Tag Archives: Deaf

Upside-Down and Coming to an End

It’s been a while since I last wrote, but between working a part-time job, being a mother, trying to figure out a lot of things, and now, finally, student teaching, I’ve been a little sidetracked. This past fall and winter have been a tumultuous time for me.

I hope you didn’t miss my writing too much. I have to admit I have missed writing!

To begin to explain why I call it tumultuous, riotous, turbulent, or even stormy, I would need to begin when life began to become almost topsy-turvy… And it started in August. 

My plans for graduating in December with my special education degree was screeched to a halt when it was discovered my counselor did not prepare me or inform me to take the exams and apply for student teaching for the fall semester. I was supposed to have done that back in the spring. All they could do was, “Oops. You’ll have to take a semester off and do all of it now for the spring and begin student-teaching then.” Needless to say,  I was pretty upset. I had no choice but to take a semester off. At first, I thought it was going to be an uneventful time while I waited to begin back up again… Boy, was I wrong.

Two months later, I was heartbroken to find out I had lost a dear uncle to heart disease. 

Thankfully, I had the chance to fly out with my kids and be with my family to celebrate my uncle’s wonderful sense of humor, his love of God, and his amazing life. I am also thankful my kids had the wonderful opportunity to have met their great-uncle the summer before, and in how my son developed a really wonderful connection with him.

It shook his world to find out that his friend, his great-uncle, who loved to hear his ideas and stories, was gone. I told him, “He’s in heaven, and we’ll see him soon.” “Yeah.” he’d say somberly and then smile, “Then I can tell him all sorts of stories then, right?”

I told my kids of how fun he was when I was growing up, and how I recently discovered the pivotal role his family was in helping me get the diagnosis of my deafness. They encouraged my mother of how she could help me, taking me to the University of Arizona for testing,  which led to the beginning of how I became who I am today. Wow. God puts the right people in our lives at the right time, and now I am just finding out about it.

I had just been home two weeks from being with my family for my uncle’s memorial service when I heard the unexpected news that a wonderful childhood friend of mine had died. I had so many wonderful memories with him and had hopes of seeing him when I plan to go celebrate my graduation from my Master’s program. We had even talked once about having him do my hair, as that was his profession, when I was to meet up with him. It still feels surreal to know he’s gone. Yet, I am thankful we were able to reconnect when we did, even though it was virtually through Facebook.

Fortunately, Christmas was a blessed time with snow and my dad spending the special Holiday with us.  Yet, right about that time, I was beginning to feel another change was about to happen. It wasn’t in regards to student teaching in the spring… But it was  something related to what happened a little over 16 years ago.

A piece of glass, which a doctor, 15 years ago, couldn’t remove from my wrist, was left inside after an effort was made to remove it. The glass was from the windshield of the cars involved in the life changing accident a year before this moment. It was estimated there were five pieces of glass inside that part of my wrist, and he was able to remove most of them. I can remember him saying, “Glass is tricky. It hides in blood very easily!” He did try to get them all, but as he tried to find the last elusive piece, I could remember feeling the anesthesia wearing off. He decided that was better to let the body do what it does best. “Your body will work to get rid of it. We were able to get those other ones out because your body had pushed them up. It’ll do the same for that last one in time.”  I can remember thinking, “Oh, okay. Then I’ll probably see it come up in a couple of months and get it removed.”

In the beginning, I do admit I was nervous to have anyone rub that part of my wrist when I went for a manicure or when I wore anything tight around that wrist, but as time went by, I had begun to feel that it was always going to be a part of my body.

In the past several months, it had become something I couldn’t ignore. I’ll just say it’s not a very nice feeling, and it reminds me a bit of having a stone stuck in your shoe – But it’s one you can’t get out.

In the middle of all this happening, my husband recently moved into a job that works really well for him, but it had meant I would need to wait to be able to see a doctor, as a new job meant new benefits. He had been anxious for me, but I assured him I would be fine, since we saw that it wouldn’t take long to wait for benefits to kick in… But I’ll be honest and say it was hard to be patient!

Wearing a brace had helped decrease the pain, and I had to decide to hold off on doing any crocheting until it did get taken care of. That’s hard for an artist to do!

I had a really rough day, a week ago, with being so irritated with everything going on in my life, and the annoying pain in my wrist was beginning to feel like the one that would break the camel’s back. I had so badly wanted to vent and be irritated, yet I knew it wasn’t going to solve anything. Instead, I began to pray and ask God,

“What is it, exactly, that I need?”

