Saturday, December 8, 2012


Forever gone are the days of phone booths and having to actually go and see the person you want to contact, because there’s no way for you to reach them. Here instead are such things as cell phones, video relay centers, and vibrating alarms. And, to make things even more bewildering. As fast as you can learn how to use these things, there will be updates and even newer technology to deal with.

Don’t get me wrong—I love technology. I mean, having a way to contact people while I’m out and about is an unbelievable relief. As with most deaf people, there was a time when flat tires and car accidents left us stranded with no where to turn.

Although there’s tons of things to help the deaf and hard of hearing get through life now (doorbell signalers, door knock flashers, baby cry alerts, vibrating alarm clocks, flashing fire alarms and more), one thing seems to have changed the most for us: using the phone.

Years ago, TTYs and TDDs were the way to contact people directly. If the other person didn’t have a TTY or TDD, for example, if they were hearing, the deaf and hard of hearing would call the relay center to help with the contact. We’d type. Then the center would read what we typed to the other person. They’d respond and the center would then type to us what was being said. It was great for what it was, and some people and companies do still use them, but at times it could be terribly slow and quite impersonal.

Now, text cell phones do the trick, but there’s been one improvement many people rate as top notch—the ability to use Sign Language to communicate over the phone. I’m serious! How? Video Phones (VP), computers, and even some cell phones now offer that capability.

If two people have VPs, they can simply dial directly and have a nice “face to face” conversation with each other. This can also be done through computer instant messaging programs, other computer programs such as Skype, and even your cell phone.
But now, thanks to Video Relay Services (VRS), if only the deaf or hard of hearing have VPs and they need to reach someone who doesn’t, they can still use Sign Language and call on a home-based phone line.

It works in much the same way as TTY Relay Centers work. The deaf person dials the phone number for whomever he or she is calling and is immediately connected with some an interpreter at the VRS. The interpreter there then signs with the deaf person “face to face.” VRS connects the deaf to the target person, the deaf person signs or uses his voice (whichever he’s more comfortable with), the ‘terp tells the other person what was signed (if the deaf person isn’t using Voice Carry Over—VCO), the other person responds in their regular phone and the ‘terp signs to the deaf what was said. Confusing” Maybe at first, but once you’ve done it a few times it’s pretty much a godsend.

So, technology really has come a long way for deaf and hard of hearing people. I, for one, am excited to see what comes next!

Monday, November 19, 2012

TMI, Here….T. M. I

Ever had the feeling that all eyes were on you? Just when you actually want discreetness, people’s glances seem to gravitate to you and you just want to crawl into a hole and disappear. This happens fairly often for those deaf and hard of hearing people who use sign language. I mean, they can’t go out in public and chat with their friends without getting a few fascinated eyes on them. It’s inevitable.

Having this happen when you’re having dinner or walking around the mall isn’t really that much of a nuisance. After all, one tends to get used to it. But what happened to me last week is not really the kind of thing you get used to. Now, how do I start describing what happened?…Let’s see…OK. It involved a doctor’s office, feminine itching, a doctor, an intern, a nurse, an interpreter, a husband, a speculum, oh, and lube.

I’d been having some trouble…down there…for a few days and wanted to make sure it wasn’t anything serious. The doctor’s office I go to has their own set of interpreters and I always seem to get the one ‘terp I dislike. I don’t know why I dislike her so much, but I do. And, as I’m sure you can agree, you don’t want people you dislike looking at your crotch.

When I arrived that morning, the intake nurse took my information and had me undress. The doctor then came in and we chatted about ponies and mistletoe, Stonehenge and, oh yeah, vaginal irritation. It wasn’t such an odd conversation, surprisingly, and I think that’s the one thing that baffled me.

Dr: How’s it going today?
Me: Well, to tell you the truth, I’m pretty darn uncomfortable.
Dr: Any discharge?
Me: Not that I know of.
Dr: I’m going to have to take a look.
Me: You mean I have to show it to you?
Dr: ‘Fraid so. But office policy states that I need to have a female nurse in here with me. OK?
Me: (long pause) Tell you what. I’ll show you my vagina if you promise to buy me dinner later.
Dr: Hey, that’s my line.


Ten minutes later, the doctor, the nurse, and another relatively tall man walked in.

Dr: I have an intern working with me today. Is it OK if he observes?
Me: Why not? The more the merrier.

Now, this was a very small room. Everyone was crammed in and, because of this, the interpreter had to stand to the side of the table instead of next to the doctor. This was actually helpful in the way that I didn’t need her looking at my privates. However, the way everyone was positioned, I was looking at the ‘terp upside down.

This made everything a little difficult. I couldn’t understand much of what she was signing to me, but it was too uncomfortable to ask for many repeats. So, she would sign, I would nod and mumble, “OK,”(BAD ME!!) and the doctor would proceed.

Dr: I need to use the speculum so I can see better.
What I Caught: I NEED BETTER
Me: OK (Nodding and smiling—even though I hadn’t a clue)
Dr: Jamming a freezing piece of metal into an orifice that just wasn’t ready for that.
Me: Ahhhhhhhh!
Everyone In The Room: (Gasping) Are you OK?!?!?
Me: Oh, I’m dandy. Maybe when you’re finished, I could introduce you all to my parents and we could reminisce about this moment.

Sometimes no one gets my humor.

Luckily, the exam didn't go on too long and the problem I'd been having wasn't anything serious. They were all up and out pretty quickly. Sadly, the only person who wanted to shake my hand as they left was the one that had been digging for treasure a moment ago. 

But there you have it. Too much information? Maybe, but a learning moment? No doubt. Here's the gist of it...

Don’t say, “OK,” when you’re absolutely clueless and when laying down with your feet in stirrups and an audience looking at a part of you that wasn’t meant to be on display. And, above all, if you must go to the doctor and he must look at your Vertical Smile, don’t forget to bring some champagne and flowers to set the mood.

