Thursday, September 30, 2004

So this deaf American walks into a Russian bar...

Interesting article in The Japan Times Online about sign languages - how they develop and evolve and some of their similarities to - and differences from - spoken languages.

Incidentally, it turns out that there is a sort of embryonic "Esperanto of sign", an language called Gestuno; unfortunately, it is "the Esperanto of sign" and nobody uses it :)


Wednesday, September 29, 2004

A journey of a thousand miles

Aww, it went great, it was so much fun and the time flew by. Some of it was review (numbers, manners, the alphabet) but I learned a lot of new stuff already, for example colours. (Yes, they are hard to remember. So are names for food and names of places. They're the hardest signs to learn because unlike many signs you can't relate them to an action or, in the case of colours and places, a physical object.)

I am on a listserve for late-deafened adults and don't speak up, I just lurk and listen. It's all too intimidating and makes me so aware I am such a baby to this process. I read people saying, "I've been signing for three years and I am finally getting the hang of it... I understood quite a lot of what the ASL interpreter was saying at the conference!" and I just think, ugh, I have so far to go on this journey! And yet if I don't start there will never be a "three years..." Even if (in sh'allah!) I get the implant, I am determined to use "total communication" - sign, speechreading and hearing - because I know it is not a fail-proof technology.

I had read and heard the Chinese proverb "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step" so often it had become a complete cliche to me. Not anymore. I really understand what it means now.

So I keep stepping.


Tuesday, September 28, 2004

What's the sign for "pooped"?

Sign Language classes begin tonight. Two hours a night, two nights a week, for five weeks. Pretty demanding schedule and that's just Level I. (Other Levels follow which I may or may not take, depending.)

I'm really happy that it's here but it feels kind of daunting in a way. Living this new life is hard and tiring and I get home from work pretty much every day completely exhausted. It's going to be a challenge to do two hours of class on top of that twice a week.

I don't want to seem ungrateful. Why, Husband and C. are both taking the course, as is a new coworker, and they (except for Husband) don't even need to; in fact, Husband doesn't even "need" to and the websites and articles are chock full of people who sign but whose spouses (inexplicably to me) never bothered to learn. So I am hugely grateful and excited. Just tired.

I enjoyed the lunchtime lessons "Ariel" gave us, so hopefully these will leave me feeling energized and not pooped. I'll know after tonight. I know the instructor and he's very nice and personable.

Wish me luck!


Saturday, September 25, 2004

Sorry for nod postig ladely...

Sorry for nod postig ladely.
I ab in bed wid a bad hedcode.
Change of de seasons, I guess. I always ged one in de sprig add in de fall.

Dinnidus is way way bad wid dis code, too. Souds like a airpord rudway in by hed.

Bah. I'b godda stay in bed all weekend add watch Most Exdreme Elimination Challenge on de tv. Dey're de odly people odd tv who look as miserable as I feel.

See you odd Bunday.


(Oh, and L'Shana Tovah and Gemar tov to Rachel and anyone else observing. I hope your fast was easy.)

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Good Heavens!


You just never know what you'll find on Ebay!


Monday, September 20, 2004

Some days are stones.

I had a dreadful day on Friday, which began with sending a fax in the middle of my boss' important conference call (I haven't been in this office long enough to realize the fax and that phone shared a line; and of course when I started the fax I couldn't tell that the line was engaged 'cause I'm deaf; so I cut them off and felt like an idiot) and went downhill from there. I was moving offices, there were all kinds of things going on with my fellow staff and Board coming and going and I couldn't figure out what was going on - or even catch people to ask.

After work there was the Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival, which I hoped might miraculously cheer me up in spite of the fact that I couldn't hear the music; and it was great to spend time with friends (especially C., whose birthday it was - Happy Birthday, C.!). After she went home, though, the place filled up with Festival partygoers (amateurs) and my experience of the rest of the evening was pretty much overcrowding, slow table service, lineups in the ladies' and general confusion for because I got no auditory signals to help with the crowd situation. And no music to offset the usual inconveniences of a Festival event. So it was kind of a bummer. I didn't bother to go to any of the other shows. Husband went with other friends - I would've felt badly if he'd missed the shows, but he had a generally good experience, I think, in spite of lousy weather all weekend being the cream-cheese icing on the carrot cake.

