Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Last hurrah

Normally, I can't wait for summer to end. Usually by now, I've had more than my fill of hot, sticky days and nothing on TV. Fall and sweaters and chilly can't come fast enough. But not this year. This year, I surprised myself by wishing for a few more weeks of longer days and laziness and strawberries. It's really all about the food, you know. I am looking forward to fall, I always do. But it can take its time coming this year. I hope this weekend - the last hurrah of the season - slows to a crawl and meanders through the moments.

It was a good summer. There was a wedding. I wore a fancy blue dress and welcomed a sister-in-law. I made a few new friends, got to know friendish (you know, the ones who aren't new friends anymore, but they're not lifelong friends yet, either) ones better and savored the company of old friends. New friends are fun because they are worlds unexplored. Old friends are good because they are familiar and comfortable but there are always facets of their personalities to ponder, especially as we grow and change together. Babies were born and held and cuddled and snuggled. Bliss means a morning holding a sleeping infant. Church feels more like a family than a corporation. I bet the babies have something to do with that.

It was a delicious summer. (I told you it was all about the food.) I ate a lot of strawberries (which also means I kept chocolate companies in business. Is there anything better than strawberries and chocolate? Mmmm). I explored the city and dined on exquisite crepes, thick-cut bacon, decadent cupcakes, savory biscuits and gravy and Italian sodas. There may have also been a cinnamon roll involved at one time. My kitchen and I reached a delicate truce and the smoke alarm has kept to itself (mostly). But then, I didn't use the oven too much. It was too hot. But I will say that my eyes were opened to the wonder that is Bisquick and I learned that you should probably not try out brand new recipes on people you'd like to call friends. I hope they forgive me for experimenting on them.

It was a lovely summer. I tried to see things I don't normally see. Keeping my camera on hand and looking for pictures left me awestruck. Did you know the sun can shine while it's raining? That it can rain while the sun is shining? (This is a good life lesson to ponder, too.) I could easily spend the rest of my life watching summer sunsets... witnessing the sun's happily tired retreat after a lively and carefree day. Someday, I want to move to Westside, where the trees and shrubs and overwhelming greenery peacefully coexist with new old houses that are just dying to share stories, I know. I looked people in the eye more. And smiled and said hello. That's all we really want, I think. To know and be known.

Oh, thank You Lord, for Your sweet summer mercies.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Well, Pooh

When you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.

-Pooh's Little Instruction Book, inspired by A. A. Milne

(I think Winne the Pooh would have been a good blogger.)

I've been thinking about independence lately. It's good for an adult woman to be independent. I pay my own bills, make my own decisions and have my own life. But sometimes I take that too far and start thinking that maybe I don't really need people. Which I suppose is technically true, God is enough. Jesus is my only hope. But I like the way our pastors put it. "Yes, Jesus is your only hope, but living in community teaches you to love and know Jesus in a way that you'll never learn by yourself." I tend to push people away. I'm happy to serve them and love on them and let them talk about their problems and their joys and their hearts, but my gosh, you'd have to hire a team of wild horses to drag it out of me. So independence goes too far. Does that mean being independent is bad? How does it line up with Scripture, if at all? My brain hurts.

Also, I wonder sometimes, do I love Jesus or do I love being Reformed? You Reformies will know what I mean (also, let's make "Reformies" happen). Do I filter Piper, Driscoll and Chandler through Scripture? Or do I filter Scripture through Reformed tradition and theology? I am guilty of doing more of the latter. Which is ironic, really, because one of the foundations of Reformed theology is that Scripture is our final authority. I am just one big ball of irony today, I know.

Switching gears, I am getting more and more interested in learning about hearing loss, how to educate people on it, how to advocate. All sorts of fun times. Anyway, I am really big on educating people about hearing loss because I realized that a lot of the frustrations that I experience daily are rooted in the fact that people just don't know how to communicate with me. It's not that they don't want to help - they just don't know what to do. So instead of getting mad, I have been trying to do better about explaining (calmly) what I need instead of assuming that people can read my mind. Which has been a grand thing for me, eye-opening and freeing and all that. But I forget that I need to learn, too. I don't have all the answers. I don't want to turn into this person who demands this service or that action. Balance is hard. Teaching and learning. Standing up and letting things slide. Phew. (That was the sound of me blowing the bangs out of my eyes in confusion.)

