Saturday, April 12, 2014

An Interpreter to the Rescue!

These past few weeks have been very trying for me. My anti-depressant was taken away and I fell into a deep somberness. Crying for now reason, calling out to God to please help me get through this. And, of course, He did. One of the things I wanted to try was to attend church with my family. They go to church every Sunday, but there’s no interpreter for me. I could go to a different church, but, instead, I had gotten in the habit of just staying home. However, while I was truly struggling with my depression, I decided to do a search to see if anyone would be willing to come to my church and interpret for me. So, I sent the request to the head of the interpreter training program at a local college and found one wonderful student willing to take the bite.

Imagine how she felt…second year ASL student, never interpreted before outside of internships at college. She walks into this rather large church and shakes my hand. It was wonderful that she was willing to do this and I knew in my heart that, no matter what happened, we would forge through this day together.

Linda seemed a bit nervous when I saw her in the lobby, but I, too, was a basket of nerves. Not because I had an interpreter coming to church, but because I hadn’t been to church in years and I remembered no one. If you know me, though, you know that I’m always nervous and I have no short term memory whatsoever (my long-term memory ain’t that great either).

We only did Sunday School that day instead of both SS and church. I felt a little overwhelmed and thought it best to sit back in church and just read along with some of the pastor’s notes. SS was enough though for Linda, I’m sure. Picture an older gentleman, interacting with the class and reading Biblical scripture at the speed of rabbits. Linda basically took the reigns and held on. I was so impressed with her.

Sure, there were parts that were missed (so I was told), but none so much that it lost it’s meaning to me as she translated for me. I was dressed in this stupid pants outfit that made me feel like Liberace and I had forgotten shoes, so I finished off the outfit with some black, fluffy slippers. LOL Not the best church outfit, if you ask me.

Anyway, the point of the post is that Linda did a great job and I was once again reunited with the congregation my family has come to love and be attached to. She’s interpreting again on Easter and I’m very excited about that. Thanks, Linda. This really means the world to me!

Saturday, April 5, 2014


Anywhere I go, things can get "interesting." Being asked questions, needing to ask questions myself, having to explain to whomever I am in contact with that I'm Deaf and cannot read lips--it gets old and I'm often misunderstood.

The other day had yet another couple of "interesting" experiences. First, I had to go through a fast food drive through for my daughter. Yelling into the speaker and having my daughter "interpret" what was being said--it turned into a yelling match...and not a fun one (as we all know yelling matches can be).

"I want a french fry with cheese and a vanilla shake." I have no idea what they said back. All my daughter did was nod. "What size," I asked her.

"Huh?" was her excellent retort.

"What size shake do you want?"

"Oh. Medium."

"I need a medium vanilla shake." I yelled into the speaker.

My daughter asked, "A second one?"

"Huh?" It must run in the family.

"A second vanilla shake?"

"No. I need the first shake to be medium."

"And what size for the second shake?" the people on the speaker obviously yelled.

"There is no second shake!!!" I was getting pretty frustrated by this point. "I need a french fry with cheese and a medium vanilla shake."

My daughter looked at me and nodded. "OK."

"OK, what?"

"You're done. Please pull forward," she smiled. Man, did I want to hit someone!

Later that day, I took my son to Subway as a way to get out of the house--just the two of us. The place was packed and there were four or five workers frantically trying to keep up with the crowd.

I let my son go first and then it was my turn. I'd been there many times, so I thought I could guess the questions the worker was going to ask me. Wrong.

As he went down the line, he finally stopped and asked me a one-word question of which I had no idea. My son was ahead of my--taking care of his own order--and I didn't want to bother him. Again the worker asked me something....."______?"

"Neutral?" was the only word I could guesstimate from him.

"What??" He was very confused. "_______?"

"Squirrel?" I tried again. I'm very bad at lipreading, in case you haven't guessed yet.

Finally, I think I caused enough stir in the line that my son noticed my struggle. He turned to me, "Mom, do you want it toasted?" Ahhhhhh...........

