Tag Archives: deafness

Deaf in Church

It’s a chilly morning.

I’ve got my coffee and sitting on my patio in hopes of letting nature around me to inspire me along with Casting Crowns blaring into my earphones. I’ve had a writer’s block for the past couple of days (maybe even weeks) when it comes to what I wanted to write about. Today, I am just going to be honest and straightforward… And gracious.

There has been one issue that has bothered me for years. Yes, years. I’ve let it go as something as being, “Oh, that’s life. Nothing is going to change.”

Yet, I wonder… Can it?

Here’s the question: Why are there not many Deaf people in churches? Why is it so hard for a Deaf person to find a church to plug into?

Everytime I move, it’s back to the question of, “Oh, where am I going to go to church?” I search for churches with interpreters, and many times it’s a frustrating struggle. Especially when the kind of church I would like to go to doesn’t have interpreters.  I was fortunate when I was living in Virginia, but here I am 700 miles away from there and at the place of struggling with the whole Deaf/church issue all over again.

I do have a church that I really like, and it did have an interpreter for a while, but the interpreter does have a life of her own and couldn’t do it anymore… Thus… Leaving me in a place of just surviving. I do the best I can to not be a burden, but I’ll be frank – it’s a frustrating and lonely place to be.

I tried a Catholic church for a while, since they offered interpreting and the priest signed. It was wonderful, but I was, again, alone. I’m not a Catholic, and even though I did try to become one years ago, I still felt isolated as not every Catholic church offered interpeters. Also, I didn’t have the fellowship that I direly needed, as the general deaf population in the church were almost 20 to 30 years older than me. Being a mother to two children and a wife to a husband going blind, I knew I needed friendships and fellowship.

Some people might tell me, “Oh, you just need God.” That might be true, but God made us to need fellowship and friendship. We are social creatures, and because of this, I knew I needed to find a balance… But this is a whole different subject.

Back to the problem: Deaf people and churches.

Why is it so difficult?

Here is what I think is why.

  • “You can lip-read?”  Not many people are aware of the struggles a Deaf person goes through in this very hearing and noisy world. I am sure many don’t realize how exhausting and imperfect lipreading is. When I sit in the front and try lipreading the speaker at church, there are many times I miss a joke and hear the congregation laughing, but I don’t know what they’re laughing about. The speaker moves around on stage and then there’s the microphone that covers the mouth… Both are not ideal for lipreading. The projection of a slide show behind the speaker helps, but I’m not getting everything.
  • Interpreters getting burnt out. I’ve had so many experiences of having interpreters quit serving in churches because they’re tired and feel they aren’t appreciated. It can become a thankless job when people take them for granted. I’ve seen interpreters give up for this reason.  This is one reason why I don’t push for one, though I know I should. Yet, my experience has taught me to be grateful when I do get one, and I strive to make them feel appreciated and pray they don’t get burnt out. When life gets in the way for them, I don’t push it.
  • Lack of funding for Interpreters. Paying for an interpeter is one way of insuring one being available, but it’s not cheap. Because of this, the interpreters are basically a volunteer position in a church environment. To interpret a service, which would be, on average, an hour or two. That can be exhausting for one person to do, which brings us back to the interpreter becoming burnt out. Oh, what an ugly cycle.
  • Many churches don’t “have a calling” to serve the Deaf community. I’ve called numerous churches when I moved to Denver, and many of them told me flat out that they didn’t provide an interpreter. I was told that it is possibly because they don’t think of it as being a need. A Deaf person looks like everyone else… It is definitely an invisible challenge.
  • “Interpreters” are not skilled enough. I’ve had the unfortunate exprience of attending a church with an interpreter who signed in Signed Exact English with a mix of something else. Needless to say, I was completely lost for a while. I did start to recognize some of the signs as I had been taught SEE when I was very young. In the end, I was exhausted from having to translate in my head what I wasn’t familiar with to even understand what the service was about. I knew I was not returning to that church.
  • Drama.  Yes, I did use that D-word. I’m sorry to say this, but I’ve seen enough drama take down Deaf Ministries and cause conflicts between interpreters, church members, and visiting deaf individuals. The church I grew up in, sadly, lost it’s ministry for several reasons, and drama was one I noticed to be part of it. Deaf people left the church as it made them uncomfortable. I left another church for a while because of it.

