I’ve Lost My Hearing, So It’s Time to Lose the Ego

I have no idea what I’ve agreed to the past few years. If you’ve whispered something to me, or we’ve been somewhere with a lot of background noise, there’s a 97% chance that I didn’t hear you. And while I will say pardon or what was that to clarify; twice is my limit. Then I just nod. It’s embarrassing and isolating. It makes me feel old and broken.

But I finally went to the ear doctor. I’m facing up to the fact that not hearing is impacting my life. I can easily turn on closed captioning on TV. But that doesn’t exist in the real world. And my lip reading skills aren’t great.

So, I took a hearing test. And failed hard. I already knew that I had some hearing damage. But to be told it’s significant in both ears is not the best news. On top of not being able to hear, I have regular ear pain and vertigo. There’s constant popping and ringing as well. My ears rank the lowest of any of my existing organs. The type of hearing loss I have is nerve damage. It’s not reversible and will only continue to worsen.

I go to the doctor quite a bit. So a diagnosis that’s not what I hoped for isn’t new. At least they don’t make you get on the scale.

So, yes I need a hearing aid, or rather two. But I also may have other ear issues. I’ll be having more tests on the inner ear to see if there’s a problem. Because apparently, my ears look excellent. “Best ears I’ve seen today,” the doctor said. But it’s only 10 AM so not sure this will stand. Also, lots of love to all the medical professionals I saw that kept telling me I’m so young.

Then I get the pleasure of discussing hearing aids. I shouldn’t be embarrassed. Not hearing means I’m missing out on life experiences. I’m more concerned about that. Besides, they are so small, they’re very hard to see.

I will just choose to embrace and accept the fact I have hearing loss. I’ve faced much worse diagnoses than this. I’ve been sliced and diced so what can be so bad about a little wire in my ear.

I’ll just consider this another one of my superpowers (if you do didn’t know I have a super palette aka as I’m picky), and I’ll have bionic ears.

Next week, I’ll return to choose the right device. It will depend somewhat on my insurance. Because hearing aids aren’t cheap. The new models even connect to your iPhone. They are just another tiny computer.

Hopefully I’ll be back in the land of the hearing soon. I’ll be sure to keep you posted.

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Why Did You Park There?

Why did you park there-

Thoughts on what it means to be decent

I’d never call myself a rule follower. I’m creative and a dreamer so I don’t care for boundaries. But I do have an unfaltering desire to be decent. I don’t won’t to infringe on the rights of others. You’d think we’d all be in agreement with this. But it’s not so, on either the micro or macro level. Instead, we have a world of people who invade your personal space, tell you what to do with your body, and yes, park wherever they please.

I, like many, live in a community with assigned parking. While I get the occasional inconsiderate driver parked in my spot, I’m left baffled more by those who park in no parking zones. They park in fire lanes or areas where it makes it hard for others to get out. I honestly want to go up to those people, and ask them why they parked there. It’s not that every other space was taken, that’s not the problem. The problem seems to be that they think the rules don’t apply to them. They’ll park where ever they want. Drive how they want. Act like they want. And say what they want. And most of the time, there aren’t any consequences.

How did we as humans, the most advanced of all Earth’s creatures, end up so unaccountable? Every day, I witness adults doing whatever they want, including hurting and disrespecting others, with zero consequences. This is only going to end badly. As the “leaders” of the animal kingdom, aren’t we somehow supposed to be better than this?

So, it’s as good a time as any to start taking responsibility. Own your actions. Stop encroaching on others. Call others out who are making the world a less civil place. Don’t shove your beliefs down others’ throats. Get right with yourself. When you become emotionally healthy, you’ll find you have no desire to tear down others. Because isn’t that the ugly truth about human behavior? Most of those who want to condemn others or believe the rules just don’t apply to them, are just emotionally unavailable and impaired. So while they often present themselves to the world like a proud bird, they’re really sad and broken and insecure.

Do yourself and your fellow humans a favor, and get some therapy. I highly recommend it. Facing your truths, gives you the best shot at some kind of happy.

I’ve been known to say, only slightly in jest, that I don’t like people. I do like some of you (you know who you are). But honestly, I like you all enough to not object to, harm, inconvenience or hurt you. Your life is not my business. And mine isn’t yours. You can count on me, every day of the week, trying to be decent, which means I’ll park where I’m supposed to.

Turbulence Let’s Me Know I’m Alive


And other crazy things we tell ourselves in a modern world 

I would classify myself as a seasoned traveler. I’ve flown probably thousands of miles in my life, including a 15 hour flight to Australia and two trips across the Atlantic to Europe. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have anxiety about turbulence. On a recent cross country trip, we experienced bad turbulence going and returning. I was with one of my besties who hadn’t flown in years, but I didn’t act cool about it. I was scared. All these irrational things run through your head: like have I lived a good life, have I written everything I wanted to write, have I taken chances?