"Toasted? Really?? Man, I really stink at this. No thank you." We finished our orders and sat down to eat. My son, who is always there to start a great conversation, looked at my for a long time.

"What?" I finally asked. "You look like you have a question on your mind." I said.

"Yeah. I was just wondering, is it hard being Deaf?"

Hmmm. I pondered this and finally answered, "It has its moments. Sometimes good, sometimes bad." I was trying to be nice. What I really wanted to say was with great sarcasm--is it hard being Deaf?

Just a little.........

Friday, February 28, 2014

Mouth Morphemes in ASL

If you're a serious student who wants to learn ASL, and you've passed at least ASL I and II, it's time to start learning some mouth morphemes. A mouth morpheme is the way your mouth should be shaped to convey different meanings and grammatical aspects of ASL. There are many mouth morphemes and  this truly is a very advanced part of ASL. I will go over a few well-known mouth morphemes that you should keep in mind while signing. Keep in mind that without photographs, this may be hard to understand. I recommend the book and video set entitled, “DEAF TEND YOUR,” or the video, “Mouth Morphemes.” Here are a few to keep in mind. In general, where the word is underlined in the example is where the mouth movement will be.

MOUTH MOVEMENT / DESCRIPTION / EXAMPLE:                        
CHA / big (height, length, size) / MOTHER WANT COFFEE LARGE
TH / clumsy, lousy  
Puffed Cheeks  / very fat, long ago, many / POINT JAPAN SUMO WRESTLER WOW FAT
Clenched teeth / very many, huge, smart, sexual climax, dark, dangerous / BELT (DARK) BROWN
Tongue out & down / not-yet, ugh, accident, lousy,  erratic, hungry, exaggerate / TEACHER NOT-YET COME CLASS
STA-STA / struggle, long process
Pursed lips / work hard, read carefully, sorry, hearing  person, persevere, secret
Pursed lips with twiggled nose / characteristic, the way it is
Puckered up lips (mmm) / write, drive, read, curious, medium-sized, comfortable / POINT SOFA COMFORTABLE
Puckered up lips with “AWFUL” sign / interesting, wow
FOR-FOR / what for, why, how come / I SIT TTY YOU COME BOTHER FOR FOR?
PAH / finally, big success
POWOO (Pow-oo) / stricken, forget, boom
WATT / don’t want, want  / MY WIFE DON’T-WANT EAT FISH
SOO tired, cold, dirty, delicious, good riddance, curious, close call
SOW / very cold, very tired, very hard, very embarrassed
FISH / finish, stop it / MY HOMEWORK FINISH
PUTT / tend, give in
POW / explode, hit hard, trigger a gun, repress, hot temper
SHH / use exceedingly, make out, poke fun, wild time 
MUM-MUM  / win an unbroken series of games, nab  many suspects
FK / skip work, ignore
PS-PS / fancy, chic

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Top Five Things You Should Know Before Learning ASL

1. It's not easy as some think it is.
Some people jump in high aspirations and have no real training in using ASL in their everyday things. You must go through school. We recommend at least a bachelors degree minimum. Many people call me up and ask me to do a program for their kids or at schools and these students (children and adults) always think that if they pass my beginning Sign class, they're qualified to work as an interpreter or something using ASL.

2. ASL is not universal.
ASL comes from French Sign Language (FSL) except many assume it's from British Sign Language, since the spoken language there is often English. Truth is most countries have their own sign language, which is full and beautiful and a bona fide language there. Mexican Sign Language, French Sign Language, Italian Sign Language, all legit languages. American Sign Language is used in North America and some of Canada (and sometimes a little of Mexico). And even within America, there are accents and variations. Words such as EARLY, BIRTHDAY, PIZZA, OUTSIDE, etc., are signed differently in West Michigan than, say, Texas. It's all different.