But I am thankful for brains. For reasoning and thinking and pondering and meditating and considering.

Even if it seems a bother sometimes, as our Pooh bear friend would say.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

What difference does it make?

I am not awesome at advocating for myself. Educating others on communication is not my strong suit. That's why I have this blog, to make up for what I don't do face to face. Maybe I'm chicken. Sometimes it is hard to stand up to someone or something and say, "Hey, could you please do this or that? I need help communicating." It puts me in a vulnerable position to do that. Sometimes it's awkward. So I lose a lot of opportunities to advocate because I'm chicken or shy or lazy or whatever.

Tthere's also a niggling question in the back of my head. "What difference does it make?" For instance, one of the things that really strikes a nerve with me is the fact that it is almost impossible to watch a captioned movie in the theater in this city. There's only one theater that has subtitles and the showtimes are bizarre. Like 11am on a Friday morning... um, hi, I have to work just like everyone else! A few other theaters offer rear window captioning, but I have yet to meet a deaf or hard of hearing person who enjoyed that experience. So in the interest of advocacy, I could write letters to the theaters, chains, management, the companies responsible for captioning and so on. But I don't because I know they'll come back with, "It's too expensive." I don't even try because I assume I'll lose.

The job I have now is the first one I had out of college. I've been there almost three years. It took me about a year just to find it. I probably applied for a couple hundred... ish jobs in that one year span. I had a college degree. I had work experience, both on and off campus. If I may say so, I was a pretty good candidate for employment and while I don't have any hard and fast proof of this, I think it took me so long to find a job because employers didn't really want to hire someone who need accommodations (all I really needed was a CapTel phone). I know deaf and hard of hearing people who struggle to find a job because they can't talk on the phone. That's frustrating and unfair and the Sheriff of the Universe in me wants everything to be brought to justice. I want to fight and stand up for people like us so that we have an equal shot at getting jobs. But what can one person do? What could I really say so that someone will listen and take me seriously?

There is so much that needs to be explained about hearing loss, but sometimes it feels like no one is really listening. Movie theaters only care about money. Employers don't want to take a small step for a valuable employee (uh, to clarify, in case my co-workers ever find my blog, I love my employer. And they love me. They've done so well in providing me with a phone, including me in conversations and they have, in the past, provided an interpreter if I ask. So many employers may be lazy... but mine isn't). Churches don't always have the resources to be accessible and even friends get impatient. So sometimes it just seems easier to let things slide and pretend I can get by without them. Little fish, big pond.

I know, I know, I need to get over this self-defeatist mentality. And a lot of my reluctance is rooted in my laziness; advocacy is hard work and I'm not always willing to put in the effort. But I wish my friends and family would go a little easier on me and not scold me so much for not standing up for myself more. What they don't understand is that if I asked for clarification every time I missed something or advocated for myself every time I felt ignored, I would never stop talking! There's just so many communication barriers that need to be torn down that I wonder what the point is in even starting. Which is kind of how I feel about my closet right now. It's so messy, what's the point of even trying to clean it?! :p

But as with the closet, I guess it starts one step at a time. One small group at church. One friend. One letter. And maybe even one blog. :)

Friday, August 20, 2010

Somebody's getting a letter about this

I hate getting my oil changed. Hate it. Partly because of the communication factor but mostly because I am a woman. Because when I walk in to get my oil changed, those mechanics start drooling. Not because of my bodacious curves, friends. No. They are drooling pennies and sweating dollar bills. They look at me and an explosion of "KA-CHING!" and "$$$$$" clouds their vision. I once paid something like $80 for an oil change because they talked me into changing the air filter. Never. again.

