Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Christmas Doctor Dance

It’s Christmas time. Time to be jolly and merry and all of those happy-time feelings. I always try my best to stay in the spirit, but sometimes it’s hard to do. For example, if people talk with me, I have to, at some point, let them know I’m Deaf so they don’t think I’m just ignoring them. But it seems that the words, “I’m Deaf,” are a real shocker to most people and they may even come across as rude. But if I wrinkle up my nose and point to my ear and very slowly nod, that doesn’t work either. Plus, it makes it look like I’m apologizing and do I really need to apologize for being Deaf? I don’t think so. I’m proud of it as far as the culture goes. So, sometimes just letting people know I can’t understand them is a chore. It makes me feel guilty and it shouldn’t.

On the other hand, there are people out there that, when I tell them I’m Deaf, they have an altogether different response.

Yesterday was a busy day. Two days before Christmas, lots of people out there buying last-minute gifts and food for the holiday. Kenny and I had to go to his doctor. He has some skin marks that look like they may be precancerous (or cancerous) and he needed the doctor to scrape them off and send them to the lab to see what the next course of action should be.

Everything went well. I was seated at the end of the table where I had a straight shot to see the doctor do his stuff.  First, he gave Kenny two local anesthetics. I know how much those hurt, so I cringed. The doctor looked over at me and said something. I, not wanting to get into a conversation about hearing and not hearing, simply smiled and nodded. (Many times that is NOT a good idea.)

The doctor then got a scraper (I think that’s the technical term. Or maybe “doohickey”) and started doing his deed. He kept glancing over at me, but I never saw his lips move, so I just ignored it.  Finally, I saw that he said something and his assistance smiled. I had no choice, but to let him know I’m Deaf. His reaction? He started to mime.

Now, I don’t know if I prefer a roll of the eyes, a person telling me they know some sign and start signing their ABC’s, or people who start gesturing obnoxiously, but this time it was interesting to see him move the way he did. You know? You don’t see doctors dancing and convulsing very often. So I watched intently and then waited for the explosion.  I finally guessed what he was trying to convey. Many people who watch the procedure he was doing end up fainting and he was making sure I wasn’t going to follow suit. I assured him I was fine and I didn’t think I would faint. Then he finished up and left. Right before he left, he turned to me and said something like, “Have a nice holiday.”
That was nice.

See? So some people, when I tell them I am Deaf, give me the deer-in-the-headlights look or roll their eyes and turn away (usually saying “Nevermind.” I’ve learned to lipread “Nevermind” fairly well). Some people get way too excited and then trap me for a half an hour with the little (and I mean little) sign language they know. But some people will do what they can to let me know what’s being said by writing (my preference), gesturing, or some other way to get their point across. The doctor did the latter and it worked out great.

Now we just wait for Kenny’s lab results. But I can be assured, if I ever have to see his doctor again, he’ll be just as pleasant as he was yesterday. And that, folks, is a relief.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Etiquette Lost

Every culture has their own ideas of etiquette. For example, in America, it's polite to shake someone's hand when you meet them. In Japan, people greet each other by bowing. The same idea holds true for the Deaf Culture. We have various traditions and ways of minding our manners.

Today, I'd like to discuss what to do when you see two people or a group of people signing. Or rather, what not to do. Don't burst into the crowd and start asking questions. You would think that would be a no-brainer. At least you would think that.

A couple of weeks ago, Kenny and I were signing at a neighborhood Speedway (gas station). We're deep in conversation when a robust older woman starts punching at Kenny's shoulder--actually causing him pain. When Kenny chose to hold up a finger to the woman (no, not the middle finger) and continue on with our dialogue, the woman actually swung Kenny around and grabbed his hands to get him to stop.

"Are you using that, um, hand language?" she asked ignorantly.

"My wife and I are using American Sign Language to talk, yes." Kenny has so much more patience than I do.

The old lady then asked, "Why?!?" and said it as if what we were doing was incredulous.

"My wife is deaf. It's how we communicate."

"Why would you marry a deaf person? You're not deaf...are you?" Kenny's patience was wearing thin and I was getting pissed.

"Ma'am, did you need something? My wife and I are trying to have a conversation."

That's when she started grotesquely waving her hands about and laughing. Before she left, she mumbled to herself, "What a waste of time."

We don't encounter situations that often that are so blatantly rude, but it happens. And just to make it clear, do NOT do what that old lady did. If you do, you're risking being smacked silly by several people.

All this frustration, rudeness, and ignorance when all she should have done was wait for a break in the conversation and lightly touch Kenny's (or my) shoulder. However, in this scenario, I don't think it would have turned out much differently. Some people simply haven't got a clue.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Before and After

Through different social media, I am getting back in touch with different friends from high school. I attended three high schools (Sugarland, TX., Valrico, FL., and Belleville, IL.) and in no school did I have an IEP or attend special classes for the deaf and hard of hearing. In fact, despite my deafness on my right side, I was in three different choirs my senior year and sang and participated in theatre throughout my entire high school experience. I don't think many of my friends even knew I was deaf on my right side and hard of hearing on my left.

So, when I find them on Facebook and they find out I'm now totally deaf and depend on American Sign Language to communicate, they're all pretty much surprised.