Friday, October 5, 2012

I Had The Right To Remain Silent…At Least I Think I Did…

Some things just don’t happen every day: You finding $100 in your wallet, Tom Hanks personally requesting you to co-star with him in his next Oscar-worthy movie, or your being arrested and formally charged with a DUI when you don’t even drink. Sure, a couple of those things would be wonderful to happen, but handcuffs and police stations make watching Joan Rivers’ face more appealing.

A few weeks ago, I started the day like any other. After getting everyone ready for school and forcing them to eat some breakfast whether they were hungry or not, I set off to drop my kids at their wonderful charter school. On my way home, I became parched and decided to stop at a near-by gas station to get one of my guilty pleasures of sweetened iced tea.

However, starting to pull out of the parking lot, I became distracted and very gently bumped the back bumper of the car in front of me.  With absolutely no damage whatsoever, the guy in that car insisted on having the police come to make a report. I think that was because he felt awkward dealing with a deafie and also I was acting slightly inebriated since I can’t lipread and they didn’t even understand that I was Deaf in the first place.

When the police did finally arrive at the scene, I got out of my van and started staggering around. I simply couldn’t stand up straight. I get this way when standing after sitting for a while. But it sure didn’t look like I was experiencing momentary dizziness to everyone around me! In fact, I’m sure I looked completely dead-on drunk!

Then, the officer approached me and started asking me questions. I must have informed him that I was completely deaf a million times. I also told him I couldn’t lipread and had no idea what he was saying. He pondered this for about two seconds, and then continued talking to me in exactly the same manner as before. Ugh!

I took the Breathalyzer test, which showed 0 alcohol in my body, but even that didn’t seem to matter much. I believe he read me my rights as he handcuffed me, put me in his car, and took me to jail, but there’s no way I could have understood him. Nothing was written down for me and no interpreter was present. Is that even legal? Doesn’t the rights he probably read me include a, “Do you understand these rights,” at the end? Because if he did read them to me, I surely didn’t understand. In fact, that entirely morning/experience, left me understanding absolutely nothing!

I could go on and on about what happened that day, but with a case of severe memory loss and the fact that they had me in custody for hours and hours before an interpreter showed up at the jail, (meaning I was confused and completely ignorant to anything anyone said), it wouldn’t be extremely informative.

But here I am, charged with a DUI when I don’t even drink or do drugs. They’ve even informed me that I could be facing thousands of dollars in fines and jail time to serve if convicted!

I arrived at my first court appearance and, again, there was no interpreter scheduled. We all had to wait around for more than an hour, after informing the clerk of my ‘terp needs, for one to even show up. Grrrrr…… And now they’re waiting for my blood labs to be done and reported (they did a blood/alcohol test, which will unquestionably come back as 0). Then they want to see me in court again. My hope, of course, is that they’ll dismiss the charges and leave me alone. And they’d better remember to schedule a ‘terp this time around.

So, as you can see, being Deaf and working with the police, especially if they don’t comprehend what special needs a Deaf person might have, is nothing but a big pain in the butt! Maybe this all has a reason though. Didn’t someone once say that everything happens for a reason? Maybe this is all a way of insisting I stop drinking copious amounts of sweetened tea. When you think about it, if I’d never stopped for my guilty pleasure, I would have simply gone home and enjoyed the rest of the day.

Let’s just hope that all of this takes care of itself as quickly as possible. I don’t experience worry and stress all that well. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


Having no money and three months of summer to spend in the house with three adolescent kids can equal quite a bit of frustration and boredom. Oh, I’ve done my share of  drolling out chores or taking them to the park, but the park gets old after a while and chores, well, let’s just say that doesn’t exactly make the complaining stop.  Luckily, we were blessed with a little spending money the other day, so Kenny and I decided to take the family on an outing to the local roller skating rink.

I used to roller skate all the time as a kid. I was hell on wheels. Skating around my neighborhood, up and down the parking lots (we lived across the street from an elementary school) and around the playgrounds, I could really get my groove thing on. I was hot. Then I grew up. Or rather, I grew old. I tried roller skating again a year ago and fell flat on my face—which is unusual since most people actually fall on their butt. So, this time around, I brought my Nook to read while the others got their groove thing on and I decided I’d just observe.

That place was loud! How do I know? Well, when you can feel pounding in your chest from outside in the lobby, you know you’re in for a treat to your eardrums. I needn’t worry about that though, right? I just found myself a seat and preceded to enjoy feeling my entire body vibrate to rap songs for the bulk of the evening.

After getting everyone situated, they all took off to have some fun. Two of my kids made their way to the beginner’s circle and sat there. They were too intimidated by all the people—scared it would turn into some sort of roller derby on wood. They saw that I was looking at them, so they started talking to me.

”There’s too many people here,” my daughter, Natalie, signed to me.

“Just stay close to the outside and you’ll be fine,” I signed back.

Next, my son chimed in: “Look at me! I can skate on one foot! AHHH!” He fell with a smack onto the floor. But he was still proud.

After making sure he wasn’t dying or didn’t have a concussion, I turned my attention to Kenny and the oldest, Mollie. They were getting down, going around the rink at lightning speed. I tried to talk with them. They tried to watch me…until they ran into the person on their side and knocked them down. Then it DID become a roller derby of sorts. But still—we had our “secret language!” I could communicate with any one of them from where I sat (safely)—something other moms and onlookers couldn’t do.

Sure, it caused accidents and broken limbs and lots of dirty looks. But don’t all good things? The point is, I like my language. I can use it anywhere. And, most of the time, the results are very promising and good. OK. Maybe once in a while its use results in a trip to the ER. Geez. Judge much? It’s a good thing (Not the ER—the signing). I like it. And at the roller rink I got to witness it in full motion.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


Being invited to a party isn’t something that regularly occurs for me. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m kind of reclusive and keep most of my socializing at home. People don’t know my face as well as they know my name from Deaf Expressions and such. But I was invited to a party with Kenny and I was a little reluctant. I mean, I would be the only deaf person there. Sure, Kenny would be there and he always happily interprets for me, but this party was to have a bunch of his friends and I didn’t want to make him interpret the entire time. Hence, I knew that there would be times when I would be on my own.

