Well planned visit

“We are coming to Arkansas the week of my birthday.” my son Nate announced.

We? As in wife Joy and children Sophie,10, Sam, 8, and Henry, 5. Great! My toys needed someone to play with them. I lacked the energy after two weeks of non-contagious stomach issues. “Come! I may not be the perkiest hostess, but I can enjoy the kids.”

Nate and Joy came with plans for their two night stay, Nate wanted to visit his high school and college alma maters and say, “This is where I went to school.” We wanted to show off the Murphy Art District.

Their kids spilled out of the van eager to explore the house they hadn’t seen in four years.

Henry, 5, found the ride-able, battery operated train with a figure 8 track.“Hold onto this bar,” Grandpa said as Henry climbed into the engineer’s seat. Henry rode until the battery needed recharging.

I had prepared cookie dough, checked the food supply, made up beds and rested a lot in-between. At the park, I chilled in the shade while Sophie climbed the rope bridge at the park near the splash pad. I stayed home and slept when they visited the Museum of Natural Resources.

I had simple plans. Eat, sleep, watch grandchildren, provide meals and sleep.

The next two days Joy and Nate asked us to join them at an Airbnb – an online program that matches travelers with private homes or rooms open to unknown guests. She found a three story house in Hot Springs with sleeping space for 12 and invited my daughter, Sharon, and her family. Joy took my cookie dough to the house and baked a huge cookie cake for Nate and Sharon who both had birthdays that week.

Seven grandchildren under 11 raised the roof with energy. With hundreds of places to hide during their game of hide-and-seek, four grandchildren came to the smallish bedroom where I rested. They hid under my blanket, under the desk, inside the cupboard and took my pillow as cover in a corner hiding spot. Until they heard Sam the seeker coming, they stood by their hiding spots talking.

An afternoon of digging for crystals yielded dozens of small boulders covered with red clay, a wash load of clay stained clothes and one impressively large cluster of smokey quartz. The owner of the Airbnb saw Nate washing the rocks outside and said, “Thanks for doing that outside . Some have used the sinks and clogged the drains with mud.”

Joy and Nate found a marina with paddle boats and kayaks to rent for an hour or longer. I understand seven kids and their parents had a great time. I don’t know. I slept in the car, waking just in time to join them for watermelon and snacks.

I did plan for all to visit one natural hot springs. I purchased enough Ramen noodles in a cup for each person to make their own hot soup. There is nothing like the taste of steaming hot water, scooped out of a moss lined basin and poured over a cardboard cup of noodles.

Before Sharon took her children home for swim practice, I looked in the freezer. “We have a gallon of ice cream we must finish in 24 hours. Who wants ice cream?”

Everyone, except me. I served. They ate and the ice cream disappeared.

The birthday week ended at the camp for our church’s annual family weekend. Great plan for ending their visit: Food we did not have to prepare, acres of fun and lots of time to visit folks and rest before we waved good-bye until the next time they come.

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Human guinea pigs

I never could quite understand why it costs so much to do research on the simplest issues until my loved ones moved near a city with many research projects. Few volunteers will perform mundane, ordinary and uncomfortable activities. If you pay them they will come.

The best paying gig took 12-days in a hospital. Through that time, Sheila, my son Mert’s wife, went to the hospital early and left late in the evening. During the day researchers studied her food intake and weight changes. She could do whatever she wanted during her days at the hospital room: eat, read, nap, watch TV, chat on the phone or work on a hobby. For this holiday, the research grant paid her $2,000 to monitor her digestive system.

The catch? She had to agree to have a gastric tube inserted up her nose and down to her stomach through the study.

Doesn’t sound appealing, but still for $2,000 I wanted to volunteer – I was too old.

In another study Sheila received a smart watch that reminded her to stop at various times through the day to answer survey questions and evaluate her well-being. The watch failed to prompt as often as planned, but the study still paid the promised remuneration.

Mert, participated in several studies examining the impact of the gut biotics on mood and mental health. He said, “I couldn’t help but laugh when I put a small dime-sized sample of feces in a test-tube for study.”

In another study the research assistant came to the home, wrapped Mert’s arm in a blood pressure cuff tight enough to cut off his circulation. After a bit, he released it and recorded Mert’s rate of recovery and took notes on his blood circulation.