So, with all these questions running through my head and my hands gripping the seat, I realized that turbulence does let me know I’m alive. 

It’s a bit of a crazy conclusion. That doesn’t make it any less true. We tell ourselves all kinds of crazy things in the modern world. Most aren’t truthful. Much of what we tell ourselves is rationale for what we did or didn’t do. Often, in moments or situations where we are scared or see finality, only then are we honest. But why? Why does this act as a catalyst for us to get our shit together. Does almost dying, make us feel more alive?

I’m on a mission to do shit that scares me. I want no part of the comfort zone. As a writer and liver of a believable life, there are still subjects I am afraid to write about. They are very personal and aren’t the kind of things that go down smoothly. Yet, these things are important. They made me who I am. They are part of my story. It doesn’t matter that they are the part of my story’s fabric that are sharp and cut easily. These “sharp” bits of life experience are often what makes us compassionate, empathetic and human. 

While turbulence is terribly uncomfortable and scary, so is life at times. You can either buckle up and expect constant bumps or stand outside, always looking in at the world, as if it were a TV show. I refuse to be a bystander in my own life. 

I won’t let the bad stuff keep me from the good stuff in life. It did for awhile. I made all kinds of mistakes like marrying a man I didn’t love and pushing away people that mattered. But I own them as mistakes. I don’t pretend that they didn’t happen. But back then I didn’t feel turbulence. I didn’t feel anything, happy or sad. 

So, today right now, I’m grateful to say, “Turbulence lets me know I’m alive.”

Why I Stopped Asking My Husband to Plan Things

why i stopped asking my husband to plan things

First, I’d like say that my husband is basically a saint. Sometimes, I can be a bit out of handful so he deserves a lot of credit. And he has many wonderful qualities. He is kind and patient. Rarely is he ever in bad mood. He’s great at accepting things or people as they are. His honesty and integrity are something I’d never question. But he’s not a planner.

Most men aren’t the planners. Women are typically the ones that plan events, vacations and celebrations. Maybe it’s in our DNA. Maybe we’re just better at the details. Yet, most of us still long for our partners to surprise us with something they’ve planned. And then, we get disappointed when it doesn’t happen. That disappointment feeds a cycle of negative thinking. We think we aren’t loved or appreciated. We feel as though it’s our own fault.

The truth is that many men were never really taught how to be planners. This may be because their mothers did everything for them (as someone who was once married to a momma’s boy, I can attest to this truth), or they just didn’t have a role model who expressed this characteristic.

Communicating what you need is okay. Just don’t expect anything to change. I’ve communicated to my husband on several occasions that I wanted him to plan something. He has tried with limited success. I asked him to plan dinner for my birthday this year. I reminded him several times in the weeks before. He’s well aware of what I eat and what I don’t, considering we eat most meals together. So a few days before my birthday, I asked where we were going. He made a reservation at a steakhouse. I don’t eat red meat. Even worse, it was a chain. And I hate chain restaurants, even the fancy ones. My response to his choice was that it sounded more like somewhere he’d want to go. So he cancelled the reservations, and I made a new one at an Italian eatery. The moral of the story is either I should just make the plans myself or be very specific in my requests.

But I don’t think I’m going to ask him to plan anything, maybe not ever again. I don’t want him to feel pressured or stressed that I’m not going to be satisfied. I am rather picky about a lot of things. I don’t think I’m necessarily hard to please, but my standards are high. And he meets my standards in most every other way. So instead of feeling disappointed when he doesn’t deliver what I want, I’ll just take on the planning myself. It stops the cycle of disappointment and hurt feelings.

I accept him as he is, and he’s a man who can’t plan. I extensively plan our trips with spreadsheets. I’m not a complete a**hole or anything. I just like to be detailed about what to expect and how we want to spend our time. I didn’t print out detailed agendas for our European trip this year. I called it a “loose” itinerary. I did ask for his feedback and made sure we visited places of interest to him.

I believe that most of the time, we make decisions together. We’re a team. Some things he is better at – cooking, home improvement and basically anything involving a tool. I’m better at managing the finances, grocery shopping and planning. We can only hope that when we find love, we bring to the relationship our abilities and that there is a balance. We absolutely balance each other out in most every way.

So to every woman out there who wishes their partner would plan some magical weekend away or other fairy tale, stop driving yourself crazy. It’s probably never going to happen. If it actually does, it won’t be like the movies. It will not be perfect. Accept your mate as he is; don’t put any pressure on the relationship for misconceptions about what a man or a woman should do. Just let it go. If you want to do something, plan it yourself. It will lead to many more happy years as opposed to building resentments.

What I Learned from My European Vacation: Part II

What I Learned from My European Vacation Part II

Going to Europe is not a restful vacation. It’s go, go, go and walk, walk, walk. There is so much to see and do in London and Amsterdam. It’s impossible to see it all. We already have our list of what we missed. In this blog, I’ll tell you what we did and what we learned.

