When I married my half-deaf/half-blind/half-crazy husband I knew exactly one word and one phrase in ASL. The word? Sorry. The phrase? I love you. We started to go to a deaf branch of the LDS church the week after we were married. It was the people in the branch that taught me ASL, the interpreters and the members. Because most of the members were Hispanic, and I am half Hispanic, more comfortable with Spanish than I was with ASL, I hung around the Hispanic deaf members because I felt a little more comfortable in their culture than Deaf Culture. The words they verbalized were often in Spanish, the food was Mexican and even if it was quiet, it was familiar. But from those friends I picked up a lot of words in MSL not knowing they were MSL.

Now that I am more comfortable with my skills in sign language, I sometimes find that I’ve learned a word in MSL that translates as a completely different word in ASL. Strawberry in MSL, for instance, looks a lot like Flower in ASL and it is easy to confuse my ASL only friends with the sign.

The strangest side effect of this, however, has nothing to do with the deaf. Because I am (1/2) Hispanic, I have friends that speak very little English and I find myself signing at them when I am trying to stammer out my broken, ill-used, Spanish. Maybe it’s because ASL and Spanish are in the same part of my brain, I don’t know, but it must look awfully strange to my hearing friends and relatives to see me waving my hands in the air while I am speaking to them.

It’s kinda funny because my hearing friends do the opposite to me, knowing I speak ASL at home. They try NOT to wave their hands about, because they’ve seen me zero in on their hands once they start moving, like I’m trying to figure out what signs they are signing.

Being multilingual in a multilingual world would be a fascinating study in anthropology or linguistics, don’t you think?

Crash Into Me

Today my husband stepped on my foot and said he was sorry. I said “It’s okay, I’m used to it.” I have to be careful to pay attention to sounds of footfalls, so I don’t come around a corner and crash into my own husband. He literally can’t see me if I am standing beside him unless he is looking directly at me.

Dave Matthews has a song: Crash Into Me, that is a metaphoric love tale of how two souls collide when in love. When you’re married to a blind man (with RP), this metaphor becomes reality.

You’ve got your ball
You’ve got your chain
Tied to me tight tie me up again
Who’s got their claws
In you my friend
Into your heart I’ll beat again
Sweet like candy to my soul
Sweet you rock
And sweet you roll
Lost for you I’m so lost for you

You come crash into me
And I come into you
I come into you
In a boys dream
In a boys dream

Touch your lips just so I know
In your eyes, love, it glows so
I’m bare boned and crazy for you
When you come crash
Into me, baby
And I come into you
In a boys dream
In a boys dream

If I’ve gone overboard
Then I’m begging you
To forgive me
In my haste
When I’m holding you so girl
Close to me

Oh and you come crash
Into me, baby
And I come into you
Hike up your skirt a little more
And show the world to me
Hike up your skirt a little more
And show your world to me
In a boys dream.. In a boys dream

Oh I watch you there
Through the window
And I stare at you
You wear nothing but you
Wear it so well
Tied up and twisted
The way I’d like to be
For you, for me, come crash
Into me

Who got you off when you got yours?
Who was the first to spill your soul?
Who got you off? Well, I’m the one
Dreamed of doing it day and night
Oh sweet like candy to my soul
Sweet you rock and sweet you roll
Oh I swear over and over
It’s you like a wave into me

When you come crash into me baby
Please come crash into me
Come crash into me
In a boy’s dream
In a boy’s dream

No miss you all (?) what runs your way?
Who runs up side you and begs everyday?
Who’s watching you through your window?
Night Comes
Who celebrates with the moon?
That you’re like a wave come again

Come and crash into me baby
And I come into you
In a boy’s dream
In a boy’s dream

Oh now it’s here I build my soul
I swear, friend, don’t you know
I’m bare boned and crazy for you

Oh when you come crash into me yeah
And you come into me
And you come into me

Hike up your skirt a little more
And show the world to me
Hike up your skirt a little more
And show the world to me
In a boy’s dream yeah
In this boy’s dream

(Dixie Chicken outro)
I’ll be your Dixie chicken
You be my Tennessee lamb
And we will walk together
Down in Dixie land

Crash into me
Crash into me
Crash into me
Crash into me

Oh I wanna play with you

Deafness is not a disability… or is it?