The absolute worst experience as a guinea pig, Mert shared with a friend. The two agreed to participate in a metabolic study. Mert knew from the outset he had agreed to allowing the lab to removed a tiny sample of his muscle tissue. Initially, the scientist took measurements of his resting metabolism, height and weight. For several weeks Mert and friend recorded food intake. For the final visit, they answered more questions. He drank a glucose drink, followed each half hour with blood draws to measure his metabolism.

Then it was time to harvest his muscles.

They gave me an anesthetic to numb the area, picked up the knife and began cutting. I fainted,” Mert said. (Just as he did when he was a kid and his sister gashed her leg.)

That doctor disappeared a lot longer than I expected after he was done. Perhaps he needed to steel his nerves!” Mert mused.

His friend endure all the same tests with no problem. “Apparently he has more padding and a higher pain tolerance,” Mert said wistfully. “I am mighty glad I did not agree to the part with more than one tissue extraction. The person in that room was screaming!”

For less money and stress, Mert helped improve prosthetics, “I walked back and forth across the room, across a sandpit or stood up from a seated position.”

One evening Mert and Sheila participated together and earned $100. “We stood outside for 45 minutes after sunset evaluating the brightness of a car’s light bar indicating that the self-driving vehicle had stopped and pedestrians could cross the street.” he said.

The extra income pays bills, provides evenings out and Mert says, “the studies give me greater insight into my own life and what goes into a healthy life.”

And now I know ‘why’ new understandings and developments cost so much.

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Navy reject become Army star

Rejected by the Navy, valuable asset in the Army

With the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the late Max Cripe, of Goshen, Ind. joined the hordes of young men crowding around the recruiting office eager to join the Navy and go to sea while fighting for his country. He wanted out of his landlocked home state.

First, he had to wait as the Navy processed the multitude of men who had lined up to enlist during the days and weeks after December 7. The Navy had to arrange physicals and schedule a time to report for basic training.

He showed up bright and early for his pre-enlistment physical – and failed it. Not because he had flat fleet. Not because he weighed too much or too little. He wasn’t too tall or too short. He could hear as well as any other young man and could see all the letters on the chart.

He failed the Navy color vision test. Max was totally color blind. He saw only shades of gray. He could not tell the difference between red, green, orange, blue or yellow, a vital skill for anyone in the Navy where colored flags signal instructions between ships.

Disappointed, Max left the Navy recruiting station. He never would be a sailor and go to sea.

Still, he wanted to serve. He approached the Army recruiter hoping his lack of color perception did not matter. The Army had no problem with his colorblindess. They needed thousands of men able to sight down a gun, find a target and shoot. He could do that. He did it well enough at boot camp that he soon found himself finally at sea – on a troop carrier – crossing the Atlantic to Europe.

On the European front his sergeant in the infantry quickly discovered the gift hidden in Max’s colorblindness. Camouflage did not fool him. Colors did not distract him. Max saw every carefully concealed weapon that others, according to his daughter Barbara Hershberger, now of Watertown, WI.

“While others visually overlooked hidden weapons, he saw them and called out, “Gun! Tank! Stack of ammo over there!”

His disability quickly won the attention of the officers. They made him a scout to find the enemy’s hidden resources.

“And that kept him alive in the European Front,” Barbara asserts. He continued to serve in the infantry, but not in the midst of the fighting. His eyes were too valuable.

“It kept him alive.”

“When war on the European front ended, he was shipped to Japan to be part of that invasion. Before he arrived, The Bomb dropped over Japan and WWII ended abruptly.

Max’s infantry troop became the occupation force. In time he was released, returned home, married and began his life as a civilian.

“And do you know what he became? Even being colorblind?” Barbara asked. “A florist. Now how do you think he did that?”

Certainly, he knew how to run a business and had the skills in arranging flowers even though they all were various shades of gray to him.

He succeeded because. “We put tags on the buckets noting which were red, pink, white, yellow or purple,” she said.

As the owner of the Raceway Floral Shop, “At Christmas time, my dad used to dress up as Santa to deliver flowers. I went with him and gave candy to the kids.” Barbara recalls,

Flowers bring happiness. Little old ladies welcomed him with open arms. “Dad tired of being hugged and smooched by the little old ladies receiving a floral arrangement.” Barbara smiled.