Prepared with a pen and notebook to write to people when necessary, I bundled up the nerve to get out of the car and approach the house with Kenny that night. It was a beautiful house. Small, but very nice and I knew the people who lived there, the people having the party, were nice, too. Kathy and Jack had socialized with Kenny and me a few times. Well, not Jack. He always seemed to have somewhere else to be. But Kathy tried to have conversations when she dropped off her kid to play with my kid or I saw her at school. Mostly it was just a wave of the hand though.

Being at the party was pretty cool. I like dancing. No, there wasn’t actual dancing, but I got to see a move that I think teenagers would get a kick out of and maybe make into the new fad thing to do on the dance floor.

Just like any other party, Kenny and I would approach people and they would smile and we would smile and they would speak and Kenny would interpret to me what they said and they would begin bowing. Yes, that’s right: Bowing. But before the bowing, this huge smile would come on their faces. Much like the Joker in Batman. Their eyes would widen like a deer in the headlights, too. Now, put this huge smile and these bug eyes together and you get something not unlike what you would see in a horror film right before this smiling person stabbed you to death. Kind of a Chucky the Doll sort of thing.

But smiling and opening your eyes so wide they almost fall out of their head wasn’t enough. I could tell that, as soon as they realized there was a deafie in their midst, they needed the conversation to be over as soon as possible. This is when the bowing would begin. It happened the same way every single time: They would say something very short. Next, they’d watch Kenny interpret it. Then they’d watch me for my reaction. Finally they’d start nodding and bowing. Ta-da! They’d appear to say! Mission accomplished! I communicated with the Deaf chick! I am a saint! IT IS FINISHED! Then they’d start to slowly back away (bowing as they backed up, of course) until they bumped into someone else. Having to apologize (but of course—that’s the right thing to do), they’d turn to that other person, start a conversation, and that would be the end of it. Goodbye.

After a few of these encounters, I assured Kenny it was fine for him to go chat with some old friends and I found myself a comfy chair and huge alcoholic beverage and proceeded to sit there, doodling in my notebook. Every now and then someone would come up to me and start to talk. I would give them my biggest smile, letting them know I was Deaf, but had pen and paper to write on if we needed it, and watch them slowly bow away. It got to be so much that I felt like royalty. All I needed was a purple sash and one of those Princess rings you can get on QVC for only $29.95.

The party wasn’t a complete waste of time. Not at all. I’m glad we went. Kenny got to chat up some old friends and it looked like he had a blast. And I got to practice my doodling skills while imagining I was married to Prince Kenny and living in the Royal Shack. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012


How Smoking and Nutrition Affect Your Hearing

Hearing is one of the five basic senses that perceive and interpret the world around us. When there is something physically or neurologically wrong with the way the brain receives sensory information, it can affect your behavior, reactions and quality of life. The choices you make can affect your hearing. When you choose to stay in an environment that hurts your ears or when you pick unhealthy habits such as smoking, you can make your current hearing issues worse.

Role that Smoking Plays in Hearing Loss

Many people believe that hearing loss is a normal part of the aging process, but recent research that was performed on teenagers exposed to secondhand smoke at home showed they were more likely to have sensorineural hearing loss than those who hadn’t. . Sensorineural hearing loss is a problem with the inner ear that occurs if the hair follicle receives an injury or dies. This type of hearing loss is common in seniors and cannot be reversed.

These teenagers had problems with every sound frequency tested but particularly the mid-to-high frequency ranges that are essential for understanding what you hear. Those with the greatest exposure to cigarette smoke had low frequency losses as well. Smoke restricts the blood vessels and results in less blood flow to the ears, but additional research performed on animals also showed there are nicotine receptors in the hair follicles. If smoke binds to those receptors, it creates a toxic situation that can destroy the hair follicle and cause hearing loss and other problems.

Role of Nutrition

While smoking or being exposed to second hand smoke can contribute to your need for a  hearing aid, , research has also looked at the role that nutrition plays. Hearing loss coincides with low levels of calcium and low bone density. Other studies have looked into B-12 deficiency and inadequate levels of folate. B-12 affects the neurological and vascular systems connected to hearing. When B-12 and folate are low, homocysteine is high. That can interfere with circulation and damage the nerves in the inner ear.

What You Can Do

Aging and loud noises certainly play into hearing loss, but you are not helpless to make a difference. Incorporating healthy living into your life can reverse middle ear tendencies to retain fluid and stop further deterioration of your inner ear. If you currently smoke, consider entering a program that can help you to stop. If you’ve living a sedentary lifestyle, search out ways to become more active. Daily exercise will help to increase bone density and help the body hang onto more calcium.

Studying nutritional principles and changing your dietary habits can also help. B-12 is found in dairy products, and folate comes in dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach. As research into hearing loss continues to unfold, it’s becoming more obvious that many of the problems associated with aging are not actually connected to aging at all. When you take the steps to avoid toxins and boost nutrition and
exercise today, you can avoid further hearing problems tomorrow.

John O'Connor is a father, husband, lover of sports and the outdoors and new found blogger.  He is passionate about healthy aging and living a healthy lifestyle especially in terms of hearing loss.  He feels hearing loss is a major problem and that it is important to spread awareness due to the lack of understand around the issue.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


If you’re interested in an easy and enjoyable read regarding deafness in a fiction book, we have a book for you!

“Turn A Deaf Ear,” by Janet Fiore Horger & Linda Sanders, is a great story of one woman’s struggle to conquer prejudices. It’s also a courageous story of crossing barriers, and standing up to do the right thing, regardless of personal danger. The reader is given a glimpse of this woman’s experience, and flies at a breakneck pace through her first person narrative. Finally, it is a story of love, and how no obstacle is large enough to prevent true love.

