and I've found myself coming to the end without having figured out the culprit halfway through.

So far I've also read
The Cat Who Ate Danish Modern (Qwillerman is assigned to an interior decorating magazine for the newspaper in this one and he acquires a second cat, Yum Yum.)
The Cat Who Saw Red (Qwillerman is assigned to review restaurants after being ordered on a strict diet by his doctor. See what I mean about her humor!)The Cat Who Played Brahms (Qwillerman takes a vacation up north to write a novel but is too busy playing detective to compose a single line.)

Currently I'm reading
The Cat Who Played Post Office (Qwillerman receives an unexpected inheritance with strings attached.)

An animal lover, I've always been partial to cats. Unfortunately, my husband's highly allergic to cats, so we can't own one. Here's a photo of my beloved childhood pet Jellybean, a tiger cat. The picture was taken circa 1977.

At the 5 minutes for books website, you can check out what other people are reading now. What a fun way to get a book recommendation.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Training The Brain to Hear Better

Discover's September 2008 issue has an interesting article called "Mental Fitness" by Kathleen McAuliffe which describes Posit Science's Brain Fitness system. The article is mainly about improving cognitive skills but a short section on improving auditory processing caught my eye. Here's a quote from the article:

"The Posit Science system strives to enhance the speed and accuracy of auditory processing and recall in the elderly. Exercises that become more difficult teach discrimination of tones of different frequencies and speech sounds that the elderly often confuse. In many instances the computer slows down difficult-to-discern syllables and then gradually speeds them up to match the more challenging conditions in which natural conversation occurs."

This grabbed my attention because on paper my hearing is like that of an elderly person's. If this system works for senior citizens, could it work for me? I went to the Posit Science website to learn more.

There I found an interesting demo for Speech in Noise. You can take a short test and compare your results with the average scores for people 60 and under and people 60 and over. I took the test twice and scored on the low end of the average for people age 60 and over. Well, we did know I was hard of hearing, right? I took the test a third time with the volume cranked way up and then managed to improve my score on the demo test to the low end of those age 60 and under. Obviously I am a candidate for improvement in auditory processing.

So how much is the Brain Fitness system? A mere $395 - completely out of my budget. I'm wondering if anyone else who is middle aged and hard of hearing has tried it out and had any success with it. If I knew it would really improve my ability to process sounds, then it might be worth pursuing and saving for, but until then I will have to pass.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Photos, Stories, and HOH Funnies from my Michigan Vacation

I just got back from a relaxing family vacation in Michigan. We stayed at my aunt and uncle's lakeside home which once belonged to my grandparents. They have totally remodeled the place from a cozy cottage to luxury living quarters. I was nostalgic for the familiar homeplace I remembered and at the same time impressed with all they had accomplished.

Once we had greeted my aunt and uncle, we headed right down to the beach. My first funny "oops" happened there when I heard my husband comment,"The lake looks deep enough to throw a cat in." Huh? I know my husband is no fan of cats due to his strong allergic reactions to them, but really, why would you measure a lake by a cat? When I asked what he meant by that, he repeated himself, "The lake looks deep enough to throw a cast in." This time he made a fishing motion. Ohhh. Fishing. Sure, I knew that. tee, hee.

I wanted to bring gifts with us to show my aunt and uncle how much we appreciated their letting us stay with them. I gave them a tote bag with a genealogy logo because they enjoy family history research and a jigsaw puzzle of Mackinac Island, a nearby tourist spot, which I thought they would enjoy working on with their grandchildren when they come to visit. Well, my son topped my gift ideas in a big way. When he heard that my uncle liked early sailing ships, he decided to build one for him out of balsa wood. He did it all on his own without a kit or a pattern and no help from his parents. My uncle was thrilled! He decided the two of them needed to build a display stand for the ship together while he was there.

Our first day with them they took us to church and then out to eat at a lovely restaurant at the Bay View Inn. The Bay View area is known for its Victorian houses that are open only in the summertime. After we returned to their house, they took us out in their pontoon boat. To my son's delight, my uncle asked him to steer the boat. First, we had to buy some gas for the boat. Would you believe it was $5.80 a gallon? The lake has only one place for fuel.

The next day my husband and son set out in the rowboat for a fishing adventure. Despite their attempts at several places around the lake, the only thing my son hooked was a willow tree when he cast too close to shore. *smile* Dad didn't catch any fish either. While they were gone, I enjoyed sleeping in and then going down to the beach for some reading and swimming. When they rowed back, I walked out to greet them as the water is shallow quite a ways out from the shore. We enjoyed a cookout and lively game of cards that evening with my aunt and uncle.

The following day, we spent some time in Petoskey. We looked in the shops, sampled some ice cream and fudge, and got in a round of miniature golf at a pirate themed mini golf course. Back at the cottage, my son and I went swimming in the lake and hunted for Petoskey stones. As a kid, I had never been up to the lake for a visit without finding one and sure enough, I found one for my son and then later he found an even larger one on his own. The tradition continues.

Our last full day there, we went to Mackinac Island. This was my son's first time there. I had been many times with my family as a kid and a couple of times with friends as an adult. I was really excited to show him the island. My aunt gave us passes for the ferry to the island. I think my son really enjoyed the boat ride there and seeing the Mackinac Bridge on the way. Our first stop on the island was the fort. We looked in all the buildings and then watched a humorous court martial reenactment on the lawn. After lunch, we rented bicycles and rode around the island. This was my favorite part.

Unfortunately for me the climb up the hill to the fort and the many stairs up to Arch Rock required me to use my inhaler twice. (I have exercise-induced asthma.) After we had returned our bicycles, we decided to do a little more exploring as there was a cave on the map that my husband wanted to see. Called Skull Cave, it certainly sounded intriguing. Unfortunately for me, it required a climb up the hill to the fort again and even more climbing beyond. Oooofff. I was just so winded. Old people were passing me by. I refused to use the inhaler a third time as I almost never use it regularly. We had to stop several times along the way for me to catch my breath. I was hoping this cave would be as spectacularly scary as it sounded. When we finally arrived, we discovered it was little more than a hole in the side of a hill. No skulls in sight. Not much of a cave. I instantly dubbed it "Numbskull Cave" because I felt like an idiot for putting myself through the climb when I could have remained in town and spent the time shopping. *smile* Once we returned to town my husband and son treated themselves to the island's famous fudge and I rewarded myself with a new necklace and earrings. All's well that end's well, right?

My other vacation HOH funny happened while I was on the cell phone with my mother. She was telling me that she and my dad had picked 6,000 blueberries. Immediately, I wondered, how do you know that, Mom? Did you count them individually? When I questioned her about what she had said, she restated that she had picked six pounds of blueberries. Ohhh, well that does make more sense. It was funny mentally picturing my mom counting the blueberries as she put them in her basket... 5,998...5,999...6,000...turning to my dad to say "I'm done now." hee, hee.

The next morning we found it hard to leave. We had enjoyed our time at the lake and getting to know my aunt and uncle better. But we were missing our dog too and we had to pick him up that afternoon from the place he boarded. Our drive home went smoothly and our dog was sure happy to see us again.