Isn't it interesting? The things you discover about people from your life whom you thought you knew? People tell me about their lives and what they're doing now. I can't help but be excited for them or sad if something has happened. But then I find out things about them that I guess they assumed I knew about and it gives me a whole different perspective on them and our friendship from long ago. People really are a puzzle, aren't they? I guess that's a good way to be, Keep people guessing.

As for me, I never really hide anything. If people are surprised about me, I can certainly understand why, but my life is an open book. Ask me anything. I've got nothing to hide. Well, maybe something, but I can't think of anything at the moment. Give me a minute....

Monday, October 6, 2014

Feds Loosen Rules For Deaf Truck Drivers

Hearing-impaired truck drivers should not be prohibited from operating commercial motor vehicles because of their disability, federal regulators said Tuesday.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced it will loosen longstanding English language requirements for truck drivers who are deaf as long as they can still understand traffic signs and signals.
"The English-language rule should not be construed to prohibit operation of a commercial motor vehicle by hearing-impaired drivers who can read and write in the English language but do not speak, for whatever reason," the FMCSA wrote in the Federal Register.
The requirements are intended to make sure truck drivers understand the rules of the road, but the FMSCA said some state agencies have misconstrued the rule by denying commercial drivers licenses to people with hearing impairments.
"Because some hearing-impaired drivers granted exemptions do not speak English, it has been asserted that they may not meet the requirements and may not be qualified to operate commercial motor vehicles," the agency noted.
After the National Association of the Deaf complained, the FMCSA said it will grant exemptions to hearing-impaired truck drivers who demonstrate that their disability will not affect road safety and does not put other drivers in danger.
The rule goes into effect immediately. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Hearing Loss and Depression May Be Linked? You Don't Say!

According to new research, hearing loss is associated with depression among American adults, especially woman and those younger than 70. No! You mean if someone starts to lose their hearing they may become depressed? Who woulda thunk?

I can remember the first few months when my hearing loss went from still using the phone to no hearing whatsoever. Boy, was it stressful! My family hadn't quite make the connection, I couldn't read lips (still can't), I had a newborn baby (and two other young children as well) I couldn't hear, and I couldn't even communicate with my husband. It was horrible! To top it off, I have clinical depression already, so I was a mess.

Because I have depression, I already isolated myself, so when I became deaf I had to make sure to seek outside resources. I called an organization and asked if they had any ASL classes for deaf people who already know sign language, but want to work on their ASL grammar. I figured it would be hard to find, but, lo and behold, they had an upcoming class! I remember going to one (after I'd been going for a while) and just totally breaking down. My 3-year-old had been trying to communicate with me and I couldn't understand her. It was heartbreaking and everyone there understood.

I made it a point to start teaching all three kids ASL (now they're all almost fluent) and my husband and I practiced constantly. It was a very tough few months, but I was lucky to have the support. Imagine if you had none! All of a sudden you couldn't use the phone, hear your kids talk or babies cry, have small talk with people when you left the house, watch the TV, or any number of things. How would you handle it? (Just as a side, deaf people can do all of those things, but newly deafened people rarely know about how to go about it.)

To make new research even more absurd, it stated that the depression was most pronounced in ages 18 - 69 and mostly in women. 18 - 69?? That just about covers everyone, Seems like a big age group to me. I don't believe that it's more in woman other than 1. women tend to seek help more often than men, and 2. women, in general, have depression more than men.

If you are newly deafened, by all means get out there! Find a buddy and vent. But mainly, if you have a hearing loss, you need to go to an audiologist or otolaryngogist (otherwise known as an ENT) to be diagnosed properly.

You don't need to be fully deaf to grieve for the loss of your hearing. Losing it in any range can be devastating. Whether you lose it in increments or all at once, the loss can feel more than one can bear. Please know you're not alone. There are others like you out there. Depression isn't something to ignore. And, by all means, if the depression gets so bad you start to contemplate suicide, please go to an ER and tell them how you're feeling.

So, depression and hearing loss linked? Wow! There's a revelation. But don't minimize the pain. It can hurt like hell and it's not all on you. Heck, if you need a friend, leave a comment here and I'd be happy to chat with you. You're NOT alone.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Deaf Awareness Week is September 22-26, 2014


Deaf Awareness Week this year is September 22-26, 2014. Deaf Awareness Week, also called International Week of the Deaf (IWD), is celebrated annually and ends with International Day of the Deaf. Deaf Awareness Week is celebrated by national and regional associations of the deaf, local communities, and individuals worldwide.
The purpose of Deaf Awareness Week is to increase public awareness of deaf issues, people, and culture.  Activities and events throughout Deaf Awareness Week encourage individuals to come together as a community for both educational events and celebrations. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

Smile -- There Are Deaf People Nearby

"Smile!" The photographer yells just as he's going to take the shot.

"Smile," your mother says. "You look so miserable!"

"Oh, no! Here comes Ashley. Just smile and nod."

There are several different kinds of smiles and a hundred more reasons to smile. But are they real? I mean are you genuinely happy and do the sides of your mouth naturally turn up when you feel that way?