London

Tower of London
We were with a tour that was admitted an hour before opening so we had less lines and people to deal with inside. Looking at the jewels and learning their history was very cool. But be sure to visit all the exhibits. There are lots of fun facts relating to the history of the Tower, including all the animals it was once home to.

Changing of the Guard
You kind of have to do this. But it’s not that exciting. Our guide took us from the area where they change in and out onto Buckingham where they parade by. Would have liked to have gone into Buckingham, but it’s only open for tours in July and August. Buckingham doesn’t look that grand on the exterior.

Afternoon Tea
This was a favorite for me. The tea was bliss. The sandwiches and pastries were good not great (remember, I have a super palette). But I loved learning about the history and customs around afternoon tea.

Windsor Castle
I’d love to go back and spend a whole day in Windsor. It’s not far from London. We did not have enough time to see everything. No pictures are allowed inside. Windsor is grand on the inside and out.

Kensington Palace
You walk through a public park, and there it is. You can only visit a small portion, as it is a working palace. This was the home of Princess Diana so there were exhibits focused on her, including many of her well known dresses and gowns.

Stonehenge
It’s just in the middle of a field. There’s even a highway not too far away. What if you saw Stonehenge on your commute every day. I found it fascinating. There was a definite energy there. You could feel it. And the weather changed four times in 20 minutes. It’s much clearer how the stones were moved here (from sometimes hundreds of miles away) then why. It was very evident to me that this place was very special to many people at one time.

Amsterdam

The city is so beautiful. The history and artistry are all around you. It’s hard not to be intoxicated by it. Whatever your preconceived notions might be about Amsterdam, you’re probably wrong. The Red Light District isn’t seedy. We went on the Red Light District tour, and it was very enlightening. Prostitution is a legal profession just like being an accountant. Well, not exactly. But we learned a lot about the history of the sex industry. For starters, to have a window in this area, you’ve got to have money. It’s not cheap. I’m not sure where the cheaper hookers are but not here. Another thing is that you won’t find any men in the windows. Apparently, they aren’t brave enough.

You probably also might be thinking there would be drug addicts or bums filtering the streets. Not that we saw. We saw neither homeless people or addicts walking the street. Our guide informed us that in the early 90s, there was a heroin epidemic in the city. The traditional way of dealing with addicts was to imprison them. The Netherlands decided that wasn’t working. So they actually provide addicts heroin to use in a safe place. Treating it like an addiction; not a crime worked. The number of heroin addicts continues to shrink. Crime related to heroin addiction plummeted. And there are very few addicts under the age of 40, meaning that it’s not attracting new users. It’s a fascinating and smart way to look at drug addiction in my opinion.

There are so many things to do in Amsterdam. We made a bit of a dent in the list, but it will require several more trips to see everything. We loved the Van Gogh Museum. You can spend hours getting lost in his brush strokes and story. The canal cruises are a beautiful way to see the city. We took one in the day and at night. On one cruise, we saw the newer part of Amsterdam with its modern skyscrapers. I had no interest in seeing this part of the city. I much prefer the gorgeous and aged row houses.

We also toured the Amsterdam Museum, which provides you a great overview of the city from its beginnings as a port to its growth to international destination. The Royal Palace was open while we were there so we took a few hours to check it out. It was built in the 1600s as a city hall. Now it’s a residence for the Dutch monarchy and is open for touring depending on the schedule.

And yes, Amsterdam has coffeehouses and live sex shows. But it should never be defined as a city of hedonism. The Dutch aren’t conservative or prudish about what many cultures consider taboo. Rather they allow individuals to make their own choices about participating in such activities. They’ve removed the mystique around things that many cultures cannot. When things but come less risqué they lose their appeal to many. In my opinion, I believe they get it right.

Our time in Europe will be a time I always cherish. It’s just amazing and breathtaking to be around such history and beauty. We can’t wait to go back. We left parts of our heart their so we’d know we’d return as soon as possible.

Readability Matters

Read This for Tips on Readability

It’s now just what you say; it’s how you say it. There are many masterpieces in literature that aren’t very readable. But in the world of readability, what really needs to be readable is marketing content. And it absolutely matters.

It impacts SEO, user experience (UX) and the success of content marketing. If you don’t care about readability, you should. The days of keyword stuffing are over. Google cares about how readable your content is not just that you used the keyword a few times. As voice search becomes more popular, the emphasis shifts much more so to readability.

If you don’t think readability impacts SEO, your’re wrong. Maybe you’re wrong a lot; I don’t know. I am not basing this on anything but pure experience as a professional writer and content marketer. I write upwards of 5,000 words a day so I understand what it takes to write on many different topics and be interesting. Yes, I care about SEO and keywords, but I don’t force it. I choose quality every time.