Well today, I had to get my oil changed. Had to. As in, got up at 6am so I could be the first customer, had to. So I make my way to Valvoline (oh yes I'm naming names). The sun is shining, it's a beautiful morning and I'm thinking I could totally start doing this early bird thing. The man who was helping me at Valvoline seemed nice AND he was speaking clearly, which is always a plus, especially among mechanics who tend to mumble (as has been my experience anyway). After making it clear I just wanted an oil change (with the basic oil, not the five million dollar oil) and nothing else, I was good to go and went to go sit in the waiting room while they worked on Amelia (I name my cars. Go with it).

Then after a few minutes, Mechanic Man comes in and does his spiel about how I really, REALLY need to buy this, that and the other or my car will explode into a flaming fireball of death. Whatevs. I'm cool this time and I pass on the air filter. I am wiser now. So wise. Then he whips out a new one - transmission fluid. He is shocked, he says, by how brown it is. It should be bright pink. He asks if I know when the last time was it was changed. I say no. He says they have service records on my car (apparently the previous owners always brought the car to Valvoline) and he has no record of the transmission ever being flushed. He punctuated all of this with an expression of horror. Flaming fireball of death, here we come. So I start doubting. And thinking things like, "ohmygawsh, brown bad, pink GOOD!!" So I asked him how much it cost. He said, "One twenty nine."

And friends, this is where it went downhill. I had a blonde moment and thought he meant one dollar and twenty-nine cents. So I agreed to the service and he left the room, probably cackling a maniacal laugh. But as soon as he left, I thought (see, that thinking thing comes in handy from time to time), "Waaaaaaaaaaaaait a minute. When was the last time I spent a mere dollar and twenty-nine cents on anything auto-related that wasn't an air freshener? And he looked waaaaaaay to happy to have made one dollar and change." So I checked the pricing poster that was in the waiting room. Transmission flush - one HUNDRED and twenty nine dollars. Oh no, this won't do. This won't do at all.

So I ran out to the floor and asked if they had started yet. They said no. I said, "Okay, well, I changed my mind, I don't want the transmission flush right now." Mechanic Man suddenly turned into Rude Dude. "FINE!" he scoffed, rolled his eyes, threw up his hands, turned on his heel and walked away. Then they finished up on my car and I went over to pay. He would barely make eye contact and was short with me.

I mean, really. How old are we here? Three? Whatever. I smiled and thanked him and left. And laughed a little bit when I got in the car. Not only did he miss out on $129, he's going to miss out on a lifetime of oil changes from me. So it was pretty much a lose-lose for Valvoline today.

And that is why I hate getting my oil changed. They think customer service means shaming their clients (at least the lady ones) into paying out the wazoo for questionable services. Just because I have boobs does not mean I don't have a brain. Last year, the heat went out in my car twice. When I went back the second time to get it fixed, the guy helping me tried to make it sound like it was my fault when really, he had just not fixed the problem as thoroughly as he said he did. Hmph. Typical. Now see, if I was a man, I sincerely doubt any of this would have happened. My inner closet feminist cringes, but it's true. There's just no place for a woman in the automotive industry... not as a consumer, anyway.

Let's just chalk this up to reason #73 why I should get married - he* can go get the oil changed. And men, this would be a really sweet courtesy to extend to your lady friends, lady sisters and lady mamas. Change their oil or go with them when they do. We'll be forever grateful. I, for one, would make you cookies.

*Fake husband. Let's call him Gerard Butler for now.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Snakes and snails and puppy dog tails

So I told myself I was going to blog more, be more consistent. HA. See, I'm doing that thing where I think too much again. It's so fun. :p And I told some people about my blog. And stalkers have come out of hiding. So now I am so very aware that people, like real, live, breathing, honest-to-God people, are actually reading the things I come up with. If my life was a cartoon, this is the point where I'd start sweating profusely. Enjoy that image! All that to say, it's taking me longer to write things because I'm doing that darn thinking thing. Must. stop.