I realized it was Strength and Patience.

“Yeah, you think?”I thought sarcastically.

I knew now I need the strength to stand as the turbulant winds blew around me, and patience to wait out the storm. The storm will end. Winter doesn’t always last. There is almost always the bitter hard storm before the first of spring comes, and I knew I had to learn to wait..

Today, I was finally able to go see a doctor about my wrist. I was afraid, after 16 years of living with this invisible “hitchhiker” in my body, that it really wasn’t there and it was all in my head. But, after the x-ray, I was able to see this piece of glass I have been waiting for years to be free of! A little 2 mm rectangular piece of glass sat on top of one of my wrist bones just under the very layer of my skin. “It looks like some nerves are sitting right above it, keeping it right there, and it’s causing you all that pain and numbness. We can easily get that out.” He decides, “We could even do it this coming Monday. How about that?”  I ecstatically signed, “YES!” My interpreter resounded my excitement as she interpreted for me.

My son, who was with me, said a really wonderful thing as we left the office. “Mom, on Monday, you can finally be done with that car accident.”

What an amazing thought. When Monday comes, I will no longer have to wonder when it would come out and, in a sense, release me to heal completely. It is an overwhelming peace in knowing it I can begin to heal COMPLETELY.  I know I will always have scars, but I will be thankful when I see them – It is through them I will remember of God’s grace, strength, and protection.


Moving at His Own Pace

Lately, I have been so amazed at my husband.

I struggle with my own monsters in life – Anxiety, Depression, Deafness, and other little things.

But, I look at my husband, and his resilience amazes me. He doesn’t always have a positive outlook on his growing blindness, but he still fights through.

Yesterday, as we walked three miles to our favorite shopping center, he walked along side me, laughing and teasing me as he held my hand while using his other hand to feel the path before him with his cane. He didn’t depend on me completely, but my eyes and words of what was going on around us just supplemented what he had sensually.

Before we had begun the walk,  I noticed him focusing intently as he stepped down the stairs of our apartment. I thought, “He must be counting the steps.” I counted as well. When we reached the ground level, I shared my discovery of each flight being 6 steps. He then shared, “Yes, and the very bottom one in the back flight of stairs has 7.” I never knew that.

An ambulance siren went off by us, I couldn’t hear it, but he did. I could see it, and I told him what direction it went and guessed which hospital it was probably heading. He agreed and hoped it was not a serious situation.

He signed to me, as I had left my hearing aids out. The warm day and the sweat that would likely come makes it hard to keep my loose ear molds in, thus making it even harder to hear. “Leave them out,” he encouraged, before we headed out for our hike. “I can sign, and the kids can, too. You can put them in your backpack and put them in once we get to the mall.”

He wasn’t afraid of my Deafness, and it was fortunate that I could speak clearly enough despite it. That was a huge asset for us, although, he kindly informed me in a tease, “You sound a bit like a pirate when you talk without your hearing aids.”

“Argh!” I teased back. “Now I just need to dress like one!”

My kids loved the idea… Maybe one day, I will.

An overgrown bush edged the sidewalk, and his hand was on my shoulder as I guided him through the narrow passage way. “Duck!” I ducked down to let him feel just how far down he needed to go to avoid the overgrown branches. We cleared it. “They really need to trim those branches on that bush!” I exclaimed.  His exasperated expression showed his agreement. Running into branches unaware is not something he liked doing.

We walked and I shared with him of the scene around us. He was having a good vision day and could see bright colors, but no definite shape. “The sky is so blue! I’m loving it! I haven’t seen such a blue sky in so long.” It’s moments like this where I remember to appreciate my sight.

I notice horse manure on the sidewalk, and I tell him. It wasn’t too surprising to see this, as there was a horse showing arena not far where we were. He laughs, I didn’t know why. I was chuckling for a different reason, though I don’t remember what for. He later told me of something the kids had said of the discovery of the horse manure on the sidewalk. “Who pooped in the middle of the sidewalk!?” one of them had said. It was my turn to laugh.  I tell them, “It’s horse poop!” My daughter looks at me precariously, and signs, “A horse walked this way?  Why?” I reminded her of the Rodeo/show grounds now far from us. “Oooh.” She signed. “That makes sense.”

My husband then signs to me that my eight year old son is cracking jokes about poop. I rolled my eyes. He’s being such a typical boy.