I loved the story, and appreciate how she dealt with her powerful mother. I also enjoyed how she twisted some fiction into the story with a very plausible situation. As the husband of a Deaf person I can relate how living as an integrated couple, one often has opportunities to educate others in the reality of Deaf Culture, and explain how love can overcome anything. And these authors accomplish this with full impact.

If you'd like, you can read more about this book at  <> and its Amazon page: 

Michele and I definitely recommend this book to you. In fact, we have a deal for you! If you’re interested in receiving a free copy of, “Turn A Deaf Ear,” simply leave a comment below with your email address and, on July 15th, we will randomly choose one winner to receive a free copy and contact them by email! So don’t hesitate! Comment now! You’ll be glad you did.

Thursday, June 21, 2012


I was sitting around watching that wonderful game show, “Family Feud,” with Kenny the other day and a commercial came on that caught my eye. It was for a hearing aid apparatus that’s supposively so much better than an actual hearing aid, because everyone around you can’t see it. There was one problem with this commercial and that problem was the reason I only found one problem: It wasn’t captioned. I had no idea what they were saying, so I couldn’t point out the many other problems that I’m sure were there.

Now, how is a person who is struggling to hear supposed to appreciate a commercial that swears to help them hear better if they have no idea whatsoever what they’re talking about? This annoyed me to no end, so I went online to the website they provided to find the Customer Service email address. Wouldn’t you know? No email. Call only. Again, I ask you, how’s a person supposed to ask a question by phone if they need their apparatus to begin with? Am I the only one who sees the irony in this?

And this isn’t the first time I’ve seen (SEEN) a commercial about hearing “help” that wasn’t captioned and didn’t provide anything but a website and phone number. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

I won’t even go down that road that the “apparatus” was stupid anyway. Seriously, if a person needs a hearing aid, and there’s some little doohickey that swears it can do the same thing (AND conceal it) for $29.95, who’s going to spend $200 on a hearing aid? Silly, if you ask me.

What’s my point? If you have something to tell the hard of hearing community, and you want to do it on television, uh, captioning might be something to consider. Duh!

Friday, June 15, 2012


She walked into my class. I knew her, because I’ve worked with her before. Over and over again, in fact. Even though she’s got a great amount of enthusiasm, her hands never seemed to work well with her mind. She worked hard and I admired her for that—but hard work just wasn’t seeming to be the answer for this particular student.

Still, she wanted to forge on, and, after a short hiatus, decided to take up one of my classes to get back in the signing swing of things. I was happy to see her—if not a little worried and hesitant.

One of the things I’d noticed before when working with her is that her hands would never make the correct handshape. This was probably caused by her nervousness and definitely caused a problem when she went to sign such things as SOON (which can be signed by tapping a horizontal “F” on the chin a few times) and used a vertical “B” instead (the sign for BITCH)—and other similarly confusing variations.

But there she was—the last person to enter the classroom—looking just as nervous as she had before. Oh, she tried to hide this though. As we began to introduce ourselves, everyone did a good job and allowed Kenny (my hearing husband and interpreter) relay what they were saying. Not her. When it was her turn, she smiled deviously and signed,

“Hi. I’m P-R-I-A-N-C-M…” (KRISTEN). She went on to do her last name, but it wasn’t even recognizable. That was OK for me since I already knew her name. Telling the class a little about herself, however, was quite confusing. I couldn’t understand a word she signed and kept wondering if it would be rude for me to look over at Kenny to get his interpretation when she was “signing” it herself. But when that nightmare was finished, I found myself right smack dab in the middle of another one.

“Who knows their ABC’s?” I asked the class. Three out of 18 raised their hand. “Great! Let’s have the three of you come to the front of the class and show us all how it’s done.” I wanted to encourage those who said they knew them, and show those who did not yet know that it was a conquerable feat. But as the three began to do it, Kristen wasn’t exactly setting a good example. She looked like her hand had fallen asleep and she was trying to wake it up. If she had been one to actually set the bar for the rest of the class, our game of Limbo wouldn’t have gone very far. It was scary, folks. It was clear she had a disorder—not necessarily a physical one, but a disorder in her mind that told her that she actually already knew this stuff.

But how do you approach an eager former and present student and tell them,

“Hey, I know you think you know this stuff, but…uh…you’re not even close. Seriously, if you’d been one of my interpreters here in Michigan, I would have packed my bags and moved to Spain”?

I would never want someone to give it up, but the sad fact was that she thought it important that it appear to her other classmates that she knew more than anyone else. That’s not true though. I know for a fact that her other classmates were so engrossed in learning it for themselves that they wouldn’t have cared either way.

As classes went on, I thought this would stop, since it was clear that we were getting into material way over her head. Yet it didn’t change. She didn’t want to practice in front of the others. She didn’t want to write things down as reminders. Each class period got worse and worse.

It’s a sad example of someone’s pride getting in the way of the possibility of doing something great. Really mastering something. Showing yourself that, yes, you can be successful! But that’s not what happened with Kristen. And it’s truly saddening. If she had only been open to being a “beginner”. Nope. She had to to want to look like she’d hit “advanced” from the start. Trust me, “advanced” will never be the reality for someone who doesn’t open their mind and relax a little. Unless you’re describing their level of ignorance.

Sunday, June 10, 2012


As a sign language teacher, I get contacted by many people who want to learn ASL as quickly as possible. Some want to learn just for the fun of it; others, so they can cuss out the people who make them mad without it resulting in them getting their face smashed in; still others are homeschoolers looking for a foreign language credit. But one of the most popular reasons for coming to Deaf Expressions to learn to sign is so they can become a professional interpreter.

This is a very admirable reason. The world would be a much brighter place if there were more certified sign language interpreters out there. But what most potential ‘terps don’t realize is that being an interpreter takes serious study and a good amount of time. Oh, sure—I’ve had my share of interpreters who went from knowing nothing about ASL and the Deaf Culture to trying to interpret in such places as the church service at my church in a matter of weeks or a couple of months. But trust me, these were scary experiences.