Nowadays, one can't know whether the person you're next to is actually honestly smiling or if they're faking it (or if they're constipated). And if you're "different" than the immediate crowd maybe the question shouldn't be, "Wow! I wonder what fantastic thing she's smiling about," but rather, "Why is she smiling so hard at me?" It's true!

When I walk into a place with people around, as soon as I start signing and people realize I'm deaf, they start to smile at me as they pass by. That wouldn't be such a big deal if they knew me or were just smiling naturally, but no! The people start to metamorphosis into plastics--mannequins--with, "Please don't talk to me," glaring from their eyes. It's frightening!

I guess I should be used to it after all this time, but it scares me! And this makes me have the same eyes glaring back, echoing, "Please don't talk to me!" In fact, if it's a bunch of people in the same vicinity, I might fart or something to get those terrifying faces to leave. (That DOES work, by the way.)

So here's some advice--
if you're around people, deaf or otherwise, who make you feel awkward, try not to fell obligated to smile. If you make eye contact, give them a small polite smile and then leave them alone. That's what I would prefer. Or maybe just ignore us all together. Now, if you are a skilled signer,that's different. Then by all means, approach me!

Smiles are there to help people express pleasure or happiness. Don't feel the need to do it just because you're nervous. Wait a few minutes and maybe something will happen to give you a genuine reason to smile.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Charges filed in national scam of deaf

An Ohio deaf woman in her 70s is facing charges of ripping off other elderly deaf people across the country through a lottery scam. More than 1000 people fell for the scam, which she contacted through video relay using interpreters. Read the full story in the Columbus Dispatch here.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Moldy Bread

Muhammad Ali once said, "If God can make penicillin out of moldy bread, he can sure make something out of me." And for me that stands true. Seems like every year or so, God sends down a true challenge for me to handle either alone or with the help of family and friends.

All three of my pregnancies brought preeclampsia. The second one brought HELLP syndrome and almost took my life. The last one took the hearing I had left and dumped it by the wayside. Permanently. True, you would think it wouldn't be a big deal since I was already hard of hearing, but what it did tore my life apart and produced the second greatest challenge of my life.

All of sudden I couldn't communicate, converse with family and friends in small talk, talk on the phone, hear my babies cry, work in customer service and so many other aspects of my life gone, gone, gone. At least that's how I felt at the time. I even had frequent moments where I begged God to kill me, Just seemed like too much to bear.

But that was then.

For a while, it was hell. I simply didn't know what to do. But God was watching. I learned of the technology available for using the phone, hearing my baby cry from the other room, and other wonderful things. I used my sign language and I met more deaf people and suddenly life didn't seem as hopeless. Now, all three kids are proud CODAs in high school; my husband uses his sign skills and Deaf Culture knowledge at work; and I accept myself as totally deaf.

So, if something major happens in your life and it feels devastating, you can always remember that, with time, God will use that challenge as something to change you for the better. Moldy bread? Bring it on!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Fitting In At A Deaf Convention

I was so excited! Someone I had met out in the Deaf community mentioned a convention coming up for people who'd lost their hearing (or what was left of it) after age 18. I was thrilled! Deaf people I could sign with who remembered what things sounded like more than two decades ago. I could mingle with soon-to-be-friends and learn about how others similar to me crossed over to the Deaf culture to a degree. Yea!

Kenny (my hubby) was excited, too. We were sure some of the Deaf would bring hearing family and Kenny would be able to discuss his feelings, thoughts, and experiences with people who knew how he felt. I mean I've always been deaf to a degree, but total silence kind of snuck up on us and it was a way of life that took some major getting used to. So, it was an adventure for both of us.

However, what we envisioned was not quite what happened.

When we walked into the main room from the registration table (where Kenny had to interpret because the people there used only voice), the room was filled to the rim with people wearing CIs, all talking without signs, and lots of booths set up--all about technology that could "make you hear again."

The lectures, which waved a flag stating they were fully accessible, were only captioned (poorly) on a screen at the side of the room. And interpreter for us American Sign Language users? Nope. Apparently most late-deafened adults (as they called themselves) don't use sign language. But I was still thrilled to meet fellow signers and people from such places as Gallaudet University.

To top it all off, the last night of the convention, they had a huge karaoke party where music blasted and all were given a balloon to enjoy the beat. But see I'm totally stone deaf and didn't feel comfortable at that party. Still, I tried to enjoy what aspects of the convention I could be a part of. I even went to more than one thinking maybe the next one would relate more to me. Unfortunately, no. However, I did make a handful of new friends for which I am grateful.

Now, I don't want to seem hateful or judgmental. There were things here and there I enjoyed that didn't so much require ASL or Cultural norms and there were lots of hugs and lots of accepting each other -- no matter how you communicated. But I just don't think I'll go again unless they come to Grand Rapids, MI.

After a while, it all caused me think about my way of going about being the stone deaf person I am. For one thing, I do consider myself bi-bi (bilingual -- ASL and English, and bicultural). Most LDAs do not. I admit I did try a CI a long time ago and it was a total flop. They had to take it out later for a medical reason, so that's done. I'm happy being Deaf, too, but sometimes when I miss my show tunes, it does get me down.

I use sign to communicate. I have the world's worst lipreading skills I've ever known about and I do not like the sound of my voice -- though admittedly I do use it at appointments to make it easier on my interpreter. I like to use big words and so it's easier to make sure exactly what I want to say gets said.