We get to the shopping mall, and I tell him of a new Italian pizza place that opened up. “Want to try it?” I ask. He signs back, “Sure!”

At the restaurant, I described to him what the place looked like, and we shared an amazing pizza, which the kids each had their own opinion of the Italian flair of their American favorite. My husband and I loved it. His sense of taste and smell had heightened since he lost his vision. He signs to me of what he can taste and can smell. I smiled. My sense of smell had long been muted to many sinus infections, and I appreciated his perspective.

At home, he can’t do a whole lot, but he does try.

He helps by doing his laundry, which he has a system to doing. He washes his shirts and pants separately. I help him fold his clothes in the way he likes it. He wears only black and white shirts and has only five to six button up shirts for work. His shirts are alternated black and white, and I tell him which one is on the top so he knows. When he hangs up his shirts, I tell him which one I give him, and he hangs them in order of the days he likes to wear them.

Lately, he has also been exploring his Scottish heritage, and he will ask me to search for something online. I will find a site and share with him in what I find. I read out loud to him, and if there is a picture, I try to describe it to him.

This is one thing he struggles with. He wishes he could see pictures. Even when he inverts the color, which works well for him when he wants to read something enlarged, the pictures don’t look like something he can recognize. Even a picture I took of him, he struggles to see. “Do I look good?” He asks. “Of course, you do!” He had lost a tremendous amount of weight over the past year. I was proud of him for doing so. I explained this to him. “Even my hat looks good on me?” I can tell he struggles with his image. How can you not when you can’t even see yourself?

Another thing about him that I admire –  He is still working. He has kept his job for the past ten years, even despite his gradual vision loss. They’ve, thankfully, been accommodating.

Yet… He’s facing another mountain now. He might have to look for another job, which scares him. He is fighting despite it. He is also now accepting the truth. “I am going blind.” He shudders at the thought of not finding something he can do with his blindness. He hates the thought of going on Disability, but he’s now realizing that might be a reality.

Despite all he’s facing, I still admire and love him. He is trying, and there are people out there who won’t try as much as he does while having a disability.

As I end this… I ask you to please pray for him. Keep him in your thoughts. Ask that God will lift him up and give him hope. He has yet to experience that.

Thank you.


To My Mother: She Heard Me and Held Me

In the 6 years I’ve had this blog, I’ve not once written anything in honor of my amazing mother. Well, today that’s what I’m doing. It’s to be a perfect tribute to a woman who took on the extra mile of being a mother to a deaf and partially blind child… And it’s Mother’s Day.

To start, my mom was a very young woman, just in her first year of her marriage to my dad, when she became pregnant with me. To top it off, she became sick with German Measles in the first trimester.

It is also called Reubella, and if you know about it, you can understand that it is a terrifying situation for a woman that early in her pregnancy. She could have chosen to terminate it, knowing there would be a good chance I would be severely disabled, but she didn’t. My mom had faith that God would protect me and things would be fine. She trusted God’s will, no matter what that would mean.

I’m glad she did.

When I was born, my mom was thrilled to find me healthy and whole. She didn’t know of my deafness or of the weak retinas I gained from Reubella. I grew, cried, and ate like any baby. I babbled and played, which didn’t reveal any of my disablities, until I was around three years old. I was still babbling, and a friend of my mom hinted, “I think your daughter is deaf. Maybe you should get her hearing tested?”

That meant my family, which now included my little brother, would need to drive down to a bigger city hours away from home for me to have the test done. If I remember correctly, from what my mom had shared with me, it was in Tucson, Arizona, at the University of Arizona, where I got my hearing tested.  They were able to confirm what everyone was wondering.

“Yes, your daughter is deaf.  She has a severe to profound hearing loss.”

That shook my family’s world, and we all moved down to Tucson to give me the best access to services to help me get hearing aids, an education, and family support.

I went to a school in Tucson called “Clinic for Hearing Impaired Children.” Now, the term “hearing impaired” went out years ago as it was considered not “politically correct”, but it was the ’80’s, and people were still learning how to help deaf and hard of hearing people gain a better quality of life and education.  I learned “Total Communication,” which is the method of teaching sign language while teaching how to speak and understand the English language.

While I was going there, my mom came every day and watched me in my classes through a one way window. She took the time to learn the signs and continue what I learned in school at home.

I wish I could say that was common with deaf children, but sadly, it isn’t. Most of the time, parents send their deaf children to a residental state school for the deaf and let the dorm parents take care of them. A few of them took the time and effort to learn sign so they could communicate with their children, and I do know a few of them.

