Tag Archives: Deaf

Dial tones

Talking on the telephone is not my forte. Let me clarify this: talking to anyone that is not a family or friend is not my forte. It is not social ungraceness on my part (my pride rings in there), but rather, it is lack of understanding. On the receiver end, they lack patience or clarity of how my Captel phone works (though it is the first thing I explain); on my end, it is the words…I sit in delay. And today’s phone call to my pharmacy definitely proved this to be true.

Timely communication. In our fast-paced world, we expect it. And when you face the untimely pair–Deaf person and the automatic voice communicator spouting number options in order to connect the call to a different line, when I just want to talk to a human being), it confuses the system. And when you’re the one on the slower end, it can get to you…very much like the feeling when your “taking too much time paying as fast as you can in the grocery store line.” We can’t handle untimeliness.

9byN5Db9EK-8 (drawception.com)

Over the years, I have had many interesting phone conversations while using Sprint Captel online: some calls I literally yelled at the receiver end as their lack of patience exposed my own lack of patience and anger; others I cried, still others I had a pleasant chat. Then I just stopped all phone communication. When I finally restarted, using the Captel land-line phone, it felt like re-learning communication. Dad and I made some test calls; I was so nervous. But the feeling didn’t last long. How could it?, when I finally was able to call my grandparents. ūüėÄ

Being Deaf, I could choose to use untimely communication in life as crutch. I would rather use it as a staff, moving forward and learning lessons.

I must speak simply and clearly. Find me alone, and I tend to over talk. It even shows in my writing. Everything must have an explanation. I must define, describe and be known. I want to be heard,  but sometimes being heard means meekness.

Slow conversation doesn’t have to be a hindrance.¬†In fact, it can be enjoyable. Here’s why: when I am waiting for my words to be encrypted, I have to “listen” and even though I can’t hear the voice over the line or timely lip-read, I am processing what the person is saying without thinking of my next “sudden response.” When I sit in a person-to-person chat or talk on Skype, the timely communication effects this “think-while-silent process.” It goes in full reverse, focusing back on myself. When I focus on others, I receive more joy.

Untimely calls can make a difference in someone’s day.¬†And in return, it blesses mine.

 

 

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Sounds of the Soul

Something’s missing.

That is how I have felt these past few weeks. I don’t have to embark on a search party to find what I am missing, because I feel it deep down. Deep in the soul. I know what it is: it is music.

I think the feeling of void came flooding back when I was making a short list of important songs for my parents before they left for their trip. One song being an old favorite by rock band Petra, I spent a few hours one evening between email replies singing to oldies by watching music videos. I admit–I even watched my boy band. Yes, this is extreme music voidness if you find yourself reliving those junior high obsession heart-throb days. But there was no turning back; Plus One’s hit is forever, “Written on My Heart.” ūüėČ

And so Easter morning arrives…yesterday was gorgeous. The sun shining as if radiating glory and proclaiming, “He’s Alive!” Not that Easter morning has to be sunny. Jesus is very much alive today as He was yesterday or will be tomorrow. That is the hope and joy of Easter. (Hebrews 13:8.) But the sun made it extra special to say the least and I was excited for worship that drive to church.

My excitement wore off as we started singing. I only knew two songs. Sure, I could read the lyrics on the power-point and could make-up tunes of how I thought the song sounded based on the tempo I was lip-reading (a bit fun, almost like imagining character voices in your head when reading books), but it is not the same. The void came crashing back and instead of Easter joys, my mind started meddling with self-pity.

The sermon starts and I am not getting much out of it, because there was no sermon notes left in the foyer, nor did they use the power-point unlike usual Sundays. My eyes are not lip-reading well that far from the pulpit, so I start thinking of music and my favorite Easter songs, such as “He’s Alive” by Don Francisco. Then in almost in demanding anger, I say in my head, “I want to hear music!” The music void.

I sit and think. Then it dawns on me, like the morning sunlight: My ears are dead and useless to me now, but one day, they will hear again. And what a sound it will be!!!

 

 

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Lifeline

Yesterday morning, I spent two hours at the hair salon getting my perm redone. For the amount of time taken, the result looks lovely (and bonus points to me as having no sense of smell fully pays off in these instances.) Nearing the end, I had twenty minutes of waiting, during which the solution needed to soak into my hair with the curlers still set in place before my stylist removed them. I asked the lady sitting next to me if she could pass me a People magazine…just something to glance at as I waited. “Pointless readings,” I tell myself, but I didn’t read much anyway as I didn’t have my glasses on at that moment.