Today (Monday) is looking up, though, things are back on track at work and my boss actually made a special trip in to talk to me and apologize for letting things get confusing for me on Friday, not keeping me in the loop, which was very nice. And I produced two good pieces of work, just this morning, two strong first drafts of documents. So that's a good start to the week.

Still nothing from Halifax. I'd better at least get a Christmas card, goddamnit!


Tuesday, September 14, 2004

"People had to make up their own music in their minds!"

Things are pretty quiet right now and there hasn't been much to post about. I am getting anxious about why I haven't heard anything from the Halifax CI Eval Unit... it'd be nice to get an acknowledgement or an update on waiting times.

I am kind of bummed out this week because it is time for the Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival. This is the first significant landmark event that I feel like I have 'lost' since I lost my hearing. For the first time I feel frustrated to be bereft of a specific thing. Frustrated not in a general way but in a specific, pissed-off way.

The Festival is in its 13th year and has become such a special time for my friends and me, all true blues fans. I have heard Sonny Landreth, Guy Davis, T-Bone Walker, Dutch Mason, and others too good and too numerous to mention, live and in person right here in my little city. A true Blues education, and now it seems, like one of those back-in-college nightmares, I've had the final exam and didn't even know it.

Sorry. It'll still mean getting together with friends on the pub patio in splendid autumn weather, but the loss of the music just sucks.

It just sucks.

I got an email from one of my Board members today. He and I have discussed music in the past. For some reason - maybe he's been thinking about the Festival too, we usually compare notes on what we are going to see - he writes:

"I know how important music is to me and know how important it is to you. Sometimes music helps me continue and I think I know how big that loss can be. We can still communicate with you in a more or less fully functioning way, but the music is gone, and that must hurt."

I need to learn to relate to music a new way, I guess. When I sit on the wooden patio of one of the pubs that surrounds the downtown common square, and a band is in the square, I feel the vibrations right through the floorboards and my chair. That will be the Festival experience for me this year.

The often-misunderstood and always-underrated Yoko Ono said, "All my concerts had no sounds in them; they were completely silent. People had to make up their own music in their minds!"

Maybe I'll invite ol' Yoko to Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival 2005...


Friday, September 10, 2004

mri gown brain blog

So I registered for this service that keeps statistics on my websites (this blog and so that I can see who visits (i.p address and regions of origin only - I can't figure out individuals from the info), when they visit, and how they get here. For example, most people come directly here because I give them the address; that's the nature of this blog. But more and more have been finding it accidentally, and if they do so by typing searchwords into a search engine (like google or lycos) I can see what those searchwords are.

It's all designed for people serving up a product or service. Me, I'm just naturally curious.

I did a keyword search for and was creeped out to find out that several had reached it by typing in "how to make love". Huh? I suddenly remembered that I had posted a picture on the site of two amorous porcupines (long story, newsgroup joke) with the caption: "How do porcupines make love? Very, very carefully."

I took the page down before that went any further.

But that's nothing compared to my bafflement at discovering that three different people visited this blog after typing into a search engine the words: "mri gown brain blog".

What they were looking for, I fear we will never know.


Thursday, September 09, 2004

Stepping Over the Cracks

I've always approached life to some degree from an academic standpoint. At least, I've always understood (I think it came from being a bookish and curious kid) that when interested in - or confronted with - something new, the best approach was to start by researching it. When we decided to get a cat, I spent hundreds of hours and dollars on devouring everything I could find on the internet, in libraries, buying books and magazines, all about the care and behavior of cats. Research is your friend. It can be a comforting lamp in dark places or a weapon in your back pocket. It always makes you more prepared for what is to come.

I approached going deaf the same way. I wish I knew how many hundreds of hours I've spent on the 'net learing about deafened adults.

The thing about researching this is that it has been so damned depressing. If I had a nickel for every essay I've read entitled "Deafened Adults: Falling Between The Cracks" or some variation of the 'cracks' theme, I'd be able to head to the US and get my CI now. If I had another for every that mentioned the words "falling through/between the cracks" somewhere in the body, I'd get two.