There are a lot of people who also don’t realize the difference between church interpreting—where anyone can get up there and wiggle their hands around—and professional interpreting—where you actually have to take a few challenging and in-depth exams (written and performance) and become certified before you can go out and wiggle those hands around for pay. NOTE: This blog post is not to encourage any old person to get out there and start signing sermons. The whole purpose of doing so is to attract deaf people to attend the service, not to confuse them and create a large amount of reluctance and hesitance to attend.

The thing you gotta remember is that ASL is not simply “English on the hands,” and learning ASL is not about being good at charades or mime. ASL is a foreign language—a complete language just like German or French—and is by no means easy to learn.

It’s also important to realize that, even if you do learn to sign and become pretty darn good at it, signing is by no means the same as interpreting. If you don’t quite understand my point, turn on your TV set to the local news and attempt to sign what the newscasters are saying as they are saying it. Be sure to keep up. Sign as they’re speaking and don’t fall behind. Sound easy to you? Show me. I have serious doubts, unless you’ve been signing for a long time, that this task is conquerable.

So, when people ask me if they’ll be certified to sign after my eight-week class (or even my 28-week course), it can become a little tedious to explain the path a wanna-be professional interpreter must take. I mean, really: Do you think if you took one semester of Japanese in college, you could go out and become a professional translator? Of course not.

But don’t let this stop you if ‘terping is what you want to do. We want you—we need you—but expect the road to be a bit bumpy and even winding. Expect to take your time. Expect to study for years. If you do that and you push yourself through the ups and downs, expect your career to be rewarding and fun. Adventurous even. It’s worth it. Just don’t be in such a hurry.

Monday, June 4, 2012


I like what I do. Teaching people about hearing loss and American Sign Language is a lot of fun for me. Usually I do this through three different avenues: American Sign Language and homeschooling classes, workshops of various kinds, and private or semi-private tutoring. Can’t say I prefer one above the other. The mere fact that there are people willing to pay to hear me speak amazes me to no end. Of course, I’m sure there are three times as many people out there who would pay me shut up, but I haven’t asked for them to contact me with their donation. Yet. The way our finances are, maybe that’s the avenue I should be pursuing. But to find people who’ll pay me to be quiet, I have to make a little noise first—and that’s what I did on Friday.

My youngest child’s in the 6th grade. Or at least she is for the next three days until school is out for the year. Last year, when my son was in the same 6th grade class, Kenny (who acts as my interpreter) and I went to his class to talk a little and I guess, since it’s the end of the school year and the teacher has probably run out of things to talk about, she was desperate enough to invite us back this year to talk as well.

We were scheduled to speak first thing in the morning—right after the school assembly. We went and we talked about everything from decibel levels to hearing loss to how to communicate with the deaf to what to and not to call us. When I was done, they didn’t really have a lot of questions for me. I tried showing them my cool “little ear” (actually, it’s a grotesque birth defect that I used to delight in grossing my classmates out with when I was in elementary school), but they didn’t seem too impressed. I let them try to get my attention by not throwing things in my general direction and they did come up with a few ways. So, class involvement wasn’t a total flop. But then it was time to show them a little ASL.

I showed them their ABCs and 1-2-3s and then we worked on some vocabulary and a couple of sentences. They all seemed to enjoy it. Well….not all. Some seemed rather bored throughout the whole thing. Others were only bored for parts (mainly the lecture part at the beginning). Others resorted in pelting me with the fruit snacks they brought from home for their lunch. But all in all, I’d say it was a success.

I gotta do stuff like that more often. I mainly work with teens and adults, so watching kids have fun with it was fun for me, too. I got to see some smiles. I got to watch smaller hands form the words I taught. And I got some fruit snacks to munch on on my way home.

Sunday, May 27, 2012


Every so often I try to make it a point to go out on a one-on-one date with each of my girls. I figure, if I don’t screw them up enough just on our daily interaction, a little quality time alone with me should do the trick to screw them up sufficiently that way as well.

The other night was date night with my 15-year-old, Mollie. I took her to see the stage show: “Addam’s Family—The Musical” at a fancy-schmancy performance hall.

A month ago, Kenny went to the hall to purchase two tickets. After he bought 2 balcony seats (‘cause that’s all us ‘po folk can afford, see), he decided to have a little chat with the guy in charge there. He told them all about his poor, little, old, deaf, wife and how I was gonna be bringing my dear, sweet daughter to the show. He asked if they ever offered any accessibility to their deaf and hard of hearing patrons. Not only do they, but he said that if I brought my tickets to the box office the night of the show, they’d trade them for two orchestra seats in the “interpreter’s section”! I had no idea they would have interpreters that night. In fact, I believe they made special arrangements to provide ‘terps that night just for me because Kenny asked. Cool, eh?

When Mollie and I arrived at the theatre the night of the performance, they were all ready and knowing at the box office. What a relief! She just let them know what was up and whom we needed to speak with. I handed the contact person our original tickets and he had the trade-ins all ready and waiting for us.

When they started seating, she and I walked into the theatre and there stood the two interpreters. I expected one specific woman, because she’s very well known in our area as a ‘terp for live theatre. With her was another ‘terp I know well—one I’ve worked with in the past and who had, in fact, just interpreted for me three weeks ago. We all greeted and hugged, and then Mollie and I went and sat to wait for the show to start.

Right before the show started, we moved over in front of the interpreters, so I didn’t have to keep turning my head to the right to see them and then back up front to see the stage. That’s just awkward and uncomfortable. Ironically, I was the only Deaf person there that night! Two talented ‘terps all for me. It was quite the treat.

But the bigger treat was the performance itself. Oh, the actors/singers/dancers were great and the props/sets were wonderful, but I hardly wanted to look at them at all. My gosh! These two interpreters were INCREDIBLE!!! Animated, fluid, funny, expressive, perfect. There was barely a need to even look at the stage. In fact, if the ‘terps had broken out in the show’s dance routines, I never would have looked at the stage at all.