The only big problem I have is I have some mental disorders that prevent me from socializing for the most part. So I haven't made it to many Deaf events and that makes me sad. I do try though. I WANT to go, so I'm working on it.

Long story short, the deaf community is truly diverse. You have to find where you fit in and go from there. You should be comfortable the way you are -- no matter how different that makes you. I'm working towards that myself.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Goodbye to A Helpful Interpreter

Have you ever noticed how, sooner or later, everybody leaves? I'm serious. Sometimes I feel as if I have a swinging door in my life. For me, I'm talking about professionals--not family. I'm very grateful for that!

I can't even tell you how many therapists I've gone through. Just when we begin to dig into the dirt, they retire...or move out to Timbuktu. It kills me every time. But one set of professionals leave the most frequently--and that's interpreters.

I have to go to my community mental health clinic up to four days a week. Sometimes I see my psychiatrist on Tuesdays, my case manager on Wednesdays, get my bi-weekly injection on Thursdays, and see my therapist on Fridays. Whew! And mental health services depend on confidentiality, so, much to my appreciation, they do their very best to have the same interpreter for all of my visits. And, at least the same interpreter for all of my therapy sessions, so not everyone knows how crazy I am. ..except the 'terp scheduled and the therapist.

But, unfortunately, just when I'm used to seeing the same 'terp week after week, they always seem to find a more steady assignment and leave me. Then a new interpreter comes in and it takes them a little while to get used to the problems I talk about. And they are very shocking, I assure you!

Recently, very recently, I lost another interpreter's devotion. She found herself an assignment that proved more steady and dependable. One day I was in therapy and my therapist ended the session with, "We have something we need to discuss." That's never good. I replied, "Just as long as you don't say you're leaving." I meant the therapist and I was speaking from my heart.

"No, I'm not leaving," was his retort.

"I am," my interpreter chimed in. After a few seconds of confusion I realized I was losing one of my closest interpreters I've ever relied on. It was devastating and I began to cry.

"Why do they always leave me?" I asked. But I knew it was the right thing for her to do. And, after coming down from that devastation, I am very happy for her. But it is rough. Luckily, I have other interpreters with experience with my craziness that I can use and I like them a lot. I'm sure, with time, the trust will be there just as equally as it was with my former 'terp.

But I'll miss my previous interpreter and I'll always appreciate her loyalty to my "cause." Good luck to you and may everything in your life go smoothly from here on out. That includes getting all three cats to use the toilet all the time. (smile)

For me, it's onward and upward. Let's see who next I can suck into my sick world. Don't worry. I'll go easy on them. Maybe.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Signing Systems

There are several different kinds of sign languages used in the United States (in the world, too, for that matter). Let’s now go over the different systems so that you have a better idea of what they are.

AMERICAN SIGN LANGUAGE (ASL, also termed AMESLAN by the late Lou Fant) uses signs, gestures, specific facial expressions, non-manual movements, and the like to express feelings, ideas, and concepts visually. It uses no voice, but does have facial grammar (non-manual markers, mouth morphemes).  It uses a completely different grammar system and sentence structure as that of spoken English. The rules of grammar, which will be discussed in a different section of this site, are clear and developed.

SEEING ESSENTIAL ENGLISH (SEE 1) and SIGNED EXACT ENGLISH (SEE II) -- The ideas behind these systems is that Deaf children will learn English better if they are exposed, visually through signs, to the grammatical features of English. The base signs are borrowed from ASL, but the various inflections are not used. A lot of initialization is used. Additionally, a lot of “grammatical markers” for numbers, person, tense, etc., are added, and strict English word order is used. Every prefix, suffix, article, conjunction, auxiliary verb, etc., is signed. Also, English homophones are represented by identical signs (i.e. the same sign is used for the noun fish and the verb fish, which have different ASL signs). The difference between the two is minor--the principle one being that in SEE II, ASL signs for compound words (like butterfly) are used, where the two signs representing the separate English words are used in SEE I (To sign “butterfly,” you would sign BUTTER and FLY, which gives a bizarre visual to the deaf child!).

LINGUISTICS OF VISUAL ENGLISH -- (L.O.V.E.)  Developed by Dennis Wampler. It has similarities to SEE II and Signed English. It is a signing system rather than language on its own. Therefore some people claim that exposure to L.O.V.E. does not provide children with the complete linguistic access that is needed to internalize whole language.

SIGNED ENGLISH -  Developed by Harry Bornstein. Similar to SEE I and SEE II, but a little simpler. It uses English word order, but fewer grammatical markers than the SEE systems--it has fourteen, based on Brown’s fourteen grammatical morphemes (e.g., plural /s/, possessive /s/, /ed/, /ly/, /er/, and so on).

The problem with the English-based systems above are that they are very slow. They are easier to learn for hearing people than ASL, but they are slower to use, because, on average, signs take twice as long as words to produce.  So the average proposition takes twice as long to express. Also, you have to be grammatically very self-aware to use them. The research shows that most parents and many teachers who are trying to use these systems, end up leaving out many of the grammatical markers and that many children exposed to them end up modifying them to more ASL-like forms.