The party line is full of defeatist assumptions. Some include:

  • deafened adults will never fit in; they aren't deaf, they aren't hearing; the deaf won't accept them and the hearing won't accomodate them.
  • Family and friends won't learn sign so it is a useless pursuit for the deafened adult...
  • Because even if you do it will take you so long to become proficient that the largest group who use it - congenital/pediatric deaf - will never really understand you, nor you them.
  • Deaf services and programs are designed for the congenitally/pediatric deaf and will often be useless to the deafened adult.
  • Continuing your employment will require live interpreters or notetakers which are expensive and which your employer will resent paying for.
  • Therefore, expect to change jobs, and expect to change drastically downward.
  • You will eventually become isolated from family, friends and social activities. One essay I read, after listing the loss of radio, cinema, theatre, guided tours and lectures, mourned that we are even "effectively excluded from... friendly chats in a restaurant or pub..."
  • Your only option - indeed, your only hope to become a member of the human family again - is to get a Cochlear Implant. (If you live in the US and don't have health insurance, this last little underlying message from the experts must be a great comfort.)
  • Deaf people will hate you for having the implant; hearing people won't know how to communicate with you to facilitate its use. Small animals and children may be afraid of you.

Oh, woe is me!

Depressing indeed, but hardly universal. My spouse and several friends are learning to sign. My friend, "Ariel", whose partner is deaf, has a wide circle of deaf friends and I have met a number of them who seem nice, helpful and patient with my signing. They're tickled pink that I am learning - it is one more person they can 'talk' to.

I certainly don't suffer from a lack of friendly chats at the restaurant or pub, even if it is via notebook and pen.

I don't understand. Is my situation so unique? Are most deafened people out there really surrounded by cold and selfish people, the deaf who don't want them, the hearing who won't help them - even their own family and friends?

Or are many of these self-defeating prophecies written by "experts in the field" rather than deafened people? And are deafened adults repeating the patterns they have been told they will repeat, even if those patterns are from decades ago when services, programs and understanding were so different than they are now?

Oh, I'm not pretending it's easy. It has been much, much harder than I had anticipated, and I've been feeling that especially keenly lately. I am a person who is used to having my success or my failure pretty squarely in my own hands. I goof off, I screw up, it's my fault. I apply myself, I do the job, I am used to succeeding. I'm not keen on having a factor which I can't control gum up the machinery.

I am glad I am a person who does a lot of research when faced with a new challenge. I am also glad that I am an one who is pretty good at sifting "what must be expected and taken into account" from "self-defeating prophecy". Some control over my life may have been taken from me, but it is ceded grudgingly, and I am hanging on to every bit that's left.


Monday, September 06, 2004

Happy Labour Day!

Happy Labour Day!

I hope everyone got The Day When We Honour Workers off, and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Actually Husband and I went out to lunch and I felt guilty about the poor gals who spent their Labour Day waiting on us; well, that is until I remembered that the point of Labour Day is really to celebrate the great gains in working conditions and wages won for us by our brothers and sisters in the unions in years past. Those gains are now legislated so that even the waitresses at the local diner have limits on shift length, a minimum wage rate and legal leave and holiday rules; they are protected from being sexually or otherwise harassed or abused on the job; and they would get time-and-a-half for working on Labour Day.

I left an extra big tip anyway.

It was a perfect Labour Day weekend; sunny, cool (low twenties) and golden. Yesterday because it is autumn and because we live where we live, we made the obligatory Labour Day Weekend trip to Harvey's Big Potato. The Harveys are an old and venerable farming family in the nearby farming community of Maugerville (which naturally is pronounced "Majorville", New Brunswick pronunciation rules being to language as Australian football rules are to sport).

The Harveys' roadside stand has grown and expanded until it is a true landmark and local mecca of harvest produce, baking, arcane local small press books and homemade sweets. As with so many of these local icons, your own included I suppose, a trip to the Big Potato is not so much your average trip to the store as it is a family outing. This is not the least because you are going to actually visit The Big Potato.

This is The Big Potato. It is made of concrete and rebar and other things that frighten small children. It stands guard outside the produce stand. It stands about 5 metres high. There is apparently some kind of local legend that the artist fashioned it to be a bit of a self-portrait, which may be one of the most frightening things I've ever heard, partly because there's another face on the other side of the, uh, statue.