Being worn out from too much attention is certainly a long road from his rejection by the Navy as the country entered WWII.

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Urge to Purge

I slumped and sighed. “I have sorted, decluttered, organized and still have a lot to do before we have a yard sale.”

“Some folks hire an agency to come in once a year to organize their house,” my friend observed.

“Pay? For someone to organize?” I was shocked. Everyone gets the urge to purge, right? Well everyone but my husband. I began the decluttering with his excess in the garage to make space for a garage sale.

“We are going to clean the garage,” I insisted. “I am taking over that store room. You have a shop.”

“You’re what?!”

I began assigning specific shelves for insect sprays, grass seed and the dozen mouse traps I found tucked behind cloths, paint brushes and car parts. We don’t have mice right now. We obviously have had them in the past and bought new traps every time.

“Do you think we have enough paint brushes and rollers?” I asked as I filled a large bucket with brushes, rollers and pans. Okay, I admit, I threw away some when he wasn’t looking – adding to the debris that filled up our rolling dumpster that week.

He should have seen this mood coming. Earlier a non-profit where I serve asked if I would deal with the donations that have not fit their needs and have accumulated for several years.

“You don’t want any of this?” I pointed out several items.

“No. Those just do not work.”

“Okay.” I began stuffing their excess into big black trash bags to take home and sort.

My husband’s mouth dropped when he came home to a living room floor covered with black bags and their miscellaneous contents.

“I know. I know. It is a mess, but I thought it would be easier to sort it here into piles of ‘trash’, donate and ‘re-home’.” After he endured me bringing home seven carloads of clutter to our living room, even he was ready to clean the house.

Remembering all that, I realized I had done voluntarily what my friend said some get paid to do. It makes sense. Call it being nosy, or my personal idea of fun, I like to sort through another person’s hoard. After my grandmother’s funeral, the rest of the family selected what they wanted and left her house. I stayed and wandered around, emptying shelves, cupboards and even the corners in the basement. With no goal in mind, I put important looking papers into one pile and old garbage bills and gas receipts into the trash and thrift store items in boxes. In the corner of the basement I silently cheered when I found pastel thermos glasses we used as children and tucked them into my pile to take home.

Still, I assumed that organizing is an innate trait. We all have to get our act together sometime or another, right?

“Well I know a couple who paid for an online tutorial on how to organize and de-clutter their homes,” my friend said.

“Really?!” I shook my head disbelief. Every women’s magazine carries at least one article a year on this task. No brainer. Trash, donate, keep, sell. If you haven’t used it in a year, you may need to move it along.

Sounds easy until I remember how long it took me decide to have a yard sale this summer as motivation to remove everything I no longer want, need or care to keep. When it is over, I hope this urge to purge ends. I have a lot more interesting projects that I would rather be doing now that I have the space work.

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Our dog Jack

Our white puppy Jack grew to the size of a small pony. An over-sized mixed-breed collie, he had a head as broad as a St. Bernard and long shaggy hair. My brothers, sisters and I liked him, and he liked people.

Still, when the family planned to move across the country, the station wagon had no room to transport him to our new home. So Jack, barely a year old, moved over the hill to the farm where my toddler cousin Hope lived. She grew up knowing him as her dog.

Still, each time we drove back for a visit and pulled into the farm yard, piled out of the car and stretched, Jack greeted us with his tail wagging – as he did all visitors.

“Hey, Jack! C’mere boy,” I would call, pat him on the head and begin talking to him. At first he just looked and listened. Then he’d do a doggy double-take, begin dancing all around, and crying at how much he had missed us. With deep throaty sounds, he would talk in rising and lowering tones as long as any of us petted him and said, “Yes, I missed you too, Jack.”

“Where have you been?” he would push his head close and whine. At least that’s what I understood him to say with his intense emotional welcoming and bodily thrust to get as close as possible, even if I backed away to go inside and visit folks. It took as much effort to break away from him as it does from a chatty person with a 100 stories to tell. Jack stayed outside.

He responded as our dog, yet was not our dog. He was Hope’s dog, her childhood companion as the decade younger, last child in a family of four. When she was little, he hovered over her as she played in the yard. As she grew, Jack trotted beside her when she went to the fields.