This is a hard, controversial post, but it appears in my life constantly. Please be patient and understanding while reading it.

I was looking for videos in ASL when I found this:

This is a hot topic in any “Deaf” community. This is also partly why I and my husband aren’t considered IN the Deaf Community. He has a CI and I am hearing. I can never be IN the community, not truly. They even have a diagram to show all of us how we aren’t really IN it. People in Deaf culture are in the very center. The rest of us… well… you can see how you really aren’t unless you are both deaf and accept the culture.

Disability in this context is defined by the American Heritage Dictionary is:

A disadvantage or deficiency, especially a physical or mental impairment that interferes with or prevents normal achievement in a particular area.

So is deafness a deficiency that prevents “normal” achievement in a particular area.

But it is clear that it is unacceptable to call deafness a disability, unless you are at the social security office, or at a school, doctors office, counselors, or other office asking for an interpreter. Then you are covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act. From what I can see, you are disabled when you need to be but otherwise aren’t when you don’t need anything to interact with the rest of the culture (real world) at large. You don’t really need Closed Captions to enjoy a show, do you? You can watch it without subtitles. And you certainly don’t need police to be trained in how to deal with a deaf person if they aren’t disabled.

If you have a CI–A cochlear implant–you can not be IN Deaf Culture because you are not audiologically in deaf culture. Even people who consider themselves deaf and aren’t FULLY deaf can’t be in the “inner circle” of Deaf Culture, let alone if you are Hard of Hearing. As shown by the diagram above.

I have never really understood this and for the life of me, I can’t understand why CI’s bother Deaf people (with a capital D) so much.

If you had a child born missing a retina and there was surgery to reattach it or to replace it with a digital device, would you not do it? If your child were missing legs, would you refuse to let them use a wheelchair? Parents with deaf children consider it a disability, like these others mentioned before, and they are vilified in the Deaf Community for it.

And if their children are put in a deaf school, those children receive reinforcement for all their negative feelings (because, we have to admit that being deaf in a hearing family is often a lonely, distant, alienating sort of existence) toward their parents. Those reinforcements distance a deaf child from their hearing family members.

These parents have a daunting task and the Deaf Community makes it harder and almost guarantees the parents failure at some point no matter what choice they make.

Why? All because of a concept called “Deaf Culture” and the education that presents deafness as a NON disability.

As far as culture goes, scientifically, Deaf Culture does not really fit in it: But I’ve been in a “Deaf Education” class. It is clear that it is being taught as an actual Culture (anthropologically speaking), ignoring the spaces that it is missing to actually be one.

All of it doesn’t really matter. The truth is the truth. Either Deafness is a disability or not. Either Deaf Culture is a culture or it is not. My opinion means nothing in this area to anyone really influential, but it is my own. And now I am interested in yours. Try not to be too hard on me in your comments below.

Better Than A Reality Show

Whenever my dad comes to visit and see’s all the things we deal with on a normal, everyday basis, he will remark how our household would make a great reality show. It would be much better than Jersey Shore, I’m sure, and probably a lot more culturally edifying–at least Deaf Culturally edifying. You could probably learn a lot about how to handle broken glass and the many uses outside of Christmas for string lights. You would probably learn a lot more ASL than either my children, my brothers or my nephews. You might not need to use it as badly, but you’d be welcomed to visit.

One lovely blog award

A big thank you to Lipreading Mom for nominating my blog for the One Lovely Blog Award!

There are five guidelines for accepting this award:

1. Link back to the blogger who nominated you.

2. Paste the award image on your blog, anywhere.

3. Tell them seven facts about yourself.

4. Nominate 15 other bloggers for this award.

5. Contact the bloggers that you have chosen to let them know that they have been nominated.

Seven facts about me:

1. I am a published non fiction writer dying to break out and into being a fiction author.

2. I don’t watch tv. If I watch a series it’s usually old and on Netflix.

3. I’ve always been a good Mormon girl.

4. I visited ireland a decade ago through the kindness of a friend, the love of her husband for her and a touch of providence. I had been studying it as a layman american of irish decent for years and want to return to Ireland so bad it hurts.