Anywhozzle, you know what makes blogs great? Children. Mommy blogs are all the rage because they are essentially stories and pictures of cute kids and hilarious happenings. The closest thing I have to that is stories - oh, the stories - of things that happen when I babysit. Sometimes pastors' children are involved (those are the best tales). Like last night. There is this little boy at church, I think about 3 or 4, going on 13. I called him "little" to his face once and he proceeded to scream, "I'm not LITTLE!" at me for five minutes straight. His idea of a good time is fake shooting people, stomping, throwing things and generally being manly. He likes to do everything himself. He prefers to be in charge. He's all about playing in the dirt. He also has the most tender heart.

He and his two friends were playing some bad robot game. They were robots and they were bad. I'm not really sure what role I adopted in this fantasy world of theirs, but it involved me having superpowers (which I am totally on board with) and guarding my "castle," (aka the storytime circle in the nursery) which was magical and rendered all other superpowers (from unwanted visitors) useless. It was a pretty awesome deal, really.

So anyway, these boys are blasting their imaginary lasers, whipping out their made-up swords, shooting their finger-guns and otherwise using every ounce of their pretend arsenal to take me down. I'm fake fighting back (which really consisted of me talking back and taunting them with the fact that their powers were useless in my castle, ha ha HA!) but they were relentless so I decide to let them win this round. I shrank back and pretended to "die," and collapsed, limp in my chair. After a few seconds, I can feel them poking me to see if I'm really dead. I let the charade go on for just a little bit more when I feel a small arm reach across my shoulder. I open one eye to peek at what's unfolding and Little Man is gently cradling me, his cheek resting on top of my head, with a very concerned expression on his face.

And we all say, "Ahhhwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww!" now. Then I leapt up, proclaimed myself the Tickle Monster and they all went running for their lives.

It was a fun evening.

There were a couple of times where the kids (who were all about 3 or 4 and up. I think the oldest was probably 5 or 6) were trying to tell me something but I couldn't understand them. I had told Little Man a long time ago that he needed to look at me when he talks. He forgets. Then there's another boy who I often have to tell him - like every time I see him - that he has to look up and at me when he has something to say. He forgets.

I haven't done a great job trying to teach these younger ones about hearing loss. What I've done in the past has been pretty simple. Get down on their level, look them in the eye. Often, I'll lift my hair and let them see my hearing aids. I use age appropriate language to help them understand that my ears don't work like theirs do, so I need them to look at me when they talk. But they're kids... they forget or they just don't really know what I'm talking about. Which is understandable. They're not used to the idea that someone can't hear. And they only see me once a week, maaaaybe twice a week at most. So even though I have a lot of fun babysitting, sometimes watching younger children (old enough to talk, but just barely out of toddler-hood) can be an interesting experience when I can't understand them. Most of the time, I eventually figure out what they want and believe me, kids find a way to make themselves understood! But I would like to be more consistent with educating them, too. I think it's good for them to learn about hearing loss and disability (in age-appropriate ways, of course) - the sooner they're exposed to things like that, the more comfortable they'll be around people who just need a little extra help sometimes.

I should probably also be involving the parents more. Not just educating them, but asking them to help me educate their children. Things parents teach go a lot farther than anything I can say. I remember a few years ago, my cousin and her family visited for Christmas. Her son was probably 6 or 7 at the time. I could tell that she had taken the time to explain to him ahead of time how to communicate with me, because when I saw them, he was very comfortable facing me and speaking clearly. He was also so proud to show me some sign language he had learned! ;) We bonded. It was great. And I was really thankful that I didn't have to start from scratch teaching him about communicating with me - we were free to have fun and be silly because all the learnin' was out of the way. ;)

So all that to say... boys are so fun.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


I have been reflecting on quiet lately. Being hard of hearing is not quite as silent as you might think. My ears ring sometimes. With my hearing aids on, I hear lots of noises but I'm not always able to pick out specific sounds. Everything blurs into one mass of white noise. Sometimes turning my hearing aids off is a relief. Quiet becomes a safe place rather than a frightening one. Sometimes it's lonely, but at the same time, sometimes I need the lonely.