I did happen to find one good article about a girl my age who lives with Down Syndrome. As I skimmed the blurry article, I was impressed by her courage not to let the disease define her; she had even gone to court to declare her independence rights on choosing where to live. I don’t know her name or the edition of the People Magazine for quotes, but I do remember reading a few sentences where she states that she is an independent person–she just might need a little help sometimes. I had two thoughts: First, I fully relate to what she is saying. She and I may struggle with vastly different physical limitations, but there is a common understanding both in emotional and mental thoughts of what it means for independent living. And second, whether you struggle physically or not, don’t we all have moments where we might just need a little help? It is our human nature; it keeps us humble.

When I first moved back in my parent’s house, I thought I was losing all independence. It took time for me to process that I never lost my independence; living at home ensures that I can live independently. Yet, I am surrounded by family who can help if I just might need it: opening zip lock bags or medicine bottles if Walgreens places the lids in the wrong direction; putting on my compression stocking or clipping my toe nails; carrying my groceries up the stairs or my full laundry basket to the washer. Or in the event that I have car problems, need to get Muffy’s food from the patio but it is dark outside, I accidentally break a dish while loading/unloading the dishwasher…help is there as well. It is safe independent living.

hermie¬†“I’m…independent!” (samefacts.com)

To maintain continual safe independence–while at home–I now wear a Lifeline necklace. Wearing this necklace does not change any part of how I currently live. I still get up in the mornings on my own; bathe and dress on my own; make myself meals and, of course, the morning pot of coffee; I can still write (chicken scratches), type (finger poke), text, and paint; I still climb up and down the stairs, even if it is a slow one-step-at-a-time; and, I still drive, run errands or go to church on my own as long as I have the energy and weather permits me to do so. ¬†The Lifeline’s purpose is to inform others if I needed help–the communication is accurate and efficient. The necklace works only at my home (garage, basement too) and outside property. Once I leave the driveway, I am too far from the sensor for any signals to send. ¬†However, being out in public, my chances of being all alone are quite slim. ūüėČ

When we first set the Lifeline in place, I was confused as to how I, personally, talk with the personnel over the communicator (set up in my parents room) as I am Deaf. I really do nothing, except push the button on my necklace if I need assistance. The personnel from Lifeline contacts my parents through the communicator and notifies them that my button was pressed, so they can check on me. If no one answers that machine call, they immediately start calling my emergency contact numbers in order; my mom’s cell phone is first, etc. In the case I fall and I am unresponsive, the sensor on my necklace cues in on this and Lifeline automatically sends emergency medical help. It is safe independent living.

Lifeline is unlike a regular 911 emergency contact. It doesn’t have to take a catastrophe of epic proportions for me to push my button for assistance. It can be something even as simple as accidentally breaking glassware while doing the dishes and not being able to safely step away from the glass; if Mom is outside working in her garden, how would she know I needed help? The necklace is also waterproof, so I wear it in the shower. It is only by God’s goodness and perfect timing that my parents were still at home on that Sunday morning when the first blood clot hit as I was in the shower. Because I was hyperventilating and had my left arm slung through the handle on the shower wall in order to stand up straight, the only way I could contact for help was to bang my right fist against the shower wall. At that time, I didn’t even think it was being heard. After a few solid bangs, my mom finally decided to check in on me. You can see the importance of having this in place as I continue to live independently.

Although Lifeline is often aimed in advertising for the elderly, I know for myself–and the family–wearing the necklace puts ease in the mind of constant “What if’s?” It reminds me of my times in¬†prayer. I don’t have to wait for epic catastrophes in order to present my requests to God. Prayer replaces the “What if’s?” with constant peace.

The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup;
you hold my lot.
The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.

Psalm 16:5-6 ESV

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Being a Kid…

When we sisters were little, we liked to pretend–anything from making “houses” out of oversized¬†cardboard boxes¬†to playing in make-shift tents out of blankets between our beds or chairs from the kitchen. We also loved to play “spy” in which we would draw maps of our house and set out a course to spy on people in various rooms…which usually was just my Mom in the kitchen who would pretend not to see us. Yes, countless hours of sister fun (and the bickering that seems inevitable in the equation.)