As I grew up, my mom was there being my “coach” on the swim team, my interpreter at church, and my advocate as I was mainstreamed in the public schools. She even became my teacher as she homeschooled me for a couple of years. She taught me to stand up for myself. She ingrained Philippians 4:13 in to my head. “Just because you are deaf, it doesn’t mean you can’t do anything.”

At 11 years old, I lost partial vision in my right eye. I went to eye doctors and specialists and found out that I had a tear in my retina in the central part of my vision. Once it healed, it left a permanent scar in the center of my vision. My eye became lazy and permanently shifted to the right, giving me the ability to use the remaining of my vision to see some things around me.

That didn’t stop me.

I went to Hawaii with my Girl Scout troop, and my mom was my offical interpreter for the trip. What a blast! She encouraged me when I found my love for signing songs. When it came to deciding college, she was all for me going 2000 miles from home to Gallaudet University. What mom would do that?! She knew it was the right school for me.

Now as a mom, she has been a huge support and friend when I went through rough patches, and in turn, I was able to be there for her when she went through hers.  We are miles away from each other, but thanks to technology, we visit online almost every day, and we do video chats to share how we’re doing.

All of that…. Is my Mom. God blessed me in having an amazing Mom, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.


IF Gathering 2016: A Deaf Gal’s Point of View

As of 48 hours ago, I was in the middle of a battle in my head.

“Should I go? Sure, they said there would be interpreters telecasted with the program. But really? I got a scholarship. Yeah. I should go. But… ”

That “But” kept me from making a decision.

At our Mom Group, earlier that day, which I always went without an interpreter, I was asked by one of the leaders, “Are you coming to ‘IF’?” I leaned my head the side in indecision. I loved the idea of being around a bunch of women connecting on some awesome Godly level, but being the only Deaf woman there had left me feeling a little lonesome lately. I had heard from another friend, in her own excitment, there would be interpreters telecasted. I had my doubts, to be sure, and I responded, giving my excuses, “No, I can’t afford it right now.” She shook her head and said not to worry about it. “But I really struggle with reading lips on a video screen. I had heard there would be interpreters on the video…” I left it hanging, feeling like I couldn’t continue. The sweet woman scratched her chin and responded, “Let me look into that, and I’ll get back to you on that. I’ll email you, okay?” I nodded.

Now, I was feeling a small inkling of hope, but every part of me fought that hope.

I am Deaf. I am a minority. I am outnumbered.

My husband told me to wait before making the ultimate decision about the conference. The man is blind and hard of hearing! He’s an even bigger minority and he tells me to hold my horses! Okay… So I waited.

I waited in my bed with my laptop in front of me. Just as I was ready to resign and say I wasn’t going, I get an email saying I should register so they can get the telecast for the interpreter.  Hope fluttered, and I took that step and registered.

Believe me, the next morning I was so nervous and anxious, and when I showed up at my church at 2 pm, with my laptop in my backpack thinking I might need it for my own screen with an interpreter to watch, I was taken back to see an interpreter on the screen with the telecast.

I should have been overjoyed. I should have been excited. Instead, all the anxiety and lonliness that I had been feeling for such a long time just overpowered me. Little did I know, later on I would realize it to be my water jar that I needed to leave at Jesus’ feet.

It wasn’t until a good friend waved to me in line for dinner with a big smile on her face that I felt happy to be there. I read her lips saying, “I’m so glad you came!!! I saw the interpreter and thought of you!” I smiled back and signed as I said, “Thanks! I loved seeing the interpeter!”

I would be lying to say that the whole night was all amazing and awesome.

My disappointment did return when I saw some parts of the telecast not have an interpreter. I caught some of what was being said, but I felt so left out. Some were laughing in the room, and I missed the joke. I wanted to cry. I had enough of being disappointed. I picked up my backpack and proceeded to leave, but another amazing woman stopped me. “Don’t leave!” I told her I was tired of missing out on everything and being the only deaf person there. She encouraged me by saying they would help me and then threw me a surprise, “You’re teaching us so much. Stay.”