CONTACT SIGN (Formerly called PIDGIN SIGN ENGLISH or PSE) - Ranges on a continuum, from being more “Englishy” to being more like ASL. It is what happens when adults try to learn ASL, in many situations. It is ASL and some of its grammar (how much English versus how much ASL varies from signer to signer) in English word order. Children exposed to CSL will often produce grammatically perfect ASL.

AMELISH -- Term coined by Bernard Bragg. Uses lots of ASL and fingerspelling in English word order.

CONCEPTUALLY ACCURATE SIGNED ENGLISH --  (C.A.S.E.) A signing system rather than a language on its own.  Similar to “Englishy” PSE / Contact Sign.

MANUALLY CODED ENGLISH -- (M.C.E.) Not a particular method, but a general description of all the systems that attempt to reflect English grammar, etc., on the hands.

ROCHESTER METHOD -- Every word is fingerspelled except "AND."

Monday, August 11, 2014

New Restaurant in Toronto Caters to the Deaf and Signing Community
Did you hear? Well, maybe not hear, but did you know that there is a new restaurant called
Signs" that caters to the Deaf and Signing Community? Check out the above link or read a little about this new wonderful thing!
Also visit their page on Facebook:
The dining scene in Toronto is turning the tables on hearing clientele with Signs, a deaf restaurant and bar that encourages communication solely by sign language. The first of its kind in Canada, customers are asked to order their meals by signing and the restaurant will be mostly staffed by deaf servers.
Not fluent in sign language? No problem. Customers will be given a cheat book of sorts that will contain the most popular phrases used in restaurants and instructions on how to sign the various menu options.
The restaurant is the brainchild of owner Anjan Manikumar, who began learning American Sign Language (ASL) when working as a manager at a Boston Pizza in Markham.
“I had a deaf customer that would come around a lot,” Manikumar told ABC News. “He wasn’t getting the service he deserved.”
After attempts to communicate with a deaf regular customer consistently resorted to a series of pointing and nodding, Manikumar decided to learn to sign.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

When People Come A-Knockin'

When summer's over and school is back in session (which is coming up very soon), it seems that's when most people start walking up to my door and ringing the doorbell. I've got one of those fancy devices that throw off a strobe light whenever that happens. But I HATE it! From the moment it flashes till I actually open the door, all I can think is, "Darnit! Who is it this time?!?!?" That's because of my many experiences with answering a door while alone.

I'll be watching TV or doing the dishes and suddenly: FLASH! FLASH! FLASH! I try to peek out of the living room window first, but I can't tell who it is. I open my door and there are two people dressed in suits with huge smiles on their faces as they begin to speak.

I interrupt and point to my ears and shake my head--indicating that I'm Deaf. They begin to over-enunciate and point to their lips. "I can't lipread either," I slur. They laugh uncomfortably and start to talk to each other. "Are you Jehovah Witnesses?" I ask.

"Yes," they answer with a great amount of excitement and start talking to me again.

"I'm sorry, but I'm not interested," I say as I close the door. Whew! That was exhausting.

Sometimes people will write to me after I indicate I can't hear:

"Can you read?" No. What does this note say?
"Is there someone else I can talk to?" Nope. All alone and there will never be another person home.
"Do you read Braille?" Only in the dark.
"I can come back." Sorry, but I'll still be Deaf and uninterested.

I get all sorts of things happening after the house is empty of kids. It can be truly tiring. Some people just don't get it and I'm always amazed at the pantomime and facial expressions they'll spew off.

But I can't live in a bubble. I have to interact with other people at some points in my life. I guess that's just the way things go, but....FLASH! FLASH! FLASH! Oh, dear. Gotta run. Gotta go see what this next person has to say, sell, or perform. Wish me luck!

Monday, August 4, 2014

The Great Outdoors

One of my husband, Kenny's, favorite things to do is hunt. He doesn't get to do it often, but when he does, he often takes our oldest daughter. But one year, I wanted to go.

"You'll have to be really quiet. We can't talk to each other a lot. You can't move around and rustle the leaves. It might be hard. Not to mention it's freezing out there at 4 am." Kenny was trying to prepare me, I knew. But I was sure it'd be a cinch.

"No problemo," I said. "I can be quiet. I'll just sign instead of using my voice." And, with that, he agreed to let me tag along.

The next morning, around 2:30 am, Kenny shook me awake. "What??? I'm trying to sleep," I said as I rolled back over.

"I thought you wanted to go with me."

"Now?" I couldn't believe how tired I was. But I dragged myself out of bed and put on the coat Kenny had gotten for me. I grabbed a cup from the cabinet and closed the door. Kenny startled and looked at me with big eyes.

"What?" I asked.

"Nothing," he sighed. He didn't need to tell me I closed the cabinet door too hard, but I wasn't aware of it at the moment.

After a little coffee and a seemingly endless car ride, we arrived in the part of the woods Kenny had picked out for us. He climbed up in his tree stand and I stayed in a pile of leaves on the ground. "OK. Now we wait," Kenny explained. "I'll talk with you a little later."