5. I think my writing has improved four fold over the last ten years and none of it due to any higher learning institute.

6. My father is a surveyor. I had to work for him growing up. I swore I would never be a surveyor. I’m still not a surveyor.

7. I swear it is my lot in life to always be the second in command who has to lead because the commander is incapable. I’d like to actually be commander, but it’s clear god doesn’t think I should be.


The next part of the award is nominating 15 other bloggers:

15. The London Flower Lover – Since my visit to Europe over 10 years ago in spring, my appreciation for European Flora has increased and this site keeps it alive.

14. Diedra Alexander – what can I say? I like people that like me.

13. Topicless Bar – I’m not sure you could call this a “lovely” blog, but if eclectic is your thing, this is it.

12. Cute Overload – There is nothing more lovely than cute critters.

11. Jill of All Trades (expert of none) – anyone that can understand when one needs to be serious and when one shouldn’t be, is lovely to me!

10. Neither Here Nor There – I picked this blog because he regularly posts beautiful videos.

9. Fabulous Realms – Hardly even need to list a reason here, the name says it. I love myth and fantasy.

8. Clotid Jam Cracker – I read it for the pictures 🙂

7. Supermom Plus – Because being a mom is lovely = being a supermom is really lovely, but being a mom I can relate to is even better.

6. Silent World Seniors – I just so relate to them… in a hearing way.

5. Adventures of a Deaf Adult – she’s already been nominated by someone else, but that doesn’t mean I can’t do it again, right?

4. Feminist Mormon Housewives – I think this kind of feminism is lovely.

3. Gardening – Livejournal is teh suck, but this is a great community blog.

2. I Can Haz Cheezeburger? – This site saves the sanity of all the politically weary, so it is definitely lovely. I consider it a photo blog of happiness.

1. The Middlest Sister – I love paper art, especially like thist, so this is my #1 draft pick for Loveliest Blog.

Only For the Hearing Impaired

Time for something serious again.  My dad is a travelin’ man.  Sometimes he lives with me, sometimes my brother, other times alone, sometimes with my mother.  He gets shipped off to help this person or that person as often as the Marines.  He was a politician once, and he still doles out advice as if he were still in office.  Don’t get me wrong–He’s been right about a lot of things–I shouldn’t have married my ex husband among them, but he’s not right about everything.

Usually I will just agree he is wiser, take his advice, my own counsel and do the best I can to make a good decision with my husbands.  When I can’t decide, I take it to the only parent I defer to completely: Heavenly Father.  He has proven smarter than me on everything I have brought to him, even when it looked to me like he was sending me into disaster.  He was the one who outsmarted me and moved me like a chess piece until I was at checkmate when I said HE could pick my next husband.  He did.

It didn’t seem like a smart decision at all–a single mother raising two small children on a tight budget marrying an unemployed deaf-blind, slightly crazy, bachelor from Floriduh that she had never met in person before, only knew him from online conversations.  But God was smarter, and he put me in such a position that I had to accept what he offered.  It was really amazing how supportive my friends were, when it seemed very clear to me that marrying my now husband was perfectly illogical.  I didn’t even know ASL!

I defer to my Heavenly Father because his decision was so much better than I thought it was, or could be, or mine would have been.  It was, it seems, perfect for me, and I have deferred to him completely ever since insomuch that even the proclamations the church comes out with, I will not argue with at all, even if I feel a little uncomfortable with them.  God has proven he is smarter than me and though I ask all the time ‘Why is this so hard?’  I never doubt that if HE has sent me to this place, which I believe he has, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  I believe that because there always has been.

Which brings me to my Dad’s advice.  He suggested I go to a ‘hearing’ ward. (Wards are congregations of the LDS Church).  He suggested that I might get more support than I do at the Deaf Branch. (Branches are smaller congregations of the LDS church, typically smaller than a ward).  He says this because he knows the trouble I have in my positions at church, being an interpreter of sorts for the deaf parents of hearing scouts and the leader of the primary age children.  He knows I have problems because I am hearing and some of the things I suggest or comment on to leadership aren’t taken seriously because I’m not deaf, I don’t really understand.  Sometimes the leadership suffers from the tyranny of compassion and can find themselves being more hypocrites than Hippocratic.

