Saturday, September 26, 2009


Yesterday morning, Kenny and I had the pleasure of visiting Byron Center Charter School to discuss deafness and hearing loss with the 5th and 6th graders. It was SO much fun! We didn't have a lot of time, but I signed (Kenny spoke) about terminology, myths, how we use all the neat technology, sign language (if course) and lipreading. I then gave them a paper with dB levels and what they can do to your hearing. On the flip side was the manual alphabet.

The thing I loved the most about this group was that they all had questions and many of them were so adorable. I met a boy who knew a friend who only caould hear six words. LOL They were specific words, too. I think he meant he could only SIGN them, but he was pretty adamant about the fact that he could only hear them. Go figure!

Many of the kids knew a little sign and were excited to share. I got asked the usual:

"Can you drive?"
"Do your hands get tired?"
"Can you work?"
"How can you talk?" (I spoke for a short time to describe something Kenny wasn't comfortable interpreting for me)

When I told them I could drive, one boy asked how I was supposed to hear a horn honking at me. I told him the truth: I'm a perfect driver and would never need to worry about that. LOL

All in all, it really made my day. Good group and good fun.

Saturday, September 19, 2009


Sitting in the front row of the auditorium, I eagerly await my childs turn in the talent show. All the other mothers are clapping their hands to the beat and cheering their little one on, the first to rise and cheer with a standing ovation when the song ends. I stretch my neck to see if I can see backstage and find my daughter looking timid and scared. Oh, how I wish I could run up there and wrap my arms around her. Everyone returns to his or her seat as my child takes center stage and begins to croon her tune. She looks so nervous and her eyes search me out. I try to sway back and forth, indicating that Im enjoying the performance, but, in reality, I cant hear a thing and dont even know If the songs tempo is fast or slow. As I watch her, I try to keep a lookout from the corner of my eye to see when people may be getting ready to clap. I want to be the first one to stand up, giving her the standing ovation I feel she deserves, no matter how the show turns out. I struggle to enjoy the entire situation. Its a lot of hard work to try to keep up and I have the sinking feeling others are talking about the poor girls Deaf mother.

Walking through the mall with my four-year-old in tow, we pass a man handing out balloons. He mumbles something to me that I do not understand and then bends down to chat with my son. My son has not yet comprehended the concept that, even though hes not speaking directly to me, he should still sign if Im standing with him. So he and this complete stranger have a conversation, which involves giggles on my sons part, playfulness on this mans part and overall delight. In the meantime, I stand there feeling like an idiot because I havent a clue what this guy is telling my kid and I secretly feel like a third wheel. The man stands up, mutters something about the conversation to me. I smile and mouth the words Thank you, while signing. His eyes bulge out of his head, obviously just now realizing my deafness. As he hurries away, I can almost see him give my son a look of pity for having a Deaf mother.

Sitting on my bed with my TTY pulled to me, I am typing to an important client. My children rush in, jump onto the bed and start poking me in the shoulder so hard that I grow welts. I tell them to shush and to go away and then I try to ignore them. That, of course, does no good. A few more welts and some pretty nasty bruises, I finally turn to them and assertively tell them that Mama is on the phone and to get out of my room until Im finished. They leave, but as I turn back to this highly important conversation, I realize I have missed something and do not know what has been said. I sheepishly explain that I missed part of the conversation and the client repeats it with annoyance. I hang up the phone thinking I have one less client who has confidence in my ability.

These are just three examples of the difficulties involved in motherhood as a Deaf woman. Things many people take for granted are sometimes simply not applicable to a family affected by deafness.  Some people may take it to mean that a mother who cannot hear does not have the capabilities of loving and caring for her children as well as a hearing person. Some may even believe that were not intelligent enough to pull it off. But the fact of the matter is, mothering is difficult whether youve got all five senses or absolutely none. But lets take another look at being a Deaf mother of a hearing child and see if its really as disadvantaged as some may think

In the Kindergarten class, everyone is allowed to invite their parent to do something special on their birthday. Some moms bring in a cake and sing, Happy Birthday, others pass out party favors and decorate the room. All of these are wonderful ideas! But I bring in cake and ice cream, I decorate the room with balloons, I hand out toys to take home and play with, and just before we bring out the presents, I teach the entire class how to sing, Happy Birthday, in sign language! Everyone is thrilled to have learned how to speak with their hands and my childs birthday is the hit of the year! Now, that takes the cake!