Now that I’ve pointed out the problems with why Deaf people aren’t in churches; what are we to do about it?

What can I do about it?

I had to think a lot about that… It’s exhausting sometimes to fight for what I need to understand what is going on around me, and then to try to cultivate relationships on top of that- Oi. No wonder I sometimes feel like throwing in the towel!

Believe me, the past couple of weeks I was thinking, “What is the point of going to church?”

I was reminded of why the Church was created in the first place. We need each other.

“But GOD… What can I DO? I’m the Deaf one.”

“No. You’re a BRIDGE.”

There are times when I wish God wouldn’t remind me of that calling.

“I’m tired. I feel so alone.”

God then reminds me of the verse that pretty much every Christian knows.

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I think I need that tattooed on me somewhere so I don’t forget.

So, again, I asked, “What can I do?”

With me being a BRIDGE, I can help those who can hear to understand of this great need. I’ve been wanting to do a sign class for ages, but the fear of adding one more thing onto my already full plate has held me back. I might just have to take that leap of faith and trust that things will be provided to help me do it.

This may not solve the interpreter situation, but it would help build an understanding and break down communication barriers that would cultivate relationships. It could also bring an awareness to a need. There are many people who come to church and see me sign songs, but I often wonder –  do they think I am fine?

Maybe.

Nothing will change if I don’t do something…

Guess it’s time to break out of my shell and try.

I just saw this quote on Facebook, and it is so true:

“Change can be scary, but you know what’s scarier?

Allowing fear to stop you from growing, evolving, and processing.”

~Unknown


15 Years Ago…

Yesterday was a bit of a hard day for me to swallow.

I questioned myself many times, “Has it really been 15 years?” The memories are still strong in my mind. I still remember the fear, confusion, devastation, and apprehension.

I looked through my blog this morning and found that I had not written once about my experience. Why didn’t I? I guess I just never thought to do so.

I suppose I should.

I was living in Washington, DC, as a student at Gallaudet University.  As you can see, we could see the center of the city from our campus.

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It was not even a year since I had been dealt with a blow of a drunk driver had turned my world upside-down. My body was still healing, and my soul was still in torment. Though, I was definitely much better off than I was six months before, thanks to some friends who intervened and saved me.

That morning, at 9:00 am,  I was in my Analytical Chemistry Lab class getting ready to do an experiment, which I cannot remember to this day. One of my roommates was in the same class as I, and she began signing, “Something is going on! I can’t text anyone this morning!” She asked a few others who used the same text services as she did to see if they were having the same problem. I don’t remember their responses because the next thing I remember is seeing the Chemistry Department secretary come running in and exclaim, “Airplane crashed the World Trade Center!”

I was probably one of the few who DIDN’T know about the World Trade Center. Having grown up in Arizona, I didn’t bother myself with things of what was “important” to know about New York City.

“Class is canceled. Gallaudet is declaring the school to be closed. Go back to your dorms and stay on campus.”

We all took the stairs down from the 4th floor of what we called the HMG building and ran to the nearest tv to watch what was developing. I didn’t right away, as a friend came running to me saying, “The White House got hit, too!”

“What?!” I signed. I suggested we go to Benson Hall dorm, which had 8 floors, which could give us a good view of what was happening in the city. When we got to the top, we saw the black smoke billowing out from a point southwest from us. Another person corrected us by saying, “No, it was the Pentagon that was hit. A plane flew right into it.”

What was the world coming to?! I can remember feeling my heart in my stomach. I wanted to scream and cry at the same time… But I couldn’t.

I ran into my “cousin” (We shared the same Irish family name, thus dubbing ourselves cousins) and my then former boyfriend, who I am now married to.  We hugged. “Come on,” my cousin says, “let’s go to Father Jerry’s office. We can watch what’s going on there.”

The tall Italian priest, who knew of my torn and battered spirit, saw me and opened his arms to me. He knew I needed to cry. “Another plane went into the other tower.” He calmly tells us. I can remember feeling panic gripping in my chest, and it grew tighter as the news repeated the video of the second plane crashing into the second tower over and over.

Time stood still as I then watched the first tower crumble down into dust and envelop the city in its ashes. If the first one went down, we knew the second one would too. Sure enough, it did.