One thing we did occasionally was pretend to sign when entering the grocery store. We would decide before-hand as we exited the car who would be “deaf.” Coming from a small farm town in which everyone knows everyone, this probably seemed like comedy to the onlookers at the store, because everyone knew¬†we were¬†a hearing family..but being a kid that¬†thought never crossed my mind.

My experience with knowing about sign language came at an early age. In the second grade, there was a girl who was Deaf in the classroom next to ours. We often joined classes together for games, crafts, or different lessons so I first saw an interpreter at that time. Not knowing any signs, I would at least try to communicate to the girl at recess by making up motions and pointing to the merry-go-round to see if she wanted to play. If yes, then a smile and the sign for “yes” or a nod of the head and if no, then she would sign to me then just point where she wanted to play. She left after that year to attend the School for the Blind and Deaf. But it was the beginning of sign language for me.

I leaned how to sign “The Pledge of Allegiance” in elementary school, but signing otherwise did not take great interest in me until my oldest sister came back from her junior high church camp and taught me how to sign “Shout to the Lord.” The first summer church camp I attended as a “going into the 7th grade” camper had different afternoon sessions you could choose for activities. I am not entirely sure (ok, NOT SURE AT ALL) where I thought the idea of playing dodge ball would be a great opportunity for fun…because as it turned out, I was the only girl (go figure). I could have done the sign language session–what a poor decision on my part–however, I did have a tiny bit of fun at dodgeball. I just made it a point to get hit, then did nothing until the next game started. Great strategy! And this did not stop me from learning the sign language song either–since all my friends had taken that session and practiced the entire way home, I picked up on it really fast. That was the year I learned Mercy Me’s hit, “I Can Only Imagine.”

It was my freshman year of high school that I desired to learn more sign language. Switching church camps meant there was no longer any formal instruction for learning songs, so I set out to do it on my own. One of the leaders for our youth group was majoring in ASL, so she helped me get a used textbook from the college bookstore. Best $20 ever spent. The dictionary is massive…I still own it. I did acquire another book later in high school and refer to that book most often. (And just for the record–library book sales can be a source of hidden treasures. Yep, believe it–but I just attained my final sign language dictionary for 50 cents!!!)

My signing story is most likely familiar from this point on in life–high school enabled me to be part of leading worship at church whether in the praise band playing bass guitar or signing songs. I took a community ASL class with my Dad and in college I took an ASL 1 course the summer before I started using interpreters full-time at school.

One part of my past history with signing that always brought me great joy was leading the “Sing and Play” at Vacation Bible School. This beginning part of the kids time at VBS¬†was where we sang songs, introduce the Bible buddy/point of the day and perform a little skit. (My sister and I did an epic skit of a horse stampede in which she ran on stage to save me, using that “save a person action” like the movies or commercials…where you run in at full speed and push the person over to safety at the same time you are holding them. We had the kids on the edge of their seats. ūüôā Favorite VBS memory!)

I knew it would be my last year leading this part of VBS, because (1) the next summer I had plans that I would move to Denver with roommates to work and finish school and (2) I could no longer follow words with songs. I have not helped with a VBS¬†since then until this year, although I did volunteer with a kids ministry in Downtown Denver until the move to OH. In early May, when my church announced this year’s VBS dates, I signed up to help serve in the kitchen.¬†I figured this was easiest to help. I¬†knew I¬†would not be¬†a¬†crew leader,¬†due to¬†the fact I¬†can’t hear and my physical body is not in the best condition. In the few days before, plans changed and I was all set to help in the pre-school as a helper for a crew leader. I was told I would just be an extra set of eyes. Seemed reasonable and something I could do.

My group learned a few valuable lessons the first day which has made the past two days since then flow more smoothly:

Mel does not sit on the floor as she can’t stand up without assistance or somewhat falling over; I now am entitled to¬†a chair. ūüôā

Mel is not good at holding onto her snacks–if they fall on the cement then it is not edible (today it was my whole bowl of trail mix).

Mel’s crew leader used to be an interpreter and signs everything…which meant the first day, all the five groups in our specific pre-school animal category were exposed to sign language/interpreter action. For my own¬†group, lots of questions were asked…being a kid, they are curious, but the moment they know the answer to “Why?”, life goes on. Sweet days of innocence.