It was a good thing I stayed. The interpreter came back on for me to catch the message about Lazarus and Jesus waiting two days before coming and rising his best friend from the dead. I had a laugh, and then the message of the water jar hit me to the core. It was all about the story of the Samaratian woman and Jesus at the well, and how she left her precious water jar at Jesus’ feet as she ran into the city to tell them about Him. She trusted him with such an important thing. As I watched and “listened” to the message, I realized my hunger for social relationships, especially with those who “speak” my language and understand my struggles, was my water jar. I wasn’t finding it through Facebook, as I had left it thinking that would fix it. The one thing I needed to do  was to trust Him to provide me this need.

It also dawned on me I live in both worlds for a reason.  I’m in this body of Christ… JUST the way I am. HE will put people in my way to support me, but I have to trust Him to do that… Be it they are hearing or deaf.

Now, with my headphones blaring Chris Tomlin in my ears, I am going to settle to sleep. I have another day of IF tomorrow… And I’m trusting Him to give me the message I need.

 


Purple Ears

I had gone to the audiologist way back in October of last year, and not too long after that visit, I was given two brand new hearing aids. The shock of all the noise was a lot to take in for the first couple of weeks. There were appointments of adjusting certian sounds through the months of November and December. We were just getting it right, but for some odd reason, I just could not get my hearing aids to stop distorting my voice when I yelled for my kids, or when I heard certian high pitches.

My audiologist and I were baffled. It was at the point of, just before Christmas, she said, “It might be that it would be something you’ll have to live with.”

In the middle of that whole process, I decided to make my hearing aids stand out by exchanging the beige colored ones for some bright purple ones. IMG_0136

Eventually, I plan on getting some bright colorful earmolds to go with the purple hearing aids. I’m not going to hide the fact I wear them to hear the world around me. My future students need to see their teacher isn’t ashamed of being deaf/hard of hearing.  (The reason I use both is because I am profoundly deaf in my right ear and severely in my left. I’m right on the edge of being completely deaf, though with hearing aids, I am hard of hearing.)

That doesn’t mean I can function like a hearing person does, though! I still have to work twice as hard as a hearing person. I still lipread, use sign language is my primary language, and can’t hear certian speech sounds. My clear speech is all due to some amazing speech therapists I  had growing up. I still can’t hear my voice completely. I can’t hear the “s” or “th”  sound, but when I talk, I know what it feels like to make those sounds. I’m just a great fooler… No one can guess I was born deaf with the way I can talk.

Even though I thought I would need to resign to the way my world now sounded, which was different than what I had grown up with. I was beginning to resent wearing hearing aids, but something nagged in me to keep fighting to get the sound I was familiar with back.

It had been a month since our last appointment, and I decided I should try one more time to see if we could figure out how to get it the way I had with my other hearing aids.

I called through my video relay app on my phone, and immediately, the secretary knew who was calling. I tell her that I just can’t stand the way a a certian pitch gets distorted, and I just want to try one more time in adjusting my hearing aids. “Sure!” my interpreter signs back to me, “Would tomorrow at 11:45 work for you?” I nod and sign, “YES!” I had a glimmer of hope that my hearing aids could be adjusted to be what I wanted.

The next day, as I walked into the office, I was greeted cheerfully by my audiologist and she immediately tells me that she now knows what needs to be done for me. “I had a client yesterday who is just like you, but he had a bit of a nerdy way of figuring it all out.” The guy apparently had a pitch app on his phone that helped him find what pitches his hearing aid went crazy on him. After a few minutes of detective work, she discovered that, according to the computer program, the hearing aids had a feature called a whistle diffuser and a feedback diffuser. At the pitches of whistles and feedback, the hearing aids would automatically try to “dial” down the down, causing it to sound robotic. Once she turned those features off, the whistle pitches came through the hearing aids just as they were supposed to sound. With the feedback diffuser off, you would hear the feedback. It just happened that the guy didn’t like hearing the feedback or the whistling, so he had his turned back on. “I’ll learn to live with it!” he had told her.

“You grew up with having analog hearing aids. Feedback and the whistle sounds are something you’re used to. Lets try turning off those features and see what happens.” It dawned on me, at that moment, that my old digital hearing aids had the feedback reducer feature and was turned off as well. I told her, and she laughed. “That could be just it!”

The second those features were turned off, I suddenly could hear clearer. I asked her to bump up the volume, and that helped quite a bit.

Its been four days since that final adjustment, and I say final because everything sounds like what I am used to. Music is clearer, and I can hear the high saprano voices I love without it becoming distorted. I called for my kids the other day to tell them it was time to go home, and I didn’t sound like a robot. It’s amazing how that made me feel. I was me again.