It is a bit cloudy as to what happened after that, but I vaguely remember someone saying we should go back to our dorms and stay there.

As I walked with friends back to my dorm, I could hear with my hearing aids of the eerie silence around us. I can remember noticing there weren’t any traffic sounds. I could only hear sirens going off from time to time from emergency vehicles driving quickly through the city.

I can remember trying to call my mom, but I couldn’t get through. As soon as I got to my dorm, I signed onto AIM, the popular instant messaging of those days, and sent a message to my mom, who happened to work at a place where she was signed into a computer the whole time. “I’m okay, Mom. I can’t call you as the lines seem to be tied up.” She was relieved and said many of her co-workers were concerned for me, as they knew I was in DC. “Call Grandma. She’s really worried about you.”

Grandma Jan… She was from the generation that witnessed Pearl Harbor, and she had her own personal experience from that time. I kept trying with the phone line and finally was able to get through to her. “I’m okay, Grandma!” I can remember hearing the relief in her voice. “This reminds me so much of the days when Pearl Harbor happened.” I shared with her of what was going on in DC and on campus. I can remember promising her that I would be staying on campus until it was deemed safe.

I tried calling a few other friends, left messages, and my former (at that time) boyfriend stayed with me for most of the day. We went over to the day school for deaf children to see if they needed volunteers, but it ended up they had more than enough and parents were coming to pick up their children.

The rest of the day I cannot remember. I do remember going back to classes the next day feeling like the world had changed. A few days later, I was able to go drive by the Pentagon and saw the gaping wound in the building. The creepy thing was it was still smoking. Embers still burned in parts of the building. “It’s all the jet fuel.” I was told.

The man who I wasn’t dating at the time, the former boyfriend, two weeks later lamented to me, “I love you. All that’s going on has made me realize that I don’t want to lose you.” Two months later, he proposed to me. We are to celebrate 14 years this November.

That, my friends, is my narrative of that fateful day.

 


One Word: Perseverance

As I am sitting here on my patio with my two cats and a cup of coffee. I have Rend Collective blasting into my earphones, and I’m reflecting on the past two months.

Let me just say this – It was crazy.

For those who don’t follow me on Facebook, two months ago I was in a car accident that crippled my SUV and damaged the front right end of my car. I’m still feeling the anxiety from that whole experience. I had no hearing aids on when it happened and flew into an anxiety attack as I knew this one little incident would make things messy.

Why?

My vehicle was my only way to help my blind husband to get around. With working on my Master’s degree, I still needed to get around to do my field experience hours, and with two kids, having no vehicle was going to be difficult, to say the least.

“Why not get a rental?”

Sure. That would make things so much easier, but I had made the mistake of not adding that to my insurance plan, and we weren’t in the position to be able to afford to rent one out of our own pocket.

I prayed they wouldn’t take too long to fix the car… But little did I know how much of a mess we were in.

It ended up being a case of severe case of mishandling by our insurance company, and being deaf didn’t help at all. The only people who really took care of us and respected our deafness/blindness was the body shop who worked on our car. (I also had friends who helped us get to the grocery store and brought us food when we needed it, too.)

It took EIGHT weeks to finally get our SUV back.

It was a long battle, and when I reflect upon it, I realize there will always be that battle for me. Being deaf means I have to fight every time I need to make sure I understand and am being understood in practically every situation.

That is exhausting. I questioned God, “Why? Will there ever be a time where I don’t have to fight to be understood?”

I had to fight to get some of my professors to understand my challenge of doing field experiences with no interpreter. I have had to resort to using my lip-reading skills and depending on my hearing aids, which isn’t at it’s best with the earmolds getting old.

Fortunately, I’m almost done with my field experience hours. I will be glad to be done with that.

I just have to worry about who will hire a teacher who is Deaf. Will I be understood and accepted?  Okay. I can’t worry about that right now, but it does poke back into my thoughts from time to time.

On top of all of this, I’ve been trying to lose weight and failing miserably. I need to lose it for health reasons, and it’s been a frustrating journey.

I had hopes that with having no vehicle that losing the needed pounds would be easier as I would be forced to walk, and walk, I did, but I didn’t lose anything.