Another really neat part was that during the curtain call, the character Gomez did the "deaf applause" and then motioned to the interpreters. Then, as the other actors "deaf applauded," he actually signed something (Mollie and I didn't catch what he said though, because we were too busy cheering the 'terps on, too). 

What a night! And I’m sure theatrical interpreting is extremely challenging. I’ve almost always been blessed with very skilled interpreters—and I use them a lot. Oh, I’ve had my fair share of scary ‘terps—‘terps who never should have been given any kind of certification. But the more I use interpreters in this area, the more skilled interps are sent for me. I’ve been very blessed in that sense.

Date night this time around turned out swell for both of us. Mollie had a blast with the show and, especially, the music and costumes. But the fact that I enjoyed the performance every bit as much as the hearing audience members thrills me to no end! That just doesn’t happen much in life. Maybe things are starting to change and look up!

Friday, May 25, 2012


Something many of you probably don’t know about me is that I have, at times, suffered from severe depression. I usually try to deal with it with a sense of humor. (No! Michele thinks something’s funny? Not a chance.) Anyway, sometimes other things don’t do the trick and they’ve had to resort to (GASP!) Electroconvulsive Treatments (ECT) – what most people call “Shock treatments.”) You know, I scare many people a lot because of my deafness, but mention shock and most people run for the hills…or tell me that their long lost son, Bartholomew, is calling and then pretend to answer their cell phone. That might actually work if it wasn’t off when they put it to their ear.

The point is, sometimes ECTs cause memory loss—usually right around the time of the treatment and many times for a week or so around them. I’ve never worried about it. I’ve dealt with it. But within the past couple of months I’ve had  one and I can’t express just how catastrophic the side effects were. I didn’t have “normal” side effects. I had what’s typically seen as “rare” problems. I’ve had several people compare me to someone with Alzheimer's. In fact, it wasn’t until two days ago that I even found out I had a blog. But since finding it and reading it, I feel comfortable telling you guys some of my most recent experiences and hoping you guys don’t judge me—or at least find my senility as hilarious and pathetic as I do. Of course, the best adjective is “frustrating,” but I gotta admit that it’s set me into convulsive fits of laughter from time to time, too, lately.

One of the terrible side effects has been clumsiness. For example, Kenny bought me a tea from Speedway (something I’m addicted to) and I couldn’t get the straw in my mouth. As I sat there, tongue out, moving it around to try to tackle it into my mouth, I lost control of the whole thing and poured it directly and neatly into Kenny’s crotch. It made a perfectly round circle, outlining everything that doesn’t need to be outlined and, needless to say, I lost my drink. Bummer to both of us.

Another terrible side effect is that I can’t fully moderate my impulse control. I’ve always been a sap, but when watching such things as “Family Feud” and “The Newlywed Game” result in tears and heavy, chest heaving sobs of happiness for the players, it can cause some confusion in those around me.

Then there’s confusion.
I’m writing a list of things Kenny needs from the store.
Kenny: “Black Pepper.”
I had no idea whatsoever what that was.
Me to my daughter: “I’ve lost all of my clothing. Do I own a closet?”
She: “Yes”
Me: “Can you draw me direction as to where it is?”
(Sad thing is, I really need them AND I need to keep them on the refrigerator or somewhere I can find them daily, because I’ll forget where they are. Heck, I’ll forget I own a closet. Of course, I’ll probably forget I even have this information on the refrigerator anyway.)

No—I don’t feel stupid.

I got into Kenny’s car (it’s a manual) and couldn’t for the life of me get it started. I texted him in a panic.
Kenny: “Did you remember to press in the clutch at the same time?”


But the biggest side effect has been the memory loss. Short term and long term. Recent and going all the way back to my childhood. No memory whatsoever.

I see people who are so happy to see me and I have no idea how I know them. Or I’ll see them, find out who they are, and then see them two hours later and have no idea who they are again.

I’m having a conversation with a friend. She asked, matter-of-factly, “So, what’s your middle name?” Now, how in the heck do I explain the fact that I have no idea what my middle name is if I don’t want to say “shock treatment” and ”crazy”?

The technician at the ultrasound of my hip I needed on Tuesday asked if I’d had it x-rayed yet.
A couple of minutes later, as she’s typing on the computer, she looks over at me, confused, and says, ‘It says here you had it x-rayed in January.”

The kids say that I ask them the same thing repeatedly.
“Do you have homework?”
Three minutes later….
“Do you have homework?”
After 5 times, my daughter finally writes it on a piece of paper and hands it to me. Did it help? I don’t remember.

Kenny said I do the same thing with texting him questions throughout the day.
“Where do we keep the salt?”
“What’s a washing machine?”
“Who is ___ and why is she coming over to see Natalie?”
Over and over and over.

Oh, there’s so much more I could write about. Fact simply is, I’ve become an imbecile. OK. I know it’s not my fault, but when you can’t openly explain that they drummed bolts of electricity through my head and now I have no idea who the man coming into my house at the end of the day and kissing me hello is, it gets quite humiliating and embarrassing.

Alzheimer's. That has much more dignity to it. Or lobotomy. Yeah, that’s it. I’m not stupid. I just had brain surgery recently and they forgot to put some or all of it back.
I should print that on index cards and hand them out as I venture out in public.

Sunday, February 19, 2012


My kids like to have their friends over to hang out or play with. I like this, too. I’ve always had this picture of me as the “cool mom,” with kids flocking to our house just because they know I’ll be home to entertain them. This doesn’t usually quite work though. Actually, it never works. Instead of the “cool” mom, I’m the “deaf” mom, and that tends to scare them away.

Good or bad, I tend to judge my kids’ friends by how they interact with me. If they never give me eye contact and never reply to my greetings and such, they must not be very good children. If, on the other hand, they talk up a storm and demand that my children interpret for them, they’re the best kids in the world and I welcome them at any time. Sad, but true.