Sitting at my daughters high school graduation, she is to be the student speaker for her class. My daughter has always had quite a shy streak and I can see that she is visibly anxious as she leafs through the pages of her speech. She raises her head and gives me a forced smile as she stands to address the audience. A few minutes into her speech she is frantically searching for the right words, but they arent coming to her. But see, Id seen her speech a hundred times and I knew it like the back of my hand. She desperately glances over at me and I begin to sign her speech to her, subtly, with my hands low and out of view of the other audience members. She reads my signs and slowly the speech comes back to her. She is able to finish and even ends with the reception of a standing ovation! Now tell me, how many hearing parents can do that?

It has nothing to do with a lack of love or ability or worth. Whether you are Deaf, Hard of Hearing, or hearing, being a mother takes special kinds of skills. You have to be able to love with all of your heart. You have to be able to give of yourself without keeping score. You have to be able to watch your little angel grow from a helpless, dependent infant, into a strong and capable adult. Being a mother is hard work. Being a Deaf mother is even harder. But the one who loves the most and who loves the most freely is the mother who will endure all. And thats what makes all the difference.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


If you're like me, you think the movie "Mr. Holland's Opus" is awesome. And shame on you if you've never watched it. It's an excellent movie and an excellent example of how learning sign language doesn't necessarily hinder your verbal ability.

When they first find out their son is deaf, they go the medical route. You know, ENTs who say that they need to only speak and not sign. Well, that doesn't work because the boy can't hear anything and the parents can't communicate with him. Frustration abounds.

So they decide to check out a school for the Deaf that uses total communication. This (TC) is my preference. More about that later. Anyway, the mom and the son learn sign language and are able to communicate without any problems. The dad, on the other hand, doesn't take as much initiative (I think he's in denial and hoping the deafness will just go away). But the son uses sign language as a teenager. He doesn't speak, but that doesn't mean he can't speak.

At the end of the movie, you see the son grown up and speaking and signing at the same time. A great triumph for the Deaf community--we can rub their noses in it and say/sign, "See, I told you so!"

Let me be clear hear. I am not against the oral method. If the child is hard of hearing or moderately deaf and  hearing aids help, I say go for it. I would still add sign though. However, if the child is profoundly or severely deaf and benefits very little (if at all) from hearing aids, why not take the total communication route? To be honest, if I had my perfect situation, I would have the child in a school that taught ASL. But that's just me. I see TC as a very valuable way of helping the children understand things and still feel part of the group.

So let's see what you have to say. I'm sure there are plenty who disagree. Let's "hear" it!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


We all know that there is a common misperception among hearing people that, the more you enunciate, the easier it is to lipread. Now, i'm one of the many who can't lipread no matter what. Even if I'm trying to lipread myself in the mirror--and I KNOW what I'm saying--I still couldn't do it. :v)

This morning I went into the gas station to get myself a soda and I wasn't sure of the cost because the signs were contradictory. So, because I didn't have $2 to just give them and wait for change, I had to ask. I wrote neatly on a piece of paper, how much do I owe you. 

Answer: mumble mumble

I wrote "I'm deaf and I don't lipread, please write or show me the screen."

And that's when it happened. Something I will have nightmares about for years and years to come. She opened her overly moist mouth and very largely and deliberately started moving her lips. I had no idea a human mouth could open so wide. If she were to kiss me, I would have lost my face. I counted three cavities. I'm talking Post Traumatic Stress Disorder therapy here, guys. It was downright scary.