3. Facial expressions are grammatically necessary in ASL.
If you're not making facial expressions as you sign ASL, you're not signing the true language of ASL. There are necessary aspects of signing ASL that involve sticking out your tongue. blowing, lifting or lowering your eyebrows, etc. I've seen some great signing from high school music groups who try to play their music and sign ASL at the same time, but they don't have any expressions. Signing ASL has requirements--especially facially--and signers need to know that. There's more information on my web site about mouth morphemes and other such things. Check it out at

4. English Sign Language (ESL) is not the same as American Sign Language.
There are still many people who don't know the lingo. ESL is an English sign system created to help children to learn how to sign and read at the same time. However, ESL isn't a real language and I don't recommend learning that. It can be a bad experience and get you hooked on it. It's a signing system (not language) where students learn to sign every word, every part of a word, exactly as they'd speak in English. It's confusing and it takes a lot longer to express yourself. ASL has a life all its own.

5. Certification.
You will not know enough the first year or two to test for certification. No, I don't mean the first set of classes, I mean "year." It takes about seven years to become fluent in a new language. ASL is the same. You will require lots of practice, attending classes and workshops, reading, etc. To take the test to make you a certified interpreter, you'll have a written test and a signing test (both expressive--you sign what the hearing person is saying, and receptive--you speak what the Deaf person is signing) and they're quite difficult. There is state testing and then, if you want, there's national certification (which is the best option for someone wanting to interpret).

Friday, January 17, 2014


I really appreciate hearing people who know some signs--how they use what they know when they're around me. I know many--if not most--professionals I've been to, in addition to hiring an interpreter, seem to try a few phrases and work from there. They often ask me or my interpreter what the sign for such and such is and so forth.

What happens though is actually pretty amusing. I mean, yes, I should be respectful, and I am. But many of their efforts don't always come across quite the way it was meant to be.

My grandmother died a few years ago. I was able to attend her funeral and it was nice to be around family. As I sat down to wait for the service to begin, my younger sister sits down and slowly, with an evil expression, signs, I'M SATAN! Now, that's one being you do not want to have attending a funeral. (She meant to sign PARANOID about her weight.) After the service I was pretty broken up. My mom saw me crying and signed "ITS OK. GRANDMA NOW WITH QUEEN." I didn't even know she was British. (She meant to sign LORD.)

My DBT trainer has worked well with me and sometimes inquires about how to sign certain things. She asked to learn BIRTHDAY. A week later it was my birthday and my trainer wasted no time calling me a HAPPY MOTHERF*****." It was an honest mistake, but one that will last a lifetime in my head.

Finally, I taught a group of ASL students the sign for MORNING. Six out of 8 came back and started signing "F*** off" instead of a gentler "GOOD MORNING." Careful now.

So, learning signs can be fun, silly, and exciting. But beware--if you're not careful, you may end up wishing and calling people every name in the book. And I don't mean the Bible.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

"What Did You Say?"

I grew up with some hearing. Only one ear worked, but the one that worked, worked fairly well. So I spent my growing up years as a "hard of hearing hearie." I spoke and my hearing loss was mild enough that I didn't have any trouble speaking and learning new signs. It also left me able to sing, so I did community and professional musical theatre.

But time went on and, at the age of 29, I found myself stone deaf with absolutely no residual hearing whatsoever.

One thing I always enjoyed--other than live theatre--was English grammar. This includes pronunciations. I was a stickler for correct wording. But after I went deaf, pronunciations because a problem for me (for obvious reasons). We moved to a new state--with its own way of doing and saying things. I had to handle people saying, "Pop," instead of "soda," and seemingly trivial things like that. But how to say names of people, organizations, and even city names proved immensely difficult! My family would sit and laugh and laugh, because I pronounced "genre" as "gen-er," and not "johnrah." I thought they were setting me up and being mean when I found out "pilates," was not pronounced "pilots," or an autistic savant was not pronounced the same as "savage."

Yes, it's true that I'm not very skilled with pronunciations nowadays. It's darn impossible to know these things if I have no way of basing things in it.

I guess it's funny ,in a way, to the people who are listening. I'm just thankful that I use sign language and most of my deaf friends don't have a clue of how badly I speak. At least I try, right? I could just turn my voice off. That'd be the easy way. But I much prefer using my signs in public, saving my words to hearies who can then entertain themselves by embarrassing me.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Demons Be Gone!

