The Second Half: Did Dumbo have this problem?

By Kathleen D. Tresemer

I love to travel! In my Second Half, I am determined to travel whenever I get the chance—a sort of Bucket List promise to myself.

Not everyone loves to fly, but I can’t control my excitement at the idea of soaring above the world! You can find me plastered to the window, chatting about the change in scenery from thousands of feet up.

Hubby, on the other hand, could happily remain earthbound for the rest of his life and gets through the flight by falling asleep within three minutes of taxiing down the runway.

Our upcoming “Spring Break” trip to Arizona is no exception. There’s just one problem—a week before boarding the plane, my ears and sinuses became so swollen, I could barely stand. Two days later, Hubby followed suit, only his developed into a full-blown cold with sneezing, coughing and general miserable-ness.

“Pain behind my eyes and cheeks, plugged-up ears, pressure… how am I going to get on this plane without my head exploding?” I whined to Hubby, who had yet to see any symptoms.

“Oh, you have a whole week,” he reassured me. “Just take some cold medicine, and you’ll be fine.”

My old standby for plugged-up ears—Mucinex-D—barely touched it. Taken every four hours, it should have knocked it out, but no luck. At least it minimized my pain.

Next, I pulled out the nasal irrigator, sort of a high-powered neti pot. For sinus pressure and allergies, this thing is the greatest! I purchased one made by NeilMed, and it comes with pre-measured packets of saline rinse powder to mix with the water. It helps reduce inflammation, flush out mucus, and prevent infection.

Of course, using it is not a pretty sight, nor is it nice to listen to.

“Are you OK in there?” Hubby called through the bathroom door. “Kinda sounds like you’re drowning.”

“Gad!” I exclaimed. “I wonder if Dumbo ever had this problem!”

“Maybe,” he laughed, “but your ears are cuter.” See why I love the guy?!

By Monday night, I was ready to try anything, terrorized by visions of exploding Martian heads from the movie Mars Attacks—off to yoga class for help.

Yoga Master Rachel (Lazy Dog Yoga Studio, Roscoe) smiled serenely and, after a variety of inversion poses (translation: head down, rear-end up), she had me stand on my head. Five minutes into the headstand, my ears opened right up!

Tuesday morning, I trotted off to quiz my favorite health practitioner, Dr. J of Loves Park Chiropractic. He gave me a trick I have never heard of before and wasn’t too excited to try out: “Press your thumb gently to the roof of your mouth, sliding back until you reach the soft, springy part.

“Massage it carefully, to loosen any thick mucus trapped above it. Then, you can use the nasal irrigator to really flush it all out.”

Of course, I looked like I was vigorously sucking my thumb, but if it works…
Then, he called Dr. Andrea Gale into the room—Dr. Andrea is “master of all things above the shoulders” at Loves Park Chiropractic, with the best hands for neck adjustments in the universe.

“OK, just relax, Kathleen,” she crooned, massaging the glands in the neck and behind the ears. Next, she did some tugging and stretching of my ear, and—gurgle, gurgle—I could hear again!

After showing me how to manipulate my ears all by myself, she walked me out of her office with this advice, “Remember to tug down, then out; down-and-out.”

I was thinking that could almost be an old country music song: “My ears are plugged and I’m down and out, down and out…”

Another Second-Half friend suggested ear candling. Well, I guess you light special candles, fit them with a collar to catch the drips, then you stick them in your ears for 15 or 20 minutes.

It is supposed to create suction that cleans out the ears, or something, but all I can think of is hot wax burning a hole into my brain. After a bit of research, I found this on Wikipedia:

“Ear candling, also called ear coning or thermal-auricular therapy, is an alternative medicine practice …lighting one end of a hollow candle and placing the other end in the ear canal. According to medical researchers, it is both dangerous and ineffective… The claim by one manufacturer that ear candles originated with the Hopi tribe has also been disproven.”
(Read the entire article at
I do not want to get in trouble with any Native American tribes, so I shelved that alternative and went back to the Internet. One site I like for practical info is found at They actually had an article, “How To Avoid Earaches On A Plane,” which offered suggestions such as:

1. Swallow, drink, eat or chew gum
2. Yawn to unplug the Eustachian tube and equalize the pressure
3. Take a deep breath and blow out while pinching your nostrils and holding your mouth closed
4. Take decongestants at least half an hour before your flight
All right, I’m ready.

If you happen to be at the Rockford Airport and see an older broad standing on her head while sucking her thumb and tugging at her ears, you’ll know who I am. Feel free to say “Hello” before they haul me away in a straightjacket.

At this rate, I’ll never get to Arizona!
I love it when things work out, don’t you?

In her second half of life, Kathleen D. Tresemer is both a journalist and an award-winning fiction writer. She lives with her husband on a small ranch in rural Shirland, Ill. Kathleen can be contacted by e-mail at

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