As for me, I¬†got home and wondered what I was thinking when I said yes to helping in pre-school!?! I felt out-of-place, as well as a¬†huge¬†distraction, because I needed extra help and attention. I finally¬†came to the conclusion that I am not a distraction but an opportunity for these¬†kids to see that we are all made different and that we can help each other.¬†VBS¬†week is nearing an end and I know this is the¬†last of my¬†days¬†working with children,¬†but I cherish them because the eyes of a five-year old don’t see a helper with physical problems–they see Mel. And it leaves¬†me with a longing to be like a kid again…

Matthew 19:14, “Let the little children come to Me; do not get in their way. For the kingdom of heaven belongs to children like these.”

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Little Joys!

Have you ever stopped for a moment to listen to the water as it drips out of the faucet? What about the sound your sheets make when you ruffle them as you make your bed in the morning? The sound your fork or spoon makes against the dish; the taps your fingers make on the keys when you type; the brushstrokes when you paint on a canvas; the click of your eye shadow case as you finish getting reading in the morning; or the sound of pages turning as you read a book? Little joys!

Yesterday I got my hearing aids fixed! ūüėÄ Funny is perception. It has only been a mere three weeks since they went from usable to unusable overnight. It seems much longer than that! The hearing aids currently are back to where I had them set before–I have them turned up all the way though, as we did not adjust any of the settings due to my last hearing¬†test being in February.¬†At that point in time, my¬†left ear had¬†gunky-dark fluid behind the ear drum and¬†I¬†received some¬†medicine to see if¬†that¬†would¬†clear out. I had my ears checked once and it seemed to be helping¬†slowly. It was not until after the spring break that the tinnitus¬†(insane ringing in both ears) became increasingly¬†loud.¬†So there¬†is much difference in my hearing since February.

Changing the levels now seemed¬†in wrong timing, because¬†I have my MRI/hearing test next Thursday the 23rd. My¬†regular doctor appointments are the following Thursday the 30th. As far as my hearing test goes, I am thinking my left ear has not improved any even if the gunky¬†fluid is out¬†from behind the ear drum. Even with my hearing aid in, I am not hearing much (though I placed it in first this morning and then shut the lid to the case and heard it clear as day…guess that is a good thing!) I do know, however, that I depend on my right ear/hearing aid the most. It used to be the opposite, but I can¬†tell already¬†that my hearing aids are helping…maybe n0t improving¬†my balance but I have not run into as many walls today as I round the corner–little joys!¬†And, after going three weeks with no hearing, I think I did¬†improve my lip-reading and¬†we started incorporating more sign¬†language at home.

My dad is sneaky. He¬†found this¬†website where you can look¬†up words you need and they give you¬†a¬†video¬†of the¬†sign.¬†Last weekend, we had company and at Sunday’s lunch we had the typical tuna sandwiches, chips and salsa, carrots and grapes and cookies for dessert. I see my dad pull out his phone¬†as the others at the table are in conversation. Not thinking anything of it, I return my attention back to lip-reading but sort of just sit in a daze. (I get bad at that. I stare like I am lip-reading but I am not paying attention at all in my mind! I need to work on staying focused!) Anyway, dad never waved for my attention or anything, he just moved his hands. I knew it was a sign, but since he did not mouth the word, I had no idea what it was. Instead of guessing or pointing aimlessly at the table, I just said, “I don’t know what that sign is.” It was grapes!!!

I should have remembered. I learned it in ASL I. Although dad was trying to be sneaky and not ruin the conversation at hand (I think I did ūüôā ), our table then erupted in sign–from discussion of ASL vs. ESL or SEE to guessing¬†the¬†word being signed¬†(as my dad passed on his phone to my sister who put the website and¬†my memory to good use!) Sometimes these conversations are awkward for me as I feel I should be the one to know all the signs (I don’t), but because our guests¬†both¬†had reference¬†and previous experience to sign language, we¬†were able to¬†work through and remember words with sign together.

During these past three weeks,¬†I now¬†have experienced both sides of the spectrum in terms of hearing and hearing loss.¬†Just the other day I read this quote. I think¬†it sums up my thoughts the best way possible:¬†“Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard, are sweeter.”¬†~J0hn Keats.

I am happy to hear, thankful to hear, liking¬†to hear…and¬†I think it¬†is because¬†I had none–that¬†I appreciate it more!¬†Little J0ys!!