So, for those of you who are reading this and are hearing, do NOT overenunciate. We don't want to see your dental work. I'm sure it's very nice though.

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Controversial Cochlear Implant

I'm not here to debate right and wrong. I just go finished watching an old (2008) copy of "Sweet Nothings In My Ear." If you've seen it, you'll recall it's about a family with a deaf son. The father (hearing) finds out about the CI and brings it up to his month (deaf). Not surprisingly, they have differing views on the matter.

This movie is an excellent one and must-see for anyone interested in or working with the deaf and hard of hearing. Marlee Matlin is awesome, as usual, and Jeff Daniels (in my opinion) does a really good job at signing for someone who learned as an adult. 

What do I think about cochlear implants. Well, let me tell you....

I was born with only one ear. I grew up being able to hear fairly well out of the other ear until I lost all hearing whatsoever. The doctors tried to force a CI on me. Not knowing better and not being educated, I went with the flow. I got my CI in April of 2000 and it was a complete failure. I couldn't hear a thing. They had failed to test my auditory nerves. So now I'm stone deaf and I've had my CI removed (happily).

I am not one to criticize adults who want to get an implant and see what happens. I do, however, have a slight problem with adults who force small children (even babies) to have the procedure done. I think that each person should be able to decide for themselves...including kids. Which means they should be old enough to know what they're getting themselves into.

Cochlear implants are not some miracle cure. You'll always be deaf. But if you're hearing loss is substantial and you can't seem to fit in in other ways (seriously studying sign language or lipreading), then it's up to you. Just don't drag kids into it. Let them decide and make sure it's THEM deciding and not coaching from you. That's just this deafie's opinion.

Sunday, September 6, 2009


On August 22, 2009, Deaf Expressions had it's very first Religious Sign Language workshop. We were very happy with how many people showed up (20) and hope to repeat the workshop in the future.

The workshop started off with Michele talking about Deaf Culture and building a Deaf Ministry in your church. Lots of information about the do's and dont's of signing in church. 

After that, we moved onto four pages of vocabulary. We learned signs from ASCENT to WORSHIP and tried to make sure all students, from seasoned professionals to beginning students, stayed informed and entertained. 

Once we were done with that, we learned to sign hymns in SIgn Language. From "Jesus Loves Me" to "Lord, I Lift Your Name on High" to "Holy, Holy, Holy," we learned about six hymns and it was a lot of fun. The interpreter students who wanted to, broke off into a group and practiced signing them together to perform for the group. It was a lot of fun.

So thanks to all who attended! I hope you had as much fun as Kenny and I had teaching it. Although I think Kenny could have gone without singing for the group. (smile).


Hey! What about me? Every morning at 9 AM, I sit down to watch Regis Phillbin and Kelly Ripa on "Live with Regis and Kelly." And every day they spin the wheel and call someone they've chosen out of a box of pictures. All that person has to do is answer a question regarding something that happened on the previous show and they are whisked away to a wonderful week-long retreat in exotic places. Nice, huh?
Well, not for us deafies. How would they call us. You know they'd never go through the VRS or TTY services. That means we're left out in the dirt. No vacation for you. What a bummer! If only I was hearing, I would be sipping Pina Colodas and enjoying the sun in Hawaii or Bermuda at just this very moment.

OK. OK. I realize that there's a SMALL possibility that I wouldn't know the answer, but it's so minute and it really doesn't matter, now, does it. I'm deaf. That means I'm excluded. I'm excluded from many things and, man, it ticks me off. I want to prance around their broadcasting station with a shirt on that reads, "I count, too!"

Alas, it will probably never happen. But just think of all the things you miss out on in the vast majority of life just because you can't hear something. Doesn't make us dumber or slower or more insignificant. No way! We're smarter than the average bear, as the cartoon character would say. So I slam my hand down on the table and flick the lights 70 times. Damn you! Include the deaf and hard of hearing. WE COUNT.

OK. I feel better. Getting off my soapbox.............