“He never was an inside dog … except when a thunderstorm came,” Hope recalled. “And then, he would go into the attached woodshed and lay next to the door, clawing anxiously and leaving claw marks on the door.”

Every morning he watched the bus take her to school and every afternoon when the school bus brought her home, he bounded across the yard to greet her … until she was 12 and he did not show up.

Hope’s dad came out to regretfully tell her, “He just died of old age.”

“He was the only dog I had ever had. Of course, I was brokenhearted when our dog died. I think I was in seventh grade. My dad wanted to do something nice to cheer me up. So he took me to join Sarah (her year-older cousin) and some classmates at the movies.”

Going to the movies in the nearest small city was a big deal for this farm girl. She had to go through a couple villages to get to there. So she was prepared to enjoy this excursion even though she had no idea what movie was playing. She bought her ticket and went into the darkened theater.

“We didn’t know it ahead of time but the theater was showing ‘Where the Red Fern Grows.’” – a poignant film about a beloved dog that dies.

“I bawled through the whole thing! I’m sure that my cousin’s friends thought I was weird-o for crying so much over the movie,” Hope said. Maybe, maybe not. At least she had the words and tears needed to communicate how much she missed him, knowing he would never return.

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Lizard in the Band-Aid Box

In a box of odds and ends at the estate sale I spied an old, metal Band-aid box with a hinged lid that snapped shut. I hadn’t seen one in a while. It brought back childhood memories of well used crayons stored in a Band-Aid tin after their original cardboard box fell apart.

Curious to know if my husband shared similar memories I asked, “What uses did you find for a Band-Aid box? You know the metal kind with hinged lids.”

“I used one to send a lizard in the mail in one time,” he mused.

“You what?”

“Yes. During basic training in South Carolina I found a little lizard. We don’t have lizards back in Indiana. I wanted to show my mother. I saw the lizard as I walked from one place to another during free time. I moved closer to look at it. It started to run away from me. I am used to catching little things like that so I caught it just like I used to catch salamanders in Indiana.”

“There are salamanders in Indiana, but not lizards? What’s the difference?” I asked.

“Lizards have scales. Salamanders have a skin and they exude a fluid when you pick them up.

Lizards don’t; they are dry. Anyway, I picked it up and studied it because I had never seen a lizard.”

“So where did you get the Band-Aid box?”

“Oh, I asked guys, ‘Do you have a Band-Aid box?’ until I found someone who had one. I wanted to put the lizard in it to ship to my mom. I asked guys who had leave that day if they would mail it for me. The refused so I had to let that lizard go.”

“When I had leave, I found another tiny lizard. I tied a red thread around it, put it in the Band-Aid box with some of the thread hanging outside of the Band-Aid box. I put a note on the outside for Mom that read, ‘pick up thread and hold tight before opening box.’”

Knowing his mother, she would have been equally curious to see a different species. She had no qualms with picking up creepy crawly stuff and studying it.

The lizard arrived safely. She liked it enough that she made a terrarium for the lizard in the kitchen near the window and kept it there for a long time.”

“Really!” I had never heard that story before. My original question had simply sought to discover ways that he had found to re-use the old fashion metal Band-Aid box. In the past containers for so many other things used to be more substantial.

In my not so creative world, Band-Aid boxes only held crayons. Every time I opened the lid I whiffed the delightful crayola smell of colored pictures.

Still, the lizard-salamander issue intrigued me. “So no lizards in Indiana?”

“Not in northern Indiana. It’s too cold. Maybe they have them in the southern part,” he shrugged.

I thought about that a minute. When we moved to southern Arkansas, I suddenly discovered lizards wandering around in our newly built house near a wooded area. Not big lizards, just those a couple inches long. The first time I saw one it was halfway up the curtain. I left it there until my sons came home from school. I am not husband’s mother. Lizards only interest me from a distance. The boys caught it, but they never made a thread harness, put it in a Band-Aid box and proudly brought it to show me. They knew I would not have appreciated it even if it had been in an old Band-Aid tin.

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Touched by a teacher

As the school year winds down to an end, former students recall certain teachers. As adults these men and women are still especially impressed with the expectations of some teachers. Too many times in the midst of all the paperwork, the job demands, the various problems and promises that each child brings, the low pay, long hours and lack of contact after graduation, it is easy for teachers to be discouraged. To feel forgotten.