PS. This s0ng came to mind this morning:

Carolyn Arends, “I Can Hear You”

Leaky faucet dripping in the kitchen
Rubber squealing — watch out in the alley
Mr. Marley’s probably late for work again.
Birdie singing — telling me to get up
Such a soothing sound floating on the wind
I just keep listening

Funny how You speak to me
In such mysterious ways

Chorus:
I can hear You
I can hear You
It’s so amazing how Your voice keeps breaking through
I can hear You

There’s a church bell ringing out the hour
Like an old friend calling through my window
With the laughter of the children playing down below
You’ve got a way of getting my attention
In the rhythm of life, everywhere I go
Somehow You let me know

If I’ll only stop to listen
You’re in everything

I can hear You
I can hear You
I can hear You
I can hear You

Music video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GtsWtNS-3Og

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Thanksgiving Lessons 101

This Thanksgiving was a very special time. We celebrated my Grandpa’s M.’s 90th birthday with a surprise family reunion. And he was surprised!!! ūüôā What a great time it was to have¬†the family here. I just don’t think it could have been any better!! Dinners ran buffet style through the kitchen; we somehow got all of us to fit together in the same dining room area/hallway so we could all eat together; we enjoyed chatting, pictures, playing games with the kids; and most of all, we enjoyed the precious time spent with Grandpa and Grandma. ūüôā

Grandpa has taught me so much over the past years, but these are my top favorites: Don’t put your elbows on the table and collecting coins is a cool thing. Grandma taught¬†me that it is okay to eat dessert first¬†(you only¬†have one life to live) and writing letters brightens the day. And together they¬†taught me the most important lessons of life: Give and you receive, trust God in all circumstances, and to honor the ones you love as you honor God by doing so. Grandpa and Grandma have been married for 66 years. And they still love each other, care for each other. It is such a testimony. I have been blessed with not one set of grandparents, but three who all have shown me the same lessons of faith and love in their own special ways. Each give me a glimpse of something in my life that I can improve on. During the family reunion, Grandpa yet again showed me a life lesson, but this time I don’t think he realized it.

I must say it was refreshing to not be the only one with hearing aids. I actually had some good conversations about hearing aids with my uncle. It was fun for someone to “understand.” But Grandpa showed me a different way to understand the communication problems that come with lack of hearing. The first night we all were together–after the “SURPRISE!!!”–things were still on the energetic level and it was loud. I could not hear anything but the constant vibe of the family chatting and laughing murmur in my ears. That might be hard to understand, but it is hard to explain. Anyway, after giving my hello and hugs, I went over to sit by Grandpa. I can’t speak for him, but I wonder if the murmur was the same for him–either that or it was just still complete shock that we all were there. ūüėÄ We exchanged a few sentences, then just sat quiet. I noticed as he looked around the room that he was just all smiles. He was not even engaging in any conversations, but still had joy in his face just as if he were chatting with someone right next to him.

I did pretty well at Thanksgiving. I had my hard moments with hearing but for the most part I did well, just hopping from one conversation to the next. It was last night when my frustrations reached a peak. After the extended family left, we decided to play Mexican Train (dominoes game). I got the rules down and we started to play. Then things started changing like “you have to cover the double” and then I said, “I don’t want to cover the double, I want to play here.” That kind of started it. By the next few rounds I had one question about the trains and doubles that I was trying to get an answer for, and everyone was telling me answers at the same time. Finally, after much frustration, we got it quiet and my brother-in-law restated why we had to put the trains down if we can’t cover the double and it clicked. I finally got it.

I am not blaming my family…they are not at fault (although we should work on the talking at the same time part). I could have not raised my voice in frustration of not understanding but because often in loud conversations I can’t get my voice heard, I get so used to shouting louder than I should just to be heard. I have always have had that problem. I just want to be heard. But Grandpa’s approach was the complete opposite. He does not shout to be heard, but when he speaks it is sincere and it is heard. So as the family left this morning I reflected on the past few days and how I see myself every time in these situations. I speak loudly before I try to lip read (which is my version of listening);¬†I get angry when I cannot be heard and frustrated when I cannot hear or understand or know what is going on. It is a constant battle, but it is not for Grandpa. He showed me that you can live out James 1:19 and still enjoy life as if I had regular hearing.

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.

I have tried so hard to live out this verse, but I think it is now time for a new course of action: Be more like Grandpa, because Grandpa is an example of Christ’s love and humility. So thank you Grandpa for the lesson you taught me while you were enjoying your birthday festivities. I love you so much. ūüôā

More to come…

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