And so we waited. I sat on the wet ground and the leaves were itchy, so I scratched. I felt a tickle in the back of my throat, so I quietly cleared my throat. After what seemed like hours, I decided I wanted to ask Kenny how much longer. Problem was, he was up there and I was down here. So, I waved to quietly get his attention. It didn't work. I then used both hands. Nothing doing. I stood up and tried it again. Nope. Finally I gave up that "quiet" business and barked, "Hey!"

"Shhh!" Kenny was not happy.

"What do you mean? I've been quiet for hours."

"You think so, huh?" Kenny asked with a smirk on his face. Looking at his watch, he shook his head. "We've been here an hour and half. You've scared away two deer while you were rustling the leaves, clearing your throat and whispering. I love you, but it's impossible for you to know how noisy you are, and I can't hunt with you here with me. I'm sorry."

I was dumbfounded. Was I really that loud? I guess it goes to show that when you can't hear anything (including yourself), you can be the loudest thing in the woods. Oh, well. Bed, here I come!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Fool Me Once -- Shame On Me

Eight o-clock in the morning. Time to take my oldest daughter, Mollie, to her summer job. We get into the van and start on our way. All of a sudden the van skips a beat--sending Mollie and me bumping up and down in our seat.

"What was that?" Mollie asked.

"I think I hit a pothole," I signed. "No big deal."

We both heaved a sigh of relief. I dropped Mollie off, giving her a big hug, and then started on my way back home. BUMP! It happened again!

"Man, there's got to be something wrong." I decide to drive to the nearest auto mechanic and see if they can help me.

I pull up to the service station.

"Something's wrong with my van. It keeps bumping or something."

"Is it making any odd noises?" The man behind the counter seemed very nice.

"I'm Deaf. Can you write that down?" I ask. And he does.

"Oh, well obviously, because I can't hear, I wouldn't know." Duh. The man behind the counter blushes and asks me the kind of van I have.

"Uh...silver?" I honestly have no idea. "I'm pretty sure it is a Ford of some sort." I cringe.

It is a Chrysler Town and Country. And thank goodness for this man being polite about it.

"Have a seat and I'll do a test drive."

The man eventually takes my keys and heads out to figure our what's wrong. I stay in the lobby, watching some uncaptioned soap opera on their television.

"I see what worried you. I'm glad you brought it in. Looks like you're losing fuel out of your gas cup and the entire left sided Spockter Galley is loose."

I had absolutely no idea what the man just said, so I asked him (again) to write it down and he did.

"Oh my! I'm glad I brought it in, too! Can you fix it?"

"Well, we can fix it, but it's pretty major work. If we start on it now we can have it done in about four hours.

Wow! Four hours = a lot of labor costs.

"Well, I guess there's no question here. I mean, it's gotta be done, right?"

"I'm afraid so. These kinds of repairs will run you about $2500. But if you like, I can throw in a few free fluid checks."

"Great! Thank you SO much," I said, sincerely grateful.

There was a mall across the street, so I decided to spend my time waiting, window shopping. Four hours went by very slowly. When the time was up I headed back to the mechanic.

"Hi! I dropped off my van four hours ago and the guy said it'd be ready by now."

"What work did we do on that one?" The other guy was checking the books.

"Something with my gas cup and Spockter Galley."

The man looked up from his books and gave me the weirdest look. After a couple of seconds his light bulb came on. "Oh! Yeah! You're the Deaf lady. Sorry about that. Yes, it's ready. It cost us a little more to fix than we expected though. Your total came to $3300."

Heaving a big sigh, I handed over my credit card. I then took my van and headed home. BUMP! I was dumbfounded, so I asked my hubby to test drive it when I got home.

"It's OK, You must have just hit some of the holes in the street. Michigan got it pretty bad last winter."

That's when I broke the news to him.

"$3300!!! For what?!?!"

I told him and just stood there with a bizarre stare in his eyes. He was obviously as stunned as I had been.

When I saw he was upset, I did my best to calm him. "Hey, it's OK. They did some free stuff, too. They even filled up our blinker fluid on both sides. No charge!"

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Immersion Can Be Scary

Ask any Deaf or Sign Language teacher the best and most important way to learn ASL and they're bound to say immersion. You learn by doing. Get out there and meet other deaf people or sign language interpreters. Deaf is best!

When I lost all of my hearing decades ago, I knew that it was time to buckle down and finally learn ASL. The Signed English I was using would no longer do.

At this time, my son, who was born four months early, was in occupational therapy in our home. They hired an interpreter to come to each session so I would be able to participate, too. Most of the time, though, we would sit on the couch and chat or she would help teach me ASL. After a while, it got to where I couldn't really learn more without putting myself out there.

Now, if you know me, you know that I don't do well in social situations. In short, people scare me. Not like, "Boo!" I mean, people don't jump out from behind trees and try to make me pee in my pants (though I'm sure that happens to some people), but the idea of getting out in public and, even worse, chatting with strangers makes me run for the bathroom to lock the door. I'm not sure what I'm afraid of. But, unfortunately, the few times I have put myself out there, my fears have been validated. People can be very rude and mean--especially when they encounter someone with a difference (like deafness).

But, I decided I wanted to give it a try. There was a Deaf club in a town close by and they were meeting one Tuesday night. I asked my little sister to come with me and we ventured out that night.