Readability is also a factor in UX. If you publish poor content that emphasizes keywords over telling a story, the user will not have positive experience. They then become unlikely to read more of your content or become a customer. Just as every element of design impacts UX, your copy does, too.

The elements of readability

There are certain specific areas around readability. Again, my experience is the basis for these thoughts. I didn’t copy this from another article. It’s just what I think matters.

Kill adverbs and adjectives unless that provide context. You do not need seven adjectives in one sentence. It comes off as being fluff and not authentic. Use them sparingly so that when you do, it’s purposeful.

Vary the length of sentences. It’s good to have a variety of sentence lengths. When in doubt, edit and cut. I was provided copy to review recently, and one sentence had 42 words. 42 WORDS! There is a rhythm that happens with readable content. Read it out loud to understand if you are on point with rhythm. Don’t make sentences so hard to read that it takes three huge gulps of air.

Use active voice. Passive sentences don’t read well. Sometimes passive cannot be avoided. However, consider the syntax of the sentence. Revise as necessary to create a better balance.

Don’t use every word in your extensive vocabulary. Most content should be written on an eighth grade reading level. Unless there is a good reason, be simple. When writing about very technical topics, using big words makes more sense. Remember simplification isn’t dumbing it down. It’s making it more accessible to your reader.

Grading your readability

It is possible to score your readability. There are many tools that will give you a grade. The Flesch reading scale is used by many applications like Yoast. The scale grades how easy it to read the text. It looks for how hard a sentence would be able to read (the 42 word sentence did not bode well). I am a big fan of Yoast. It’s my preferred plugin for SEO on WordPress. I also use the Hemingway App, which is a great working tool that highlights where the issues are.

I encourage every writer, content marketer and SEO specialist to care about readability. I know people don’t read much these days. They scan. We live in a world where content is created and consumed at a rapid pace. But before you publish, do at least this – read it.

(P.S. I scored this on Hemingway App. It received a grade of good.)

Monsters

I read this the other day and was saddened by its profound truth. As children, we are scared of what’s under the bed. As adults, we know better. We know it’s other people who commit the greatest transgressions.

As a child, I had fears not unlike many. I was exposed too early, perhaps, to Jason Voorhees and Freddie Krueger. They didn’t really haunt my dreams. I was enthralled by horror. I was drawn to Hitchcock movies and Stephen King novels. But as you know, humans more often than not were the culprits in these stories. It is too often that when unmasking the villain, we find just a person capable of the worst. How often were the monsters really monsters on Scooby Doo?

As much as we’d like to see the good in people, that seems to get harder and harder. We don’t live in a world anymore of unlocked doors and stopping to help someone out on the side of the road. We can’t trust so easily anymore. It’s just not prudent. Being compassionate can actually get you killed.

I try neither to see the good or bad that may be inherent in others. I try to see the truth, whatever that might be. Maybe it’s because I learned from the beginning that monsters weren’t under the bed or in my closet. They were right in front of me. They were people in my life that hurt me in ways that I’m still recovering from. I’m far from the only one who has found monsters among them.

Then I found myself with monsters within me. They were the voices of doubt, fear and disgust. The constant rumbles of not being good enough. The monsters kept me numb and dislocated from reality. These monsters mostly only did harm to myself. But I am not immune to being a terrible person. I’ve hurt others. I’ve lied. I’ve cheated. Hurt begets hurt way too often.

Expelling the monsters, whether internal or external, requires more work than most are willing to put in. It’s easier to let someone keep destroying us or to keep destroying ourselves. It’s beyond comprehension what people do to one another. I’m not just talking about the most egregious evils. It’s the things we say or don’t say. It’s when we leave and don’t return. It’s when we look into another’s eyes and say nothing but the truth.

And right now there are many monsters among us. We are monsters every time we look the other way and just let things stay unchanged. That’s what is truly scary; not the boogie man. I don’t waste too much time on fear. It does little good to be overcome with fear about those things outside of our control. It won’t stop me from experience and opportunity. I will never let the monsters take these from me.

Monsters don’t just appear in fairytales. Those evil characters simply prepare us for the horrors of life. And the real life monsters are much scarier than the ones of fiction. We can’t turn those off. They play in our minds forever. I’m not sure if monsters can ever change. They are too good at it. Many want to be. They are orchestrators of chaos and discord. But we can’t let monsters have all the power. I let them have power over me for too long. Even though they can’t hurt me anymore, I still feel their presence. They still win sometimes.

I want to live in a world where monsters aren’t real; they’re just stories. That’s not really possible or realistic. What I can do and will always do is to realize my own role in the story. And try not to be my own worst enemy. We live a life of so much rejection and suffer a lifetime of being casually spit out by life. There’s no room for monsters. They steal your joy. And at the end of the day that may be what makes us human.