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I realize now that it’s another thing I have to overcome.

I’ve been walking with my husband every morning to the light rail, and I have yet to see any loss. I keep telling myself it takes time… But it’s hard to have hope when you’re exhausted emotionally.

What do I do?

The only thing I know how – I hold on. Like everything else I’ve gone through, I will just push through and PERSEVERE.

Paul, my favorite writer in the Bible, puts it best in Philippians 3:14 –

“I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

It’s an uphill climb right now, but I have a small bit of hope right now. I’m going to hold on to that. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel for one of my goals. I’m not far from graduating with a Masters degree and will soon be able to teach.

Today, I am taking a muchly needed respite and will be creative. I have some art in my head that needs to get out on a canvas.


Denver Comic Con: A Deaf/Blind Perspective

It’s a Sunday evening, and we arrived home from walking roughly a mile from the light rail to our home. It was a blazing 99 degrees outside, and it had reached 100 as a high in the city of Denver. It was definitely a very hot day for being out and about in the city.

Where were we? Well, if you haven’t figured it out from the title of the blog, then let me tell you – We went to Denver’s Comic Con!

I had the blessing of receiving passes for my family and I for all three days of the Comic Con event this year. I had not expected to be so generously blessed, and I was extremely thankful and grateful for the gift. What can I say?  I’m a geek and proud of it.

When we had heard we were having this opportunity, which was in January of this year, my son, who is 8 years old, immediately jumped into action and began to work on a Minecraft Creeper costume out of cardboard boxes and duct tape. I kept telling him, “The Comic Con isn’t until June! You have plenty of time to work on it!” The reason I was telling him this was because he was asking constantly for green and black duct tape for his project.

He had the right idea to start that early… I chose to make a dress two days before the weekend of Comic Con. It was fortunate we were able to find what we needed for my daughter’s Doctor Who costume at the thrift store, but I was, in no way, ready. A whole lot of the reason for this was because we have been without a car for the past three weeks, but that’s a whole different story to tell.

With a few hiccups in our schedule and a couple of late nighters, I managed to make a nice Doctor Who themed dress… Which ended up not fitting me the way I had wanted it to, but it mattered not. I wore it anyway and made it work! (I’m hearing Tim Gunn in my head as I typed that phrase.)

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The kids and I made it there in time to venture around and see some pretty cool costumes all around us. There was also a wide variety of props propped up for picture moments. I happened to grab some pictures of my kids and myself around a couple of them. My picture was naturally with a TARDIS. We also found a R2D2 that looked and moved like the one in the movie. I can’t tell you if it made any of it’s sounds as I couldn’t hear it.

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My husband had to work for a couple of hours while we were at the Convention, and it just happened his office was not too far from where we were. We met up for lunch and then headed back all together.

It was after this when things really got fun.

I had been anxiously wanting to watch a couple of panels for that day. I was also elated to find out that there were to be interpreters there as well. The first was with Cary Elwes, who is every woman and girl’s dream hero as his role of the Farm Boy/ Man in Black in Princess Bride. The stories he shared of his time on the set of the movie as well as a few others he had the privilage to be apart of. His stories of Andre the Giant taunting Cary to go ATV riding, which resulted in Cary breaking his toe right before the filming was to begin. He limped and improvised with this injury throughout most of the filming of the movie, and now I want to go back and watch it again to see if I can tell or not.

He even shared of his  moments of wanting to ride along a real storm chaser for the role he had in “Twister”, and his encounter of the F-3 that gave him the sudden realization of the stark dangers of Mother Nature and told the driver, “REVERSE!” In other words, he wanted the hell out of there and was done with his “research” for his role in the movie.

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The interpreters were amazing in expressing the story, and I was even able to capture some really awesome facial expressions from them.

The next panel was the one and only John Barrowman, a.k.a. Captian Jack Harkness from Doctor Who and Torchwood, and Malcom from Arrow (The latter I am not familar with, to be honest).

Now, for those who don’t know him very well, I will say he is a very loud and flamboyant character. At first, I was a little surprised by him, but I found that I actually love his loud personality.