Oh! It was a terrible experience! Scared the heck out of me. My sister pledged to never go to another Deaf club with me for the rest of her life.

When we got there, we were asked to introduce ourselves. My fingerspelling at that time was horrendous! I couldn't even spell my name fluently. And P-R-A-I-R-I-E-T-O-W-N was a very scary word to attempt (that was where I was living at the time).

Later, during the free social time, my sister and I sat at a table, scared to death, and talked with very few people. Eventually, an older Deaf woman came over to chat. We couldn't make heads or tails of what she was signing, so we did the logical thing--we giggled at everything she said.

"My name is Esther."


"Have you lived in the area for very long?"


"Why are you laughing at everything I'm saying?"


Finally she gave up and left, rightfully agitated with us. So there was not a positive experience to be had. Of course, that was because we did it wrong.

So, as you can see, immersion isn't always easy. It's still the best/only way, mind you. You can't avoid it. But it can be a very scary task. Just be sure, when you do go out, to make it worth your while. Actually socialize. And, if you don't understand--please don't giggle. Take it one step at a time. That's what I had to do. You can do it, too!

Monday, May 26, 2014

CORRECTION: Make Them or Not?

Before I started teaching American Sign Language, I made a lot of assumptions. I assumed that everyone knew never to wear black socks with shorts and white tennis shoes, that when people asked for your opinion, they actually wanted it, and that all Sign Language students wanted to be corrected if blatantly wrong. What I found out, though, is that I was three for three. Plenty of people don black socks in the summer. No one wants to know if such and such an outfit makes them look fat. And, many times, new signers (and some more experienced ones as well) don't want to know when they're signing wrong. Many just want to "amaze" you with their so-called ability and leave it at that.

I learned this the hard way. With my kids, they didn't get to say -- I had to correct them so they'd grow up to be at least partially fluent. Signing DESERVE when they meant MOST became a terrible habit, but at least it wasn't my hubby signing PENIS when he meant PERFECT. (In his defense, he only did this once -- in a group of Deaf people -- but I've teased him about it incessantly since.)

I can recall one time when my child's physical therapist invited me to go to a scrapbook party with some of her hearing friends. All was going well till the end when she decided to interpret a conversation for me. Now, this woman had only learned sign from a book. Which book? I do not know, but I would have guessed the book was titled, "50 Things Not to Do When You Sign."

As she chewed her gum and smiled hugely (over-enunciating as she signed), she started signing for me: BOSS DONT-WANT S-A-A ARREST HIS HAIR. WALK DESERVE BROTHER NOW INDEPENDENT WE. They all started giggling and clapping at their remark and then turned to me for my reaction. The look on my face was priceless. I looked like I was trying to hold off on a big fart. Huh??? I looked at my friend and she gave me the dirtiest look that clearly said, "Act like you know what's going on or I'll kill you." Again, I had no idea, so I asked for a repeat. She smiled politely and then signed the exact same thing again.

"I'm sorry, but I don't understand. Can you write that down for me?" Another woman picked up a pen and wrote, "The President doesn't know his ass from his head. Maybe the new guy can save us."

Ohhh!! I nodded and acted like it was funny. They left for easier conversations and I turned to my friend and started to show her how to sign those two sentences. She glared at me and walked away without saying anything. In fact, she never spoke to me again. Ever.

The longer I've been dealing with students, the more I'm realizing how being corrected can be quite the insult. However, if you truly want to learn -- and be correct while you're doing it -- you have to embrace the opportunity when fluent Deaf people offer their "services." I , also, have to learn when to show people the correct sign and when to smile and let it go. However, if you're my student, be prepared to learn. That's my job. I'm not there to clap and sign praises if you're wrong. That's why you hired me. But I am very nice about it.

BOTTOM LINE? Respect the language and learn as you go. Be around Deaf signers and get as much education from them as they offer. It's really the whole point, isn't it?

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Having the Memory of a Hamster

You know, it's not easy living with an ultra short memory span. Both my short term and long term memory have been affected by various things over the course of my life. I meet people once and the next time I see them I'm like, "WHO are you? Never heard of you."

"Oh, sure! We met yesterday. I came over and dry walled your daughter's room. Remember?"

"Nope. Still nothing. Sorry." I feel bad. I'm nicer about it, but I seriously can't remember people or places...or things...Nouns. Let's just say "nouns."

A couple of days ago I was in Schular's Book Store (a local shop) and decided I wanted a sweet tea (I'm addicted!). When it was my turn, the girl at the counter started jabbering at me. "I'm Deaf," I told her, as I usually do.

"You're DEAF?!?! I LOVE YOU!" Of course she said this as she shoved the sign for "I love you" in my face. (This isn't the first time this has happened to me. Seems a lot of people love me when they find out I'm Deaf).

"Uh, thanks, I just need a large sweet tea to go, please."

"Noooo! Don't go! Stay here and chat with me!"

"No, really. I have a limited time and I need to go look for something."

"Oh...that's so sad. I'm learning ASL at the local college. Watch! A...B...C...D, wait that's F...A...B....C...D, dammit! A...B...C..D, that's right, right?"

"Really, I have to go."

"Oh. OK. Well, bye!"

"Can I have my tea please?"