Students do remember their teachers: the good, the bad, the ugly and the beautiful. Yes, students do remember a teacher’s worst days as a recent conversation with our son Randy revealed.

“Do you remember Mr. Reed, the math teacher?” Randy asked his dad during a recent visit.

It has been 40 years, still “Yes, I do.” my husband said.

“I saw him recently. He was not one of the teachers that I liked. I liked many other teachers a lot more than him. They were friendly. One day, I showed up for class without my homework – again. He yanked me up and hauled me out of the classroom to the hall and slammed me up against the wall. He screamed in my face. He said I was wasting my potential. He screamed I could do better, and he wanted to see it.”

My husband and I listened in awe. We had never heard this story before.

“Well, I drove into a gas station recently and there he was. I walked over to him and said, “Hi! Mr. Reed.’ he turned and looked at me. ‘Do you remember me?’ I asked him.”

“He looked at me rather cautiously. ‘Maybe.’”

“I’m Randy Hershberger. I was in your math class. I didn’t always do my homework. One day you grabbed me and took me outside the class….”

“Mr. Reed backed up. He kind of raised his hands in protest and interrupted me, ‘That was before I was a Christian.’”

“No. No. I’m not upset. I just wanted to tell you that I have often thought about that day. I now realize, you really cared about me. You wanted the best for me. I know you were tough, but you were tough because you knew I could do better and you wanted me to try and do it. Other teachers may have known I could do more, but not many cared enough to get my attention and tell me that.”

“As I talked, he relaxed and smiled.”

“I told him, ‘I had a lot of other teachers that I really liked and I thought liked me. But you, I remember as someone who wanted me to do my best. You were the one who insisted I could do better and made sure I knew that it upset you when I did not even try. None of the other teachers did that. You really cared about me and what I was doing.’”

“Well, thank you for telling me,” Reed said reaching out to shake Randy’s hand. When the two parted, Mr. Reed glowed with the praise. Yes, he had been tough on Randy, but his toughness came from the frustration of seeing a kid repeatedly wasting his potential, thinking it did not matter and it did.

His frustration got Randy’s attention so that 40 years later the former reluctant scholar remembers one teacher who desperately wanted one student to try.

Mr. Reed does not stand alone. He serves as a reminder that sometimes, even on the worst day ever, a student will read between the lines that a teacher really cares.

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When you really need a friend

Three years after returning home, feeling confident and involved with the church men again, Ted realized keeping his condition a secret magnified the stigma. “My symptoms haven’t changed, but my attitude toward them has,” he said. It was time to tell the church, encourage others with mental health issues and recognize the indispensable help he had received.

Recently he stood up at the chapel to say it’s a “relief being here with men who have known me since childhood and continue to be an important part of my life.” Knowing he still could get worse, Ted feels blessed to have the community support he needs for his illness.

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No sugar for me

I shouldn’t have said it, but I did. I told my daughter. “I need to cut back on sugar, and I will … right after Easter.”

I said it before I left to go supervise the St. Louis grandchildren and I resolved to not nibble away the tedium of travel with sweet snacks.

Before we left, my daughter-in-love Joy sent a message, “Please don’t bring any candy. We are trying Sam and Sophie on a sugar free, gluten free, dairy free diet.”

No problem. I planned to start a sugar free diet myself,” I responded.

I lied. It was a problem. I like going to her house, looking in the refrigerator and finding the jar of raspberry jam she buys for me. I like raspberry jam. I like raspberry ice cream. I really liked the raspberry fluff inside the dark chocolate shell in the marked down Easter candy.

I only bought two this year. One for me, one for hubby, as well as two each of eggs with maple, coconut, caramel and chocolate fillings. All health foods because that shell of dark chocolate is a healthy choice. We ate all of it before we left.

I did not buy any candy to take to the grandchildren.

Instructions for supervising the children included a list of meals to prepare each day: gluten free, dairy free and sugar free (GDS-free) meals for the two oldest and parallel meals with another set of breads, pastas and mixes for preschooler Henry and his grandparents. Plenty of food, just no sugar, no ice cream, no candy or cake tucked in any of the hidden corners. I checked.