The con is I can hear feedback in my right ear now. It is a sore reminder that I do need new earmolds soon. Once I do get new earmolds, that feedback will be gone, and they’re going to be colorful, too! That will be fun.

 


I Can’t Hear the Phone

Staring into the computer screen, I watched my relay call get dropped for the third time in a row. I buried my face into my palms, fighting the urge to scream.

I needed to make such an important call, and I wasn’t getting anywhere fast as I sat there trying to get my interpreter back in hopes of finishing this task.

I groaned in frustration.

My husband, who was working from home, waved his hands to get my attention, and I let him know he had it. He signed, “What’s wrong?” I told him of the issues I was having with my computer, and, as I did, I grabbed my Android, turning on my relay app, with hopes it would work better through this device.

It drops again. I try closer to the modem, and it still fails. My husband shows his sympathy as I voice my frustration. A videophone/relay service care representative helps in determining it was my internet to be the problem. A speed test revealed it was too slow for video calls.

Our internet service provider fortunately had an online chat feature, which was doable with the turtle like speed my wi-fi was giving me. “It’s your modem! Let us send you a new one.” What a relief! It was fixable! “It will most likely arrive in about two to three days.” My heart sank. He then sends me another message, “It might come tomorrow since we are dealing with this so early in the day.” I had hope again, but it still didn’t solve the problem at hand.

I still needed to make an appointment with an audiologist.

Why?

My one and only working hearing aid had broken into three pieces, no thanks to weak tubing on both the hearing aid and in the ear mold. Fortunately the tube parts could be replaced, but only an audiologist would have the parts to replace them with.

I knew I also needed a new audiogram done. It’s a basic test to see what kind of hearing loss there is in both ears. I had to have this proof to get services. I had one done three years ago, but they wanted a new one.

I had to roll my eyes. It’s not like my hearing will ever get better. It’s been the same since I was three years old. My right ear was with profound loss and the left was only severe. It’s never really changed since then.

Life can be so challenging without hearing aids, I mused. Yet, even with hearing aids, I still used relay to make calls, but with no viable internet service, I was literally stranded with no way to call out.

My husband could call for me, but he was busy working hard, and I knew I needed to fix this myself.

We ordered lunch, and I watched outside for the delivery, knowing I would not be able to hear the knock on the door. At that moment, I decided I needed to get a door light. I didn’t want to feel this trapped again. “Maybe get a hearing dog?” The idea sounded really interesting. I made a mental note to do some research on that.

After eating lunch, I tell my husband that I would drive to the library to use their internet and make some phone calls. He signs for me to be safe and to text him if I was able to get an appointment. I told him I would.

At the library, which I knew would be quiet on it’s own, but for me, I heard nothing at all. No shuffling of books, no slightly squeaky carts being pushed down the aisles, no slight murmur of people discreetly holding a conversation, or even the sound of the loud air conditioning blowing over the vents above my head. It was nothing at all.

I logged online and pasted in a phone number into my videophone program on my computer and braced with hope it wouldn’t drop. To my delight, it went smoothly as it should, and after a few other calls, I had found the right audiologist to make an appointment with. They would be able to take me in the next day!

Once that was done, it made me think on how I made my calls before internet. I smiled to think of the little white machine I had gotten in middle school. My first TDD (Tele-communication Device for the Deaf) was so amazing to me, and I learned the brief codes in calls, such as GA (Go Ahead) and SK (Stop Keying). The latter was the TDD way of saying, “I’m done and going to hang up.”  When my TDD light would flash, I ran as a typical teenager to answer the call. There were some friends I would talk for a long time with, and there were others that made their conversations brief. My typing skills became fluid with the use of the TDD.

It wasn’t until I was at Gallaudet when internet came into the picture, which was filled with AOL Instant Messaging, emails, and other chat platforms.

Then came along the “cell phones” for the deaf, which were basically texting phones without the audio portion of the device.

My favorite of these kind of devices at that time was called a Sidekick, and now that dinosaur has been buried by the multitudes of smartphones we use today.

Some of these amazing smartphones have become the ear and the voice for deaf people. Nyle’s phone on ANTM (America’s Next Top Model) is a great example of this. Seeing him on that show makes me so proud of him, but that’s a whole different blogging subject.

