Month: December 2011

2011 – a recap

2011 was a decided downer for a lot of people.  On Facebook I note folks voting it their worst year ever and hoping 2012 is better.

My thoughts on 2011:

At the end of December of 2010 I moved from a shabby little apartment where I was living all alone, recovering from traumatic marriage train-wreck to sharing a friend’s home. Sharing is better. Much, much better. We were designed to live with others. Plus I get a free dog in the mix. And who can go wrong with a dog that will collapse at the end of a half-day of doggie day care and sleep so soundly that you can get a picture you can “photoshop” on photo bucket and turn him into a sleeping reindeer?

In sharing living quarters I gained a roommate with a heart of gold.  We often don’t share much in common in terms of food or things we’d watch on the TV, but we both have basic values which are alike and intrinsic goodness towards others than shines through.

After being laid off since 2010 I gave up looking for work and created my own.  It is a huge leap of faith to attempt to open a business in this economy.  I have a number of people who helped me – an attorney who is very dynamic and taught me the ins and outs of advertising and calculated risk taking, another attorney  has invested a lot of her time in me and a third who is willing to help me get my feet under me.  In fact, I’ve also gained an additional mentor and had yet another person ask me to call and offered to help me. It seems that in some ways, this is my year. I had an almost break-even year in 2011, which is not easy to do in the best of times. In 2012 I hope to actually make money.

During this time, I went back to doing pro bono work. One of my first cases was an unemployment appeals case that was supposed to be in Boston. It ended up being way the hell and gone south of Boston. And while I kvetched to myself about getting up at 4 a.m. to drive there and do free work, when the rubber met the road, I was so committed to my client that I not only went once, I went to the appeal of the appeal.  And we won both times. In fact, we got a four page ruling about how wrong the employer was. At that point I realized, “Lady, you Rock!”

This summer I started taking American Sign Language classes at Deaf Inc. in Allston (Greater Boston) and in 2012 I’ll be taking ASL III.  I’ve attended numerous ASL meetups and am now hosting one.  This is a huge step for a Hard of Hearing attorney who is going through another spate of hearing loss.  It is my goal to be literate in ASL by the end of 2012 and to be able to provide legal services to the Deaf community in the Boston area if/as needed. And I’m gaining friends and social contacts at these meetings.

2011 has been a One Foot In Front Of The Other year.  I am fortunate I CAN start my own business.  Lots of folks cannot.

It was not a sunshine and roses, rainbows and lollypops year.  The younger generation in my family has had its share of problems, which is sad. I hope 2012 is much better for them.  But, it is a year.  A year in which I continue to live and breathe, to grow as a human being, to develop as a member of society.

As one of my friends likes to say, “It is what it is.”

So farewell, 2011.  Welcome 2012.  May your days be bright, may the soft rains fall when needed, and may the winds of time and change be gentle.

WARNING: Hickory Smoked Real Ham Bones are a Really Deadly Dog Treat

Can one nominate a site for Freshly Pressed? I wonder. If so, I think this blog deserves to be front and center one of these days.

I ramble about many things from Deaf Dogs to watching college students caught in a downpour doing a rain dance in Boston.

This writer has a mission and a passion to help pet owners and their “kids” – dogs, cats, birds, etc.

If you’ve got a pet and are concerned for their health, this is a blog to follow. I did.

American and French Sign Language

Last night I had a marvelous conversation with a  young man who spoke French Sign Language and Cambodian Sign Language.  How is this possible since I don’t speak more than a few words of French and none of Cambodian?

Those of you who like American Fries instead of “French Fries” (which are not from France anyway, I should add…) may be disappointed to hear that Ameslan, also known as American Sign Language, or ASL, originated in France.  And therein lies a tale that explains what happened last night.

Originally, all sign language in any Deaf community was native to that small community and not understood elsewhere. In fact, the oldest natural language in Europe is Old French Sign Language. However, sign language was “natural” and distinct to each Deaf community. The largest American “natural sign” community was on Martha’s Vineyard where there were high rates of genetic deafness.

Protestant Minister, Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet was enlisted to arrange for the education of a deaf child.  His travels to England and Scotland found him rebuffed.  He then traveled to France where he was welcomed at the Royal Institution for the Deaf where they  taught Old French Sign Language and signs developed by Abbé de l’Épée. There, Laurent Clerc decided to return with Gallaudet and they opened the school that is known today as the American School for the Deaf.

American Sign Language (ASL) and French Sign Language (FSL) are, even after divergence when Clerc left France in 1817, 60% shared.  However, English Sign Language (ESL) is almost 100% dissimilar to ASL.  In fact, ASL is use along with native sign in at least 27 other countries and is used in the English-speaking parts of Canada.

When the young man signed, “I want learn.” I understood him and invited him to sit down.  For two hours I learned his FSL and CSL and he learned ASL.  I think some of his FSL signs were more evocative of the thing to be communicated than the ASL alternative, but that’s just me.  There were others there, of course, and I believe it can be said we all had a wonderful time.  Sadly, if the person had been from the British Isles we’d have been using pidgin, at best.

So, if you want to visit France and don’t want to learn French, maybe FSL would do if you’ve any Deaf contacts there.

And the thunder rolls….

No, it is not a commentary on the Garth Brooks song.  We’ve quite a storm on the way tonight and my little four-legged pal is not the happiest of lads.  It took more than a bit of doing to get him out to do his business – all of it – this evening.  Nothing like forcibly dragging the dog into the back yard while he’s trying to get back into the house – and then standing with him in the rain, dripping along with him while insisting that life and elimination goes on despite storms. (Why can’t we train dogs to use the toilet?) 

