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.