What I’ve actually come to realize though is that pretty much all kids are scared meeting me the first couple of times, simply because I’m deaf and, hey, that’s scary. Or maybe it’d be better to use the term “intimidating.” I do my best to make sure people are comfortable, but it’s like telling people not to worry. Someone comes up and says, ”I’m worried,” and you’re response is, “Don’t worry.” What do you expect to happen? “Oh, great! Thanks! I’m not worried anymore.” I don’t think so.

So, telling people that I don’t bite and I’m really easy-going with new kids doesn’t make someone all-of-a-sudden at ease around me. I like to make jokes and include the kids in my banter, but, even I can admit that it’s not easy—especially since I can’t lipread.

I wish there was a magic wand that I could wave around and make people see me as a person before they see me as a DEAF person, but I’ve come to realize that’s just not likely. I’ll always be the DEAF mom to the kids at school.

But, you know what? I am DEAF. I’m proud to be DEAF. And being the only DEAF mom at my kids’ school should be an honor. So, I’m going to stop worrying about it. With each new kid, I’ll do my best to show them I’m a pretty cool person to hang with. If they don’t see that the first time around, perhaps the second time. And if I haven’t broken them in by the fifth date, maybe I’ll don a demon costume when I open the door and then run at them, hissing and moaning. I’ll then reveal my true identity to them. If that doesn’t make them relax, I’m afraid there is simply no hope. But, man, it’ll be worth the trouble just to see the look on the terrified kid’s face.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

TILL DEAF DO US PART: Life In A Mixed Marriage

Webster defines “marriage” as “the state of being united to a person of the opposite sex as husband or wife in a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law.” For the word “contract,” they define it as a “binding agreement.” Also listed as a definition for “contract” is “an order or arrangement for a hired assassin to kill another person or people.” Coincidence? I think not.

When my husband, Kenny, and I were married back in 1994, I still had a little hearing in my left ear. Just as my whole life I spent walking on the right side of people and using my left ear as a satellite to hone in on the sounds I was trying to hear, I did the same with Kenny and my hearing loss was never a real problem. However, fast-forward to 1999, and my sudden total lack of hearing was bound to cause some riffs in our happily ever after.

I must give my hubby a lot of credit though. When my deafness struck, he didn’t run for the hills. He stayed with me, even learning sign language to help communicate fully with me. I was lucky. I knew it then and I know it now. But, hey, he’s lucky, too. I ain’t no consolation prize.

After my complete hearing loss, it was suddenly clear just how scary deaf people are to hearing people. I started noticing a change. Sure, they had avoided me before, when I had some hearing, but being stone deaf brought new meaning to the phrase: Run For Your Life!!!! I’m talking the kind of change that makes me think I may need to change my clothes. I must stink. There can’t be any other reason why hearing people (hearies) are avoiding me. I’m talking dodge ball. I enter the room and people practically dive behind the furniture to keep from having to encounter my presence. I’ve always noticed it and Kenny started to notice it, too.

Now that I’ve been stone deaf for 13 years, it’s evident that I intimidate people. How Kenny and I have chosen to deal with this sometimes varies, but almost always incorporates humor into the scene.

At our church here in Grand Rapids, we enter the building and are immediately separated till the service starts. As long as he’s standing with me, signing, no one wants to approach. So, he sneaks off into the other section of the congregation to schmooze with his “people” and I make a b-line for the Deaf Ministry section to save our seats. His instruction is to wait 10 minutes into the service and then crawl on his hands and knees into my section and pop up into the chair without being noticed. If anyone asks, he dropped his tithe. That usually shuts them up.

We walk into a furniture store, wanting to find what’s on clearance because our smelly dog has thoroughly infested our couch with her odor. The salesmen, whom I endearingly call “the buzzards,” are standing there, ready for the kill. How do I keep them away? Simple. I start signing to Kenny. That shakes them up and they suddenly see spots on the ceiling that need to be stared at. We get all the way to the back where the clearance items are without anyone trying to show us their fresh and stylish new recliners. If Kenny wants help, there’s usually three or four, slowly guiding themselves along the floor. When he approaches them and begins to talk, all of sudden you can see two other salesman snapping their fingers and counting their loss. Man, I should have talked with the death people, they think. Should have. Us death people have money, too. (Though I whole-heartedly admit that I’m thankful when they don’t approach until I give them the clue that I’m interested.)

Sitting in a crowded Applebee’s, Kenny and I are entranced with their menu—trying to figure out what we’d like for dinner. The waitress appears and sees me signing to Kenny. “Oh, is she hearing impaired? I just love those people. They’re so fun to watch! What do you think she wants to eat for dinner tonight?” Hmmm. Kenny’s intestines on a plate if he answers her. Just kidding. He would never do that. I’m far scarier when I’m angry than when I’m simply confused out in public.

Kenny and I are pretty outgoing with the people we encounter while out and about. Because of this, I think we get asked a lot of questions about my deafness than those who give the impression that they’ll bite you if you speak to them. In fact, some of the things we’re asked amaze me. Sure, there are many questions that all hearies have and many of them make sense. But sometimes I gotta wonder what these people lack in their lives—I mean, do they just sit around and think up these questions? Most of the time, I’m not surprised...most of the time.

Sitting in the mall, taking a break from Barnes & Noble, Kenny and I sign away. “You two are such a cute couple!” A woman, clad in hot pink leggings and little on top was standing over us, gushing away.

“Thanks,” we nodded to her and smiled.

“Can I ask you a question?” She was going to ask anyway, so we just continued to smile. “Being deaf, are you guys even able to, you know, be intimate?” I’d heard it all, or though I thought. But someone asking me if I can have a sex life with my husband was the ultimate befuddlement. What I wanted to say was that, if she gave me her email address, we would gladly post a how-to vlog once we got home. I didn’t want to embarrass Kenny though. So, I said the next best thing.

“Oh, we’re able to be intimate. The only hassle is that we have to plan it 24 hours in advance. You know, in order to get an interpreter in there with us.”