My father knows I have problems asking for help from the members because as poor as I am, most of them are even poorer.  The deaf don’t usually end up well off.  BUT, the deaf don’t see my family as dysfunctional.  They don’t feel pity for me or my husband Compassion, yes.  Pity? No. They see our family as relatively well off.  And almost all of them can communicate with my husband to a greater degree than hearing people can.  If I can’t show up for something, they are far more understanding and I don’t need a one page explanation.  If I am late, I’m actually on time.  If someone else hasn’t shown up, I can fill in.

With the Deaf I feel normal and I feel needed.  I don’t feel as if I am more of a burden than the people around me.  I feel I do more help than harm.  My family learns more, and indeed, I think they are loved more in the Deaf Community.

I have, in the past, had people I call ‘the Deaf Elite’ (professors and ‘professionals’ who serve the deaf — sometimes CODAs) tell me that I don’t belong in the community.  That I will never ‘fit in.’  I think they speak out of fear that they will lose their position as ‘elites’ if too many people they cannot control join the group.

Where I am, I believe, is where He wants me to be.  Even though I miss music, I miss things functioning as they should, and I miss very large social groups full of people who complain more about Facebook than they praise it, I feel I am in a place where I have more joy.  It is a place I receive more enlightenment–not education, though I miss that sometimes too.  It is a place where you need to have common sense and adaptability.  All of those make it ideal for a person like me.  I think God knew that I would be more inspired, enlightened, and have more joy in this place, because logic would have sent me to the Hearing World too.

I think I’ll stay here a little longer, besides–where would I get such good fodder for blogging than the world I am in now?

Pronunciation of your name is not really important in ASL – unless your name is Jesus

I have several very good friends that are deaf.  They are always there for me, they are an awesome support system.  They taught me most of what I know of ASL, and continue to correct and teach me what I need to know to be the half-ass interpreter I am.  The only problem we have is communicating when we aren’t face to face.

I don’t have VRS.  My husband is legally blind,  so VRS isn’t really going to help him.  But when I call my deaf friends, I usually get their Sorenson Service.  When I give my name: “Noelle – N.O.E.L.L.E.”  What I get from my friends on the other side of the VRS is “WHO?”  Sometimes I will tell the operator that my sign name is “writing” but with the “n sign.”  I hope they know what I’m talking about because trying to explain a sign, especially a name sign, verbally is like trying to verbally paint a Monet.  Most of the time, I end up telling them “It’s me, remember? You helped me set up for my party on Saint Patricks Day,” or some other uniquely personal event they were at me with (shopping for shoes last weekend, going to get ice cream at Baskin Robins, etc).  That’s when they say “OOOOOOOHHHHH!”  And hit me with the: “Oh!  I’m sorry!  Hugs!  Love you!” BTW, Deaf people “love you” a LOT–It’s probably the best, and most genuine things about the Deaf that makes them easy to be around.

Anyway… once we get over the awkwardness of them not knowing who “Noelle” –the woman they see every week, and just how many Noelle’s do they know?–is over, the conversation can progress.  The only problem is… they never remember my name: Noelle.  They only remember my namesign.  It makes sense, of course, like trying to remember that Chuy’s name is actually Jesus, which, if said without the Spanish pronunciation: “Jesus is calling you,” is probably pretty disorienting.  Right?

It’s understandable, though a little awkward, and just one of the many little quirks of being hearing in a Deaf Community.

The Deaf Nod – or – I don’t understand a thing you are saying, but I’m pretending I do

All hearing people who have worked with the deaf, and even other deaf people, have seen ‘the Deaf nod.’  In fact, everyone who has is nodding their head right now.  Hearing people do it to:  You are talking to mom, she is busy cooking dinner, but she nods her head and says “uh huh” every three seconds.  You know she isn’t really listening to you, but for some reason you keep talking to her.  But when hearing people do it, they are obviously distracted.  Deaf people smile, look you straight in the face while you are signing and nod while completely uncomprehending of anything you are saying.  It is an extraordinary talent, really–the sort of acting ability unparalleled in Hollywood. The only problem is… It definitely doesn’t work with a spouse.