Tomorrow, I can look forward to and hope for my hearing aid to be fixed. Even if it does, I won’t depend on them so much anymore. I’ve learned that I can function fairly well without them. I could lipread my hearing friends, and some of them knew basic signs. They were all patient with me and made sure I could see what they were saying. Even in church, despite the many hindrances of trying to read lips around a microphone, speakers moving around the stage (which is a challenge and a half when it comes to lip reading), and the fact I didn’t have an interpreter that day. Powerpoint slides helped, and I know now what I need to do to make sure I got as much as I could.

I won’t go into detail on that… It’s a mission I’m on. It’s a mission: Impossible kind of thing, but only possible through God.

I’m blasting music though my earbuds, simulating my brain with sounds, even though they’re not sharp and clear as they are with hearing aids. But, it’s time for me to quite down my brain soon to sleep. Music will need to go soon. The silence should do me good.


Tough Mudder in my Eyes (edited)

Edited: A friend asked me to write more about my team, and now I’ve added that to my story. I’ve excluded names to protect their identity, just in case they don’t want to be known. Thanks!

I woke up with apprehension, knowing this was the day I would face the unknown. I girded myself with courage, knowing I was embarking on a crazy adventure…

…That wasn’t even half the truth.

The team was made up of three tall and strong men and two small women, including myself. I was little, though the other woman was smaller than me!

Where and who did they come from, you may ask?

A just question. As a new resident in Denver, I was still developing friendships as I went. I knew it would take a while before friendships would grow into something stronger, since I was still considered a stranger to these parts. It was in the church I had come to love in the first year residing here, as it was the only church who eagerly met my needs when I asked. I am deaf and needed an interpreter, and to find a church with one was like looking for a needle in a haystack! It was fortunate that I had found one here. It was also here I saw a couple wearing Tough Mudder shirts, and I greeted them, congratulating them on completing it. As I talked to the woman, I told her how I have always wanted to do a Tough Mudder, but just didn’t know anyone who knew about it and would do it with me. Her eyes lit up and said, “You could join us next year! We are going to do it again, too!” She talked to me about wanting to form a team, and I told her I was really interested.

I almost didn’t make it to the Tough Mudder, as finances hadn’t been kind to us as a family trying to make ends meet with just my husband’s income. I was hushed and told my ticket was taken care of. As you could imagine my shock and appreciation, I was overwhelmed… And extremely thankful! I gave her what I could to help pay for whatever expenses she generously covered for me. Her husband, herself, and two other eager men from our church made up our rag band of a team with myself included.

That very morning we all were excited, as well as nervous. I was also prepping myself up for the big day. With some k-tape in hand, I asked the only other female on the team to help me tape up my shoulder. She aptly taped me up, making a beautiful hot pink across my left shoulder.

My newly appointed orthopedic doctor had told me I had Bursitis and had given me a cortisone shot… That whole visit is worth a blog, but that’s for another time. The doctor had suggested I not do this crazy stunt, unless my shoulder pain was much better.  The whole point of taping it was to remind me not to do anything to hurt it even more. I was going to do it.

It was a chilly morning on the mountain side, but the sun ensured us it would be a beautiful day. The five of us donned our gray team colors, marked our numbers to our foreheads, legs, and arms, and joined a throng of other crazed adventure seeking beasts wearing a variety of their own team colors. I could feel their excitement, the vibration of their yelling touched me to the core, sending my butterflies into another hyper dance.

My female counterpart tapped me on the shoulder and I read her lips saying, “You feeling okay?” I nodded. “I am so nervous, but I’m so ready for this!” She nodded excitedly, telling me she was feeling the same way, too.

We walked under an inflated arch marking the space for warm up.I could feel and her the low bass of the music booming out of the speakers near us, and I could see my teammates laugh as I started dancing to the music.

Ahead, a well known icon of the adventure we were embarking on stood on the platform in his short shorts, three bright colored headbands wrapped around his thigh, high knee socks, and a well fitted shirt over his tight muscled chest – It was none other than Coach T. Mud! That got us hooting and hollering! He led us through a warm up, and the excitement began to build even more. I was so ready to start!

They led us through the warm up to a place where a speaker stood, wearing a white jacket with a microphone in his hand. I read his lips as he encouraged us and asked us to kneel. A teammate looked to me, and I saw her ask, “Can you understand him?” I was able to say he was easy to lipread, despite there were times he turned his back on me.

Could I hear him, you may ask? Of course, I couldn’t. I am deaf. My one hearing aid was left behind with one of my teammate’s wife, who waited for us at the finish line.

Finally, we were off! We ran for a good distance, and it felt good to put in some of the training I had managed to do despite the shoulder pain I had over the past month.