I've also been thinking about the quiet of my heart. A verse that keeps popping up in my life is 1 Thessalonians 4:11, but I'm big on context, so here's verses 9-12:

Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.

I grew up in a culture of Christianity that dreamed big things. If God called you to do something, it was going to be Big. And Awesome. And Everyone Would Take Notice. And if you weren't doing something Crazy, then maybe you weren't really a Christian. Or something. That's how I felt sometimes anyway.

I tend to expect Huge Things when I feel called to do something. Like if I feel called to, I don't know, make Rice Krispie treats for my neighbors, then I assume something Big is going to happen if I do. Like we'll be BFFs or conquer the world together or something. Or even with this blog, I confess I expect a lot out of it. I write here for a lot of reasons but mostly I write because I feel like that's a passion the Lord created in me. So sometimes I think that means that I have to say Amazing and Meaningful and Deep and Rock Your Face Off things ALL the time. Which is really very arrogant, unrealistic and exhausting!

I admit I'm tempted. I'm jealous sometimes of people who live what I call loud lives. Everyone knows their name. They do Great Things, like write books or lead seminars or preach sermons or heal bodies or feed the poor. I don't do these things. And I often battle the whisper of doubt that nags at me, "You're not good enough. You're not cool enough. Your life is not loud enough. You must not really love Jesus because you haven't rescued all the children in China."

But that verse keeps popping up. The truth is, I'm more at home living a quiet life. My place is behind those who are on the front lines, to pray for them and lift them up and serve them, so that they can do the Big Things. My job is to take care of kids so their parents can have a break. To type words to the internet so maybe somebody else somewhere else knows that they're not alone in their hearing aids. To be faithful to my work, honor my bosses and respect those in authority. To make the neighbors feel welcome. To be faithful to all the things in between. To aspire to live a quiet life.

Friday, August 13, 2010

In case of emergency

I ran across this blog a short time ago and especially liked the author's most recent post about not being able to hear at night. I have had similar experiences... it's unnerving!

I lived in a house with three other girls a couple of years ago. One roommate and I moved in during the summer and the other two would follow in the fall. Well that was kind of a hard summer. The other lone roommate would be gone a lot, especially weekends, so I spent many nights alone. Even though my bedroom was in the partially-finished basement and I felt pretty safe because, really, I doubted robbers went in the basement much, it was still hard to fall asleep. I worried about not being able to hear anyone break in or awaking to find some stranger in my room. I grappled with being afraid of death and eventually made peace with knowing that no matter what happened to my body, my soul was safe with God.

I'm still a little fearful at night, though. Even though I live in a relatively safe area and have plenty of locks, I still sleep with my phone on and even in the bed with me (I charge it when I get home from work). I keep my keys close at hand so I can hit the panic button in an emergency. And, like I commented on Michele's post, my parents trained me at a young age to call 911 if there was an emergency and, since I wouldn't be able to hear the person on the other line, to just keep repeating my information (why I was in trouble and where I was) until help arrived. Luckily, I've never had to do that but that's my personal plan.

Vulnerability is the hardest thing, I think, about living with hearing loss.

Saturday, August 7, 2010


“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” - George Bernard Shaw

I have been chewing on this quote lately. On one hand, it hits me in the hearing aids. Even I am not always aware that I did not catch something. Someone will say something and I'll think that I understood them perfectly, so I don't ask for clarification. Then somewhere down the line, I discover that what I heard was not what was said. Sometimes it's funny. Sometimes awkward. I think it makes people feel like I wasn't listening to them in the first place and I feel bad that happens (Yah, I confess there are times I'm not listening, or I'm zoning in and out of the conversation. We all do that. I'm talking about the times where I really was listening but somehow misinterpreted something but didn't think I had. Or maybe didn't realize I was not getting all of the information).