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He came out in a dress, black high heels, and a black wig and danced around the stage. He saw the interpreters and immediately began to become more interactive with them. He made farting noises. He gave a long one, and watched the interpreter sign “fart” with the expression of how long it was. “Oh, I’m going to have fun with this!” He gave a small high pitch fart sound, and the interpreter showed the expression for it. I was dying. “Oh! Lets try this!” He gave a really interesting one and watched the interpreter recipicate it through sign. “Oh, that’s how we fart at home.” he added.  I was laughing so hard. I looked over to see my kids howling, especially my son who loves to do the same thing John was doing.

He then introduced his husband as he asked for some regular clothes. I will tell you, John is skilled at changing his clothes on stage without making it look awkward.

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At this point, he was taking questions from the audience, and my husband, who loved him as Captain Jack Harkness and had been watching Doctor Who with me before his sight had grown worse, went up to ask him a question. It was his turn, and he said, “Hello, John. I just want to say you’re probably one of the few actors I have been able to see before losing so much of my vision.” The audience reacted to this, and it made my heart break, as he has not been able to watch anything on TV or any movies since his vision had gotten worse around two years ago. “My question is, what was it like dancing with Billie Piper in that episode you did with her?”  John came across the stage and asked my husband to come closer. “How much time do you have left before it’s completely gone?”

“It’s probably between five to ten years, give or take.”

“Oh, you have plenty of time, but just in case…” John grabbed my husband’s hand and guided it across his face and, in a joking way, to his butt. There was roaring laughter as John went, “Oops! Well, you won’t forget that, right?”

(BELIEVE ME… I so wish I had a picture of this moment!)

I had tears in my eyes. Not from laughter. It was from pure joy that my husband was having an amazing experience.

At that moment, I remembered a question I had for him. When I finally had a chance, I went up with my interpreter. I asked him, “Hi. I am deaf, and I wanted to ask you about what, with the fact you had that opportunity to experience being deaf for a day, took from it as an actor? What kind of impact did it have on you afterwards?”

He was able to, from a hearing person’s perspective, of what it was like for him. He even shared how isolating it was and how he understood that it was very common for deaf people to struggle with this. He he also said he learned that it was so important to look at a deaf person to make sure they understand what is being said, just in case they can lip-read. “Is that right?” I nodded and signed loudly, “YES!” He then added an amazing piece of news, “In fact, my sister and I have been writing a series of books, “Hollow Earth”, and one of the main characters is deaf.” My interpreter and I were elated! I signed, “YES! Finally!”  Deaf characters are hardly written about, from my experience, in the fiction world.

The rest of his panel was filled with laughter, and I left there with a headache from all the laughing I had done.

The next day, we went back to venture around the convention floor and see about going to one more panel. On the convention floor, there was an area where you could get in line for an autograph of a wide variety of celebrities. There was a fee for it, which some of the money went for raising funds for raising literacy through using pop culture. My daughter had saved some of her money she had earned to be able to get her favorite actress’, Jenna Coleman, who plays Clara Oswald in Doctor Who, autograph on a drawing she did of a TARDIS. “That is very good!” Jenna said in a thick British accent, as my daughter told me later. I couldn’t hear her voice very well. It made her little 11 year old heart jump with excitment.

 

My husband then signed to me, “Hey, since you’re going to go get John Barrowman’s autograph, why don’t we let our daughter get his autograph on her drawing, too?” I thought that was a great idea. We got in line and waited for a while until he and his troupe finally did show up. Once we got up to seeing him, John recognized my husband and shook his hand again. He asked my daughter, “Do you sign for your mom?”  “Yeah, I do, but I don’t for my dad since he can’t see.” He laughed and smiled. “Of course not!” He told me when I told him I was planning on getting his books, “You can get a link to a website from the book to learn BSL.” “Oh, that’s awesome!” I said, “I want to learn BSL since I want to go to London some day and meet some deaf people there.  I only know how to sign ‘Doctor who’ in BSL.”  “What is it?”  I showed him what I knew. I then showed him how to sign it in ASL. He loved it and copied me before finishing signing my poster. I signed, “Thank you.” and walked away.

We went to the “Women of Doctor Who” panel, featuring Jenna Coleman and Alex Kingston, which was something my little girl was anxious to see. It was so good, but it wasn’t as funny as Cary and John. Sorry, ladies.

Our day ended on a high note as we walked out of the main stage to an area where some displays were, including a row of vehicles from movies. One was of the truck from Twister. I told my husband and he was elated to know it was there.