The kids ate their GDS-free food and shared some meals with us. Some dishes were not as popular as others. Still, Sophia wanted the homemade beef vegetable soup in her lunch. And Sam’s doubtful acceptance of cashew chicken with broccoli and pineapple over rice turned into a request for seconds.

Henry just asked, “What’s for ‘zert?”

Would you like whole wheat toast, butter and natural honey?” I asked.


My husband also wanted his ‘zert. He went to the store to buy items for the house repairs he agreed to do. He came home with candy bars and told me, “I bought one for you.”

I broke off a small piece and left the rest. The man who says he needs to lose weight ate the rest.

No problem packing GDS-free lunches. Joy left clear instructions and food for the entire week. I found everything except food for snacks: stuff like the raspberry jam and leftover Easter candy. Okay I agreed to not bring candy, but I thought I would find one little piece left somewhere.

Nope. Nada. Nothing. Not even sugar to sweeten the coffee. I was told that the all natural honey and maple syrup used for toast, waffles or coffee did not count as sugar.

I do like maple syrup. I have ever since I tasted the nectar from my Uncle’s sugar bush and the whipped maple frosting my aunt made. It tastes so sweet it made my teeth ache. Excluded from the pricier, gluten free menu, we consumed whole wheat alternatives. My husband made private excursion to his private stash of forbidden chocolate in our car.

With all the resolve to cut back enforced, I sailed through my first week of cutting back on sugar.

After a week of supervising grandchildren on a GDS-free diet, I can barely hear the clarion call of sweets. We’ll see how long it lasts once I return home where I know all the hiding places.

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Misophonia – I don’t want to hear you

I finally figured out my problem. I have misophonia. Or as Wikipedia defines it, “a hatred of sound.” Certain sounds trigger negative emotions, thoughts and physical reactions. One universal instance it is that urge to do bodily harm at the sound of fingernails scraping a chalkboard.

My first clue came as a college freshmen when a date took me to a basketball game. My roommate saw me from the other side of the gym and later commented, “You looked bored.” And probably, I was overwhelmed with the crowd noise and squeak of sneakers.

That was my last basketball game for many years. Sometimes I see a bit of a game when my husband watches it on TV. I prefer it on mute. I don’t need a commentator telling me that the player made a hook shot.

I reached my epitome of misophonia the day I supervised a high school pep rally. At the end, I dismissed my students, returned to my classroom, unlocked the door and threw my wad of keys across the room crying, “I hate pep rallies.” Too many drums, too much crowd noise and too many loud cheers. That was the last pep rally I attended.

My husband knows I am “noise sensitive” as my daughter calls it. Every time he fixes a cup of hot cocoa he stirs the cocoa powder into the fluid with a metal spoon that scrapes, scrapes, s-c-r-a-p-e-s until I yank the spoon away and thrust a small spatula into his hand. Sometimes, I choose a typical misophonic coping technique such as covering my ears or going to another room and turning on a noise blocking audio book.

Research found that 80 percent of the noise triggers for misophonia center around eating. I identify with that trigger and understand precisely why restaurants play background music. It blocks out the sound of crunchy chips, silverware clanking against plates and the slurping of the last remnant of milk shake.

Life is noisy. I can’t stop the world from eating, playing games, opening a cellophane package or just breathing. So, I endure or leave when noise overwhelms me.

I did not realize how much I liked silence until I began working at the newspaper. The first week, as I typed away at my computer I could almost hear a couple of conversations across the room in another department. The editor sitting next to me rolled his eyes. He huffed and he puffed. Then like any person with misophonia he stood up, looked across the room and said, “Quieter!”

That was too noisy? Bless him, I had found the perfect work environment, a place where I met others with misophonia. Which makes sense. Researchers from Northwestern University found that those who are hypersensitive to particular sounds tend to be more creative than those who are not.

If silence is golden, I should be rich. I raised five sons and a daughter in a quiet home. For years we had no TV and rarely turned on the radio. When a son began buying recordings of popular music to play on his cassette player, I tolerated all but a couple. For those I said, “Please, play that in the bedroom with the door closed.”

Some studies say misophonia tends to appear more in girls than boys and that sufferers are also more likely to have tinnitus. I resemble those remarks. In a totally silent house, I hear a high pitched whine. Perhaps that constant whine wears away my tolerance for any additional noise. For sure it insures I will never be rich because I never experience total golden silence.

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