"Tea?" This woman had the same memory span as I, but I finally made it out of there OK...eventually.

The next day I needed to go to Hobby Lobby. As I approached the counter, a young, blonde woman shouted, "Hi, Michele! How are you?" She signed this all rather well at the same time; even her fingerspelling was smooth."

"Hi! Uh...I can't remember your name."

"Oh, I'm Jessica."

"Hi, Jessica! Where'd you learn to sign so well?"

"From your class. I took your class last Spring."

"Oh, I am so sorry I didn't recognize your face." She smiled and then quickly looked behind me. I looked and...

"Heeey! Remember me? I made you a tea at Schular's yesterday. I'm learning sign language, too," She said to Jessica. "My name is 'Diane.'" She started to fingerspell her name. "D...wait that's F....D. No wait. Grrr." Jessica and I showed her a "D." "No, that's not it. D... (she used an "U" this time)...."

"We gotcha, Diane." Then Jessica and I proceeded to go through Diane's name letter by letter.

I finished up and tried to escape, but Diane followed me out to my car. I was slightly afraid for my life--she was so hyper! But I did survive.

Now, I have a terrible memory and I will probably not remember Jessica the next time I see her, but Diane? Her face is embedded in my brain., It's kind of sad. The students from my classes, whom I cherish, I sometimes forget. But make me wait for a tea and I'll remember you for the rest of my life.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Five Best Ways to Learn American Sign Language

As a teacher of American Sign Language, I am often approached by family members and friends of Deaf people or by ASL students wanting to know the best way to learn the language of American Sign Language. "Wow," I think. "What a loaded question!" I think it has a lot to do with why you want to learn (Do you have a deaf grandchild you want to communicate with or do you just think it's cool looking?), how serious you are (was this just a last-minute idea or have you been planning this seriously for a while?), and what resources are available to you (Do you have internet access readily available; are there Deaf events in your area, etc.?).

If you're serious and you know you'll be sticking with it, here are five great ways to start your journey...

1. BOOKS WITH DVD's WITH THEM -- This would be for the very beginner or as a refresher for those coming back to ASL after a hiatus. If you're just going for vocabulary at first, I strongly recommend "The Gallaudet University American Sign Language Dictionary." Gallaudet University is by far the top resource for Deaf Americans and their dictionary only proves this. If you want to get started with sentence structure right away, try "The American Sign Language Phrase Book," by Lou Fant and Barbara Berstein Fant. The latest edition has a DVD with it. The pictures aren't the greatest, but it's great to learn basic ASL sentence structure. There are many other good books as well. I recommend going to Harris Communications and looking through their available ASL books.

2. INTERNET COURSES -- If you have the time to sit at your computer and do Facebook, you certainly have time to learn some great ASL lessons off the internet. There are online dictionaries at ASL Pro and Signing Savvy, etc. Both of these have a plethora of vocab words to show you and ASL Pro even has phrases available. ASL pro is based out of Texas and Signing Savvy is based out of Michigan, so you might see slight differences. Truth is, you'll be meeting Deaf people from all over and so it's good to know as many variations of sign concepts as possible. You can also go to and type in "American Sign Language" and you'll get tons of basic sign language or you to learn. If you type in "Intermediate American Sign Language," you'll get some pretty good, more advanced videos. Be wary of who is signing on them. You don't want to learn from another student.

3. LIFEPRINT.COM -- I'm giving this site it's own number, because if there were a way to learn ASL strictly online, the ASL University is the forerunner in this department. Filled with vocabulary, history, Deaf Culture, numbering/lettering (beginners and advanced), phrases, videos, facts, and more, it's taught by Bill Vicars (a Deaf/HOH ASL user) who is personable and thorough. There's even ways to contact him for information (though you shouldn't need to since it's all on the site) and it gets very advanced as you go -- as slowly or quickly as possible. You can pay and do the curriculum with his help for credit or you can even self-teach yourself the curriculum (if you're highly motivated). Very worth your time to check it out!

4. IN-PERSON/COLLEGE CLASSES -- Sure, some high schools are starting to offer ASL at their facility (Yay!), but most classes worth taking are college or just in-person classes. Every class should be evaluated on its own though. Attend at your own risk. There are some amazing ASL Interpreter Training Programs around the country, but there are also programs that bomb. Before signing up for an ASL class, find out who the teacher is. Are they Deaf/HOH/hearing/certified interpreter/CODA/etc? How much experience does he or she have? Which curriculum do they use? Do they use their voice the entire time or so you get to have some silent signing at times? Be careful and get recommendations. But in-person training is by far the best way to go about learning the basics.

5. DEAF/HOH EVENTS -- After (or while) you learn Basic American Sign Language, it's time to venture out into the Deaf world and get to know some native and skilled signers in your neighborhood. Look in your yellow pages for Deaf service agencies -- they should be able to supply you with local meeting times and activities to whet your appetite. For example, here in West Michigan, there are Deaf nights at two different malls, coffee meet-ups, ASL movies, softball, dances and even galas! If you're looking to work on your receptive skills and practice your expressive skills, there's plenty of opportunities for this! So, don't be shy. Get out there and mingle. It may be the only way to make yourself into an advance American Sign Language user.

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.