The first obstacle came up, and I see volunteers dumping bags of ice into a basin, and I dreaded being cold, but I wasn’t going to let my team down. I climbed up to see a chainlink fence above a slide, leading to a pool of ice water. I knew this was going to take my breath away. The fence was going to force me to put my head under the iced water.

As I hit the water, my head went under, and my feet met the bottom of the pool. I pushed up, feeling my body scream from the cold, and gasped for air as I broke through the icy surface of the water. I could see my teammates coaxing me on, but the voice in my head shouted louder, “MOVE! KEEP MOVING!”  I climbed out of there, shivering, but proud of myself for not letting my fear of the cold overtake me.

The rest of the team made it out, and we ran to warm ourselves up and to make it on to the next hurdle.

We went under barbed wire, pulled up through pipes, fell backwards into cold mud, climbed through even more mud pits avoiding deeper holes, and so much more!

There were a couple of obstacles I passed, for the sake of my shoulder, but I stood on the sidelines cheering my teammates on. I signed, “Champ!” when I saw them make it through the obstacle, and they would smile.

There was one obstacle I wish I didn’t pass. It was called the “Cry Baby”. Just seeing it caused anxiety to rise into my stomach. There was a smell coming out of the boxed chamber set onto the ground, a very irritating gas for the eyes and throat, and on top of that, people would swim under a board in muddy water to get inside and through this very chamber. It scared me bad. The guys were nervous, but I saw one sign, “Brave!” He says, “I’m gonna man up on this! I’m doing it!” He dives under and a minute later, we see him make it across the other side. We cheered, and we all signed, “Champ!”

They had all learned signs as we became a team, knowing I would need to take my hearing aid out. Talk about an awesome team!

The three others decided to do it, leaving me standing in the muddy path trembling in fear. I couldn’t swallow that fear to just do it. They came out triumphant, wiping their irritated eyes and laughing. We began to run away from the obstacle, and I knew I should have just done it.

We climbed over a “Beached Whale”, which was more of a half inflated balloon with ropes around on it to help in climbing over it. It was a sight to see. There were bodies of men and women clambering to find some kind of control and grip, covered in mud, and there were several handprints on some butts, indicating how they managed to get on top of the “whale” in the first place. As I made an effort to jump up, I found myself being pushed up, and I took the opportunity to grab the rope ahead of me. It was quite a challenge to not slide awkwardly on the constantly rocking ballon. My female teammate was already on the ground, and I saw her gesture to me in how to hold the rope as I came down. I did so, and was able to get down without falling.

Another obstacle, which came to be one I loved the most, was a wall of wooden planks stacked up like a ladder nearly 10 feet up. A few of my teammates questioned me with looks, and I said, “I want to do this.” I climbed up, and as I reached the top, it reminded me so much of my love of rock climbing! I climbed down with a smile on my face, and I could see a few of my teammates smile back with the sign, “Champ!”

I can’t say the whole adventure was easy.

One of the hard parts was trying to make the ascension up the mountain to make it to the next point in part of the 11 mile journey. My legs were hurting as I went up, and as I tried to push myself, I felt my chest on fire, making it painful to breathe. About 3 to 4 times I had to stop to ease the pain in my legs. I felt horrible for slowing down my team, but they encouraged me. I fought through the pain and made it to the top, hoping for no more uphill climbs. No… There was quite a few on that journey.

Then came the end.

Electroshock Therapy… Talk about a painful experience. Sure, it scared the crap out of me, but I was going to do it, not knowing how painful it was going to be.

I began to run in the thick mud, anxious for it to be over, and as suddenly as I went down, I felt this painful shock in my shoulder. I yelled, “OW!” I tried to get up, only to get shocked again. I felt my whole body shake in pain. In the corner of my eye, I see my teammate, my hero, come diving in to help me out. He gets shocked, and as we both pull out to the side of the pit, we get shocked again. That. Really. Hurt. I did not want to do that again. I looked to my savior with a smile. “Thank you.” He smiled back and gave me a muddy hug and coaxed me to run to the finish line. I was glad to see that finish line.

We crossed that finish line with orange headbands, layers of mud on our legs and shoes, and every bit of our bodies aching for the beer they promised us at the end.

Would I do it again?

To be honest. Yeah.  I just don’t think I’ll do the shock thing again. As a legionnaire in the Tough Mudder, I think I have that right to pass it. Once is enough. And next time, my shoulder isn’t going to sideline me!