On the other hand, the quote hits me in the heart, too. I think so often people think that as long as we acknowledge each other with a "hello, how are you" or we follow people on Twitter, that we're communicating and engaging in community. And don't get me wrong, those things are helpful. "Hello" can eventually lead to conversation and Twitter, Facebook and blogging are great portals to connection. But we tend to treat them as replacements for face-to-face, heart-to-heart interactions. I am guilty of this. I don't reach out as much as I should. I'm intimidated by parties and large groups... even small groups require me to give myself a pep talk before heading out! ;) So I'm most comfortable and most myself in one-on-one settings or itty-bitty gatherings. I get the feeling, though, that it's the opposite for most people. It's hard to find someone who's willing to scale back and community with me (oh yes I did just use the word community as a verb. Jon Acuff would be proud).

I'm fully aware, though, that the road goes both ways. Parties and groups aren't impossible for me. I act like they are, but they're not. My new-ish digital hearing aids (I've had them for two years) do a much better job of filtering out background noise than I give them credit for. My lipreading skills are solid. Communication is not impossible in more crowded settings, so I'm wrong to completely avoid those things myself. I'm sad that people seem intimidated by me, or rather, intimidated by the idea of talking to me, but on a lighter note, in the spirit of the road going both ways, I'm the same way. I'm just like that with the young moms! ;)

Don't get me wrong, I'm not scared of them. I know they're people, too. I love kids. I love their kids. But I find myself tongue-tied. It's like I think that if I don't have children myself, then we have absolutely nothing to talk about. As if the only thing these ladies know is child-rearing and nothing else. As if I have nothing to offer them because I'm not even married. Psh. I know in my head that's false, but I struggle to get over it. I'm silly. So tell me, friends, what should a single, not-even-dating girl talk to a married mom about? That's my awkward honest moment of the day. Enjoy. ;)

I want to stop buying into the illusion that communication and community have taken place. I want to feel free to say, "What did you say?" I want to be comfortable reaching out. I want to do those things even when it's not comfortable. I want to give and be poured out. Like Jesus was.

I want to be all used up when I die. - George Bernard Shaw

Monday, August 2, 2010

Once upon a time

I just spent over an hour "organizing" my desk. So far, all I have are empty drawers and a littered floor. Meh. I'm rewarding myself with a blog post. That is just how nerdy I am.

I'm working on a post about why I blog. It's getting long. Just so you know, if I ever tell you that I'm giving you the short version of something, just laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh. There is no such thing. I used to get frustrated because some D/deaf and hard of hearing people I know will just go on and on, telling me stories about some rather mundane event. It used to drive me up the wall... until I realized that I did the same thing! I can't just tell you how my day was. I have to start with telling you how I couldn't get out of bed, what I had for breakfast, how long it took me to get to work, etc. Most people say, "Good, and you?" when I ask them how they are. I give them my life story! So I'm trying to be a more gracious listener and a more succinct storyteller (Like I said, just laugh and laugh and laugh).

That is something that takes getting used to, though, when I'm around people with hearing loss - the stories. It takes longer, I think, to get through conversations because they don't have the same staccato as conversations among people who can hear. Conversations in the D/deaf and hard of hearing world are long and lengthy and full of rabbit trails. They might hover briefly at the surface but then they plunge deeper. It seems to me that people who can hear take longer to be vulnerable. They seem reluctant to just sit and talk. They always have to be doing something or going somewhere and they have to do it all in a crowd, never one on one.

But when you can't hear, you are already vulnerable and more willing to let your guard down with others. Your hearing has been stripped away and you can more easily see the things that matter. So you zip through things like what's your favorite color and what kind of music do you like and go straight to discussing what was it like for you growing up and how do you deal with your hearing loss? I think, too, that when you live on the outskirts of every other conversation, you are just so eager to connect, especially with those who can share your pain. So you tell stories and bond.

And live happily ever after. The end.

Sunday, August 1, 2010


And how was your week?