My husbands hearing friends will tell me that they know he is piecing together bits of the conversation he can with lip reading, his CI and visual cues.  He calls it a Wheel of Fortune puzzle.  I understand the difficulties of communicating with people when you only understand bits and pieces of the conversation.  I do.  But if communication is the key to every relationship, nodding your head when you don’t know wtf your spouse is saying is probably not a good idea.  She could be telling you that she is really hot for you and could you come to bed – or she could be telling you not to throw away the stuff drying on the counter, it’s Marzipan not clay, or she could be telling you that you have no money in the account.  All things you might actually want to know, especially that first one.

This isn’t just a deaf/hearing thing, it happens between the deaf too. There are a lot of difficulties in ASL.  Everyone has their own ‘accent.’  Living in Texas, I know many Mexican Deaf who first learned MSL and then came here.  They have a bit of a Spanglish problem, with many MSL signs thrown into their ASL conversations.  And that’s not all, there are ‘local’ signs.  There are four different ways to sign “Sunday” and lots of local places have their own name signs.   Since my best Deaf friend taught me a lot of sign language, sometimes I get funny looks when using an MSL sign to my ASL only friends–or I get the Deaf nod.  It seems perfectly understandable this would happen, right?  But the deaf will do it to the deaf too when they don’t really understand them.

The hearing people interpret for will often tell me when trying to communicate something to the Deaf “will you make sure they REALLY understand?” because they know that sometimes the Deaf will say they understand (or do the Deaf nod) when they really don’t.  I don’t make any promises.  There’s nothing an interpreter can do to make sure they understand except ask: “Understand?”

Honestly, it’s just like anything else.  What might be REALLY important to you just isn’t as important to someone else–deaf or not and no amount of clarification, language enhancement and emphasis can make it become important to them when it isn’t.


Deaf Man Talking!

There are many awkward moments when a deaf man (or woman) can talk, mostly because when they do talk, they talk so loud that it’s very jarring.  Even if it’s not as loud as a normal voice, it’s still very surprising.

It’s completely understandable if a deaf person does speak in a voice with abnormal volume, especially when they have once been hearing, or have had more hearing than they do at present, because they can’t hear themselves as well as they used to.   I’ve pointed out in previous posts that the deaf can be inadvertently loud. My hubby is stone deaf without his technology and the volume of his voice is almost always on high without it.  Then he puts his CI on.  I love his voice when he has his CI on.   It absolutely melts me.  It’s like switching from Death Metal to Barry White… kinda.

I know he doesn’t really know how loud his non CI voice is, but it’s sometimes a little embarrassing when the house is all nice and quiet, my dad is in the room just down the hall, the kids reading quietly in their rooms (doors wide open) and hubby decides to say something a little naughty at full volume.  Full non CI volume.  It’s okay though, right?  No one is paying attention, and even if they heard it, they wouldn’t admit it… right? I mean… it’s not like they are going to blog about it or anything… right?

Deaf Standard Time

I live in Houston, and in Houston we are on Central Standard Time or CST.  Just a few states over is Mountain Standard Time.  In my church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, we understand that MST is not Mountain Standard Time, but Mormon Standard Time.  Translated into non-member, that means “fifteen minutes late.”   This is caused, so we are all led to believe, by Mormon mothers being especially overworked (due to having five kids in three years) and having a difficult time managing to keep all five children in their Sunday best–even with the tag team help of a spouse.

Being in a deaf branch (congregation) of the same church, and socializing with the deaf, we have learned that the deaf have a similar standard of time, Deaf Time, (which means late.  This is, necessarily compounded by MST and it means I am habitually early to nearly every Deaf Branch function, even if I am late.  The reason for being tardy, I suspect, is not due to the children–though CODAS can be especially hard to manage when they want to be.  I have yet to hear any explanation except “It’s a Deaf thing.”

Since I grew up in Southern California near the playground of the stars (Palm Springs), I am somewhat familiar with L.A. trends.  Apparently, it is uncool to be on time for a party.  The standard is to appear thirty +minutes late.  The deaf have taken ‘fashionably late’ as a literal standard and we have learned to schedule meetings, gatherings and parties accordingly.

If you can measure how cultured a people are by how late they arrive to a meeting, no one can out culture a Deaf Mormon.