I’m not one to mince words. I’ve been known to be more than a little paranoid. Sometimes even closing in on a disorder of being too paranoid. But one day at the library, I just knew I was being followed.

It started out with me sitting by their fireplace reading a book. I had my hair pulled up in a ponytail, so my lack on an ear on the right side of my head was pretty much visible. I wouldn’t say “Lack of an ear.” There’s something there on my head, but it’s a deformity and usually makes people a little uncomfortable. If it were up to me, I’d charge people to touch it and see how much money I could make. “Hey, come touch my deformed head! Only $2.00!” I have yet to try that tactic. Hmmmm…….

So, I’m at the library, reading, enjoying the fire, and Kenny (my hubby) approaches, signs a few things to me, I sign back and he leaves. That’s when I noticed some young boy (maybe 16 or 17 years old) watching me like a hawk. I’m used to staring, but this just have me the heebie jeebies. So, I got up and walked towards the books and where Kenny was.

This boy, too, got up and started slowly following me through the rows and rows of books. I finally found Kenny and said, “Kenny, someone is following me!” For once, he actually considered that it might be true and told me to just stay there with him. And that’s when the boy approached the two of us.

I don’t know his exact words, but the way Kenny interpreted, it seemed that this boy goes to a charismatic church and believed that he could cure my deafness through Christ’s power by a putting on of hands (or whatever you call it). I looked at Kenny; Kenny shrugged. I figured what the heck and said OK. So, the boy cups his hands over my ears, prays and says something and then yelled, “Demons be gone!” (snicker) He then asked if it worked. Alas, no, No difference. “Well, it usually takes a while. Just keep the faith,” and he disappeared off into the other realms of the library.

That was years ago and I’m still stone deaf. Seriously, I don’t believe that it would have worked. It’s just not what I believe in. But the purpose of this story would be to say to my husband that sometimes I’m NOT just being paranoid. Deaf people have weird encounters with the hearing world. This was just one of many.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Merry Christmas To All!

There is a video on YouTube with a young child signing, "The Night Before Christmas," in American Sign Language (subtitled for the signing impaired). Take a look and then have yourself the best two weeks of holiday you can muster.

(Don't miss out on this!)

"Night Before Christmas in ASL" -- captioned for the signing impaired. Take a look. Just clip the video above or this link: So Sweet!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Merry Christmas to All!

A Deaf Joke For Your Reading Pleasure...

There was deaf neat-nik, who moved into a new house where it was a dusty mess. She got out the cleaners and garbage bags and went to work. When she got to the attic, she dusted off a lamp and a genie popped out said, "Oh, master, what may I grant thee?" The deaf woman signed, "Give me hearing." The genie blinked his eyes and the woman could hear.

"This is amazing!" the woman said. "You blinked your eyes and now I can hear!" The genie replied, "Yes, that's how it works. You have 2 wishes left. What else do you want?"

The then hearing neat-nik said, "Well, you can clean the house to get rid of all this dust." Another blink and it was done. "The 3rd wish," says the hearing woman, "I will hold onto for a while."

Then BOOM!!! BANG!!! Various noises were coming from everywhere! The woman ran downstairs and her kids were fighting and yelling. They saw her and start doing the usual sign and talk, only she could hear them and it drove her batty. She decided to tell her husband, but when she walked into the room, he was screaming and yelling at the TV. The radio was blaring, too, and his friends were all there hooting and hollering. “Oh, it’s just the game, Honey,” he signed.

The next day, she went to her job and she could hear the copier, the printer, the people, the traffic, and more. She went back home and the house was a mess. She freaked out and finally told them that they didn't appreciate her. "Just once," she said, "I wish I could have a quiet and clean house!!!" All of a sudden, she saw the genie, who blinked his eyes. Instantly, she was deaf again, back in her cleaning clothes in her attic. The genie said, "Seems to me that is the only way to grant your wish." The once again deaf neat-nik says, “THANK YOU!!!!!”