“Its the the truck that crashed in front of the red truck, freaking out the therapist.”

“Oh, wow. I wish I could feel it, since I can’t see it.”

I didn’t even hesitate as I told him, “Wait here.”  I walked over to the table for the vehicle display and asked the gentleman sitting there, “My husband is blind, and I was wondering if there was any way he could be able to touch the Twister truck. Could he?”  To my surprise, the man immediately starting to get up with a huge smile on his face, “Yes! Of course! That’s my truck!”  He came over and took the chain down and let me lead my husband to the truck. The gentleman came to my husband and introduced himself and began to explain what my husband was touching. “Oh, let me show you where Dorothy is.” He led my husband to the great device that was a key part of the Twister story. There was a huge smile across my husband’s face.  “I can see it in my head as I’m touching it. I can remember what I had seen in the movie.”

There’s so many little things that happened during the Comic Con, but these were the highlights… I have a feeling this geeky and nerdy family is going to be returning next year.


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.


ASL is my Language!

I was on Facebook for the past couple of days and noticed an interesting trend amongst my Deaf friends. They were all upset about something that the AGBAD (Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf) had posted in response to a Washington Post article about Nyle DiMarco, a very successful Deaf individual who is a winner of America’s Next Top Model and is now a contestant on Dancing with the Stars. He has a very admirable aspiration to give deaf children earlier access to ASL in schools, and I applaud him on it.

I did a search online to find out what exactly they were upset about.

I found it…

AGBAD Response to Nyle’s Aspiration

I had to read it twice to believe what I was reading.

Now, let me get this straight. They said, “… deaf children are able to learn spoken language by listening.”

I don’t know what planet they’re on, but a DEAF child cannot HEAR in the first place. They only can by way of technology, as in hearing aids or in a Cohlear Implant.

There was so much in their response that made my skin crawl.

Let me tell you why.

I was born deaf. I am profoundly deaf in my right ear and severe in my left. Without my hearing aids, I can’t hear much of anything. You might drop a pan on the floor. I’ll hear that and jump, but if you talk to me, I’m not going to hear anything.

My parents didn’t know I was deaf until I was three years old. So, for THREE years, I had no language. Granted, back in the early ’80’s, they didn’t have hearing tests for babies at the hospital when they were born. So, when I was found to be deaf, my mom wanted me to have any kind of communication available. I was placed in an awesome school in Tucson, Arizona, that went by the name of “C.H.I.C”, Clinic for Hearing Impaired Children, and I was taught Total Communication, which is a combination of sign language and speech therapy.

I learned how to talk, listen, and SIGN. I have friends who went to the same school, and they function fairly well in both worlds. Yet, a lot of my friends have more profound hearing loss than I do, and hearing is not possible for them, even with hearing aids. So, to take away the one language that would give them 100% understanding, that would be cruel. Even I, who has a lip-reading score of 86%, don’t get everything even with hearing aids. I hate it when I don’t get everything, so I depend on interpreters when I can get them. I even ask for them.

I even went to Gallaudet. Oh, God forbid!

But I blossomed in that world! People understood the frustrations I had with being at a hearing party and missing out on the conversation going on around me. Oralism isn’t going to fix that. I don’t have the super powers to read everyone’s lips and understand what everyone is saying. What I read in AGBAD, it seemed to me they wanted that. When I was around my deaf friends signing, I UNDERSTOOD everything.

I told my dad about the whole situation, and he’s hearing. He was flabbergasted that a group of people thought that way. “If they so badly want deaf people to talk, they should think about preaching Total Communication!” He knows how well sign language works, as he works with several deaf people and even taught some of the hearing people signs that worked in the loud working environment they’re in. He even said that ASL was great for communicating to me and my hearing brother in a crowded room without raising his voice. Yes, even my hearing brother and hearing parents learned sign. I consider myself extremely blessed to have grown up in a family like this. They accepted me for who I am and embraced it into their own life.

I’m even working towards my Masters in Special Education, and I’m going to be supporting my students to learn to their upmost ability. I will even support using sign language for those who struggle with communicating orally.

Okay…. I think I’ve stood on my soap box long enough. Thanks for “hearing” me out.