Looking quite confused, her friend comes along and pulls her away. I’m left feeling rejuvenated. How nice it is to educate the general public. That woman will have an image burned into her mind for years to come.

My point is this: Although Kenny and I have had our share of very stressful times, there’s going to have to be far more than deafness to break us apart. We love each other “till death do us part,” and nothing’s going to change that. Now please excuse me while I go make a phone call. Hey, an interpreter isn’t going to show up on their own. They need 24 hours advance notice, remember? (wink)

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

INDIANA’S HB 1367 – Send Your Letter of Opposition Now!!!

If you keep up with the political happenings around the country, especially those points that will affect the Deaf and Hard of Hearing population, you might already know about Indiana’s House Bill #1367. If you are not familiar with this, you can read it at:

The main point of this bill is to remove the current outreach center at the Indiana School of the Deaf and replace it with a new one. This simply does not make any sense. For one, the school already has a center that is well-serving its community. There’s no information to the contrary. There’s also no reason financially or otherwise to fire all of those workers and start anew. However, when you take a look at the group that pushing this bill, you might understand better what’s going on.

I did some reading of material both SUPPORTING this bill and of the OPPOSED group and I can whole-heartedly say that I feel this bill should be OPPOSED. The most interesting fact I found was that the main supporter for this bill is Hear Indiana. If you visit their site, you will first see that they are a chapter of the Alexander Graham Bell Association, which is a staunch proponent of oralism. They believe in the No-Signing “rule,” and vehemently push for cochlear implants in babies and young children, oralism and audism. See my blogs about AG Bell “He Ain’t As Great As They Think He Is,”
for more of my comments on those two issues.

Hear Indiana’s Mission Statement, which they proudly post, is, on all three parts, for the use of “spoken language” for all Deaf and Hard of people. They are opposed to teaching them the use of their native language, American Sign Language. They are adamant about the use of “spoken language,” as if that were THE answer for all Deaf and Hard of Hearing people out there. No one can say what is best for ALL. In fact, there IS no “best for all.” Everyone is different. However, this group does not see it that way.

The fact of the matter is that Hear Indiana wants the current outreach center at the Indiana School of the Deaf replaced so that they can push oralism into the school and community. That’s how I feel, anyway. And it’s wrong. And we, as a people who are, know, and/or care about the Deaf and Hard of Hearing population, need to oppose this bill. Most importantly, we need to make our feelings heard now, before they vote on the amended bill.

You can do this easily, by clicking on the below link and sending an email or emails to the Indiana Legislators stating your opposition to HB  1367.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


If you’ve read my blog, you may remember that I (and probably most deaf people) have people telling me the strangest things and asking me some of the most bizarre questions I ever thought I would be asked. Sometimes they're annoying, many times they just crack me up, but they always leave an impression on my mind.

I was sitting in a local Applebee’s, studying the menu, when the waitress approached. My husband was preoccupied, trying to help our kids decide if they liked anything on the kids’ menu, so the waitress naturally turned to me.

Of course, I was so entranced in the menu that I didn’t even realize she was standing there. She must have stood there for a good three to five minutes before I noticed her out of the corner of my eye.

“What would you like to drink?” I think she asked.

“Huh?” was my eloquent retort.

Kenny turned to me and signed, “DRINK WANT WHAT?”

The waitress just about turned the color of a beet. “Oh, I didn’t realize she was hearing impaired.” (Grrrr..) “What do you think she wants to drink?” Kenny chuckled to himself, probably debating whether to tell me what she just said or let it go. For the time being, he waited for me to answer and interpreted for me.

A few minutes later, she brought our drinks and asked about what we wanted to order. Of course, by this time she wasn’t even acknowledging my existence anymore. I must have scared her too much…my Deaf Fangs and all. When everyone else had ordered and it was my turn, she turned to my husband and, once again, asked him what he thought I would like to eat. What am I? A dog?

Kenny motioned over to me, where I sat with my finger stuck onto the menu, waiting for her to look. All in all, it wasn’t any different than any other time we’ve all gone out to eat.

So, the waitress brought the food, made sure Kenny and the kids had everything they needed, and left. We dug into our mozzerella sticks and chicken penna and all seemed just fine. About fifteen minutes later, the waitress approached our table.

“Hi! You know, a few of my co-workers and I have been watching you guys sign. It’s just so neat! In fact, we think we might have even understood what you were saying. Did you say….,” and she went on trying to “interpret” what our private conversation had been about. Of course, she was totally wrong, but that’s beside the fact! Privacy?? Hello?!?! Kenny tried to be the polite one as he interpreted to me what the waitress was saying. I simply sat there and glared at her. Will she ever go away??

“I’ve just gotta ask: Does being hearing impaired hurt? I mean, really. She must have to constantly dodge cars when she goes for a walk and I’m guessing she has to walk everywhere, since it’s illegal for those people to drive or even ride a bike. Or maybe they have special devices for them? They’re such fascinating people! You know?”

Yes, stupid-head waitress. We know.

“Sometimes I think I would like to be hearing impaired, but I don’t think I ever could. I mean, no sound at all? And besides, I look terrible in black.”

The only thing that came to my mind was, “Huh?”

She continued to explain:

“Every time I see someone signing at church or stuff like that, they are wearing black. So I know it’s, like, required. Plus I don’t think I could ever stand up in front of all those people. They’d all know I was (whispered “deaf”) then. Is she given a script or anything before she gets up there?” She was serious. I sat there staring at my husband in disbelief. This waitress was not going to leave, so we might as well finish this ridiculous conversation.

I began to sign. “Those are interpreters. They’re not deaf. They’re there to help the deaf and hard of hearing enjoy the service by signing whatever the pastor and other people are saying.” I hoped that would be sufficient in explaining the situation, so I sat, eyes glued to her face, waiting for her to take in all the information.

“Oohhhh.” (Long pause.) When she finally spoke again, it was to be the last thing she said to us before going off her shift. “Well, I guess that’s kind of cool. Still, I wouldn’t want to be like her. It would take me way too long to learn Braille.”