Anyway, we got some lovely corn and tomatoes and some new potatoes, the buying of which was really secondary to the ritual of choosing them (each shopper knowing his or her secret method for selecting the ripest and sweetest was the best) and putting them in bags; and wandering around and fondling peppers and sniffing melons and poking wholegrain bread and seeing what local historian or academic you know had written a small press book lately ("Ooh, look, Susan's put out 'Stained Glass Windows of New Brunswick Churches!'") and 'chatting' about stuff (even with paper and pen) and being side-by-side with your neighbours.

If summer must end, what a lovely way to begin to end it.


Friday, September 03, 2004

There are worse things than being profoundly deaf.

My point - and I did have one - when I began talking about "Alain" yesterday was to mention to you a story he told me. I've noted before that right around the same time I lost all my hearing, "Alain's" office saw three other people here in town who had experienced the same thing (hence the 'virus' theory). He commented to me when I saw him last week that one of those people had been prescribed steroids as well, and that some of her hearing had returned.

I wish that was her happy ending but it isn't. Remember just before I lost the last of my hearing I mentioned that according to the tests, the sounds I was hearing had an 80% distortion rate?

Imagine you're talking to Charlie Brown's teacher ("Waah wah waaaah wah wah") inside the back of a drained tanker truck. Now imagine Charlie Brown's teacher is yelling because you're deaf, although you can still just hear her. Now run that through one of those dollar store "echo mics". That's kind of what a voice sounds like with 80% distortion.

That's the level this poor woman's hearing returned to. I was appalled. Given the choice between being completely deaf and living in that nightmarish bizarro-world of weird, scary and useless sound, I would have chosen this. A hearing aid won't help - she'll just hear louder distorted noise. I can't imagine suffering that every day for the rest of my life. God, it was awful.

I asked "Alain" if she had been offered counseling of any kind to help her cope with this. He seemed surprised and said it hadn't occurred to him. I suggested that if he thought it was appropriate, he might consider offering it to her. It's not a nice place to live, I told him. It's not a nice place to live at all.


Thursday, September 02, 2004

Everywhere you go, there you are.

In the last week I've been back to see "Alain", the audiologist, and Dr. H., to see if the tube-insertion steroid-wicking thingy worked. Alas, it has not, but Dr. H. is a man of faith to an unscientific degree, apparently, and has asked me to continue using them anyway. They're a nuisance (as I have to cock my head to the side for about 10 minutes after taking them, making doing much of anything else impossible) but I don't really mind.

I was floored to discover that "Alain" is actually from St. Pierre et Miquelon. Now, this is only a coincidence if you know that I grew up very close to Grand Bank, NF, which is next door to Fortune, NF, which is where you take the ferry to get to St. Pierre-Miquelon, which in spite of being only 29 km off Newfoundland's coast belongs to France. (Long story, fishing, wars, more fishing, more wars yadda yadda yadda, France owns it.) There's a nice map that illustrates how close the two are here. When we were kids we used to park on the cliffs over the Atlantic ocean and sit in our cars in the dark and drink beer and listen to the radio and watch the lights twinkle on St. Pierre. "Alain" has actually been to my hometown (700 people - it's easy to miss). Not only that, but when I mentioned that we used to go to St. Pierre to play our soccer arch-rivals, the St. Pierre Miquelon Women's team, he commented that his house directly overlooks the soccer pitch. Oh, by the way, I don't advocate drinking beer anywhere in the vicinity of a car now. Period. But this is a small world, and that revelation brought back a lot of memories.



Wednesday, September 01, 2004


I don't usually 'do' politics in this blog but some things are just beyond ignoring, since they make my eyebrows shoot up so high I cancel my botox appointment for that month.

The Republicans invited Arnold Schwarzenegger to address their convention last night. Eager to show how big their "Big Tent" is, they held Arnold up as an example of the immigrant experience, and he in turn spoke movingly of his immigration story and his love for America. The underlying message was that the GOP is the party of "my fellow immigrants".

It was a touching illustration of the Republican Party's deep understanding of and compassion for the immigrant experience, since statistics show the overwhelming majority of US immigrants are in fact white Europeans who enter the country to train with Joe Weider, having just won the title of Pro Mr. Universe. It just goes to show that any one of them, if they work hard enough, could become a movie star, marry into a wealthy and influentical political family and become Governor of California.

Of course, you can never become President someday. No, no matter how American you think you are, unless you were birthed on her sacred soil, you'll never be quite American enough for that.

Too bad, Ah-nold.