He is the happiest of little fellows now that he’s in the house with the doors and windows closed tight.

I wonder if Ginger, the Deaf Dog, knows there is a storm coming. She may feel the change in air pressure, notice the wind when she’s outside, certainly she knows it is wet out there. She might feel the wind buffet the house, but she won’t hear the sounds associated with it. She may see the lightning flash and feel thunder’s vibrations, but she will not hear the thunder roll.

Will she be as afraid as the wicked little fellow who raids the garbage, steals reading glasses off the coffee table, chews up anything he can get his teeth into, and then runs off with the piece of the TV remote and won’t acknowledge “drop it”?  The little fellow who will crawl into my bed tonight and try to become one with the only human being on earth who can protect him from the storm. The same lad who will end up sound asleep on the same pillow I use so we will wake up nose to nose in the morning.  It is a good thing I really like this little scamp!

I can’t hear much of what normally hearing people can.  I only recently found out a forced air furnace makes noise.  (Who knew?)  I can’t hear a car belt squeak. I can only imagine what a wicked little fellow who is always into things he should not be into and who has keen hearing can perceive. It must be hell.

The next time I run into Ginger and her Mum I’ll have to inquire about storms.

There may well be an up side to having a Deaf dog.  Just like there are up sides to having a Hard of Hearing friend who can’t hear you burp – so you never have to say “Excuse me.”

Consider,  if you are quiet you can tip toe around the house, not wake your Deaf dog up until after you’ve gone to the bathroom first.  If your Deaf dog does not hear the doorbell then each visitor is not met with a barking dog – and you can take credit for the fact you’ve got a quiet dog, although it merely means the dog simply does not know anyone is there.

It is Christmas Eve

Merry Merry, Happy Happy to those who celebrate.

The downstairs is clean, the dog is fed, the elves must be out because the dog is also barking off his fool head.

My grandkids are going out to dinner with their mother.  Their father is celebrating with his family.

I’ve got presents to wrap for the grandkids/Christmas Day.

The Druid part of me has already honored the return of the sun.  The Buddhist part of me remembers the words of Buddha:  Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.

I suppose it had to happen

Someday I figured a specific focus would fixate and my blogging would become more defined in scope.  Let’s face it, life as a boomer has so many aspects to it that there could be a new topic every day. Perhaps more exciting for me, but less depth. And yeah, I’ll probably still make random posts and about other topics.

As y’all know I’m taking American Sign Language (ASL) again, this time very seriously.  Not only is learning a new language good for the brain, but my hearing hasn’t been good since I had a severe blow the head as an 18 month old. It wiped out the hearing in one ear and seriously impacted the other side. My one “good ear” has been on the decline ever since and I’ve seen a noticeable loss in the last 9 months.

I’m certainly not the only one.  About 1/3 of the folks in my ASL classes are Hard of Hearing (HoH) adults, mostly considered “late deafened” and trying to cope with life with greatly diminished sound. Some, like me, were affected young, mainstreamed and have been clinging to something like normalcy with our fingertips all our lives – with varying degrees of success.  However, the vast majority of the HoH in my classes are experiencing hearing loss in their 40’s and 50’s.

Studies are coming out that relate a decline in the ability to hear with acceleration of gray matter atrophy in the auditory areas of the brain.

Most adults don’t want to admit they need hearing aids, they’re vain about their appearance … which begs the point about how attractive it is to be constantly saying, “Huh? What did you say? Stop mumbling!” … and they start dropping out of life as well as driving their significant other batty with the TV at full volume. Or totally misinterpreting what they’re being told and making embarrassing mistakes.

What makes this all scarier is that mild hearing loss – that’s right – mild hearing loss is linked to brain atrophy in older adults.  It makes it more difficult for older adults to successfully comprehend speech. Brain density decreases in the auditory areas.  Folks with moderate hearing loss have to work harder to understand complex sentences. Not only that, but it affects all sound processing.  Hearing loss also increases social isolation and often is accompanied by depression.

Early treatment with hearing augmentation devices helps preserve the ability to hear and understand speech and interpret other sounds as well.  And if you hear from someone who complains their new hearing aid makes it sound like “hollering down  rain barrel” be sure to let them know that if they wait long enough and get bad off enough it will go away – like it did for me. I can’t hear well enough to get that “rain barrel” effect anymore.

Take it from someone who was not fitted with a hearing aid for about 30 years after I had my initial hearing loss.  You lose things. I lost fricative consonants  by the time I was in my early 40’s. My brain simply stopped knowing what to do with those verbal noises. Lip reading is only good when you’re close in and face to face. And at best lip  reading is good for only about 1/3 accuracy – your brain attempts to fill in the rest.

I will bet you ten tiki torches and a Buddha statue that if you check out elderly member of the Deaf Community you will find that ASL keeps them from experiencing loss of brain density.  They might not be much better at identifying random sounds, but they keep the part of the brain that interprets speech as stimulated as if they were hearing.

Deaf Dogs

The last time I was at the dog park Duke and I met up with a lovely white dog with a vibrating collar.  A deaf dog.  She was about the sweetest little gal you’ve ever met in your entire life. Me being a Hard of Hearing human, I was instantly fascinated by Ginger and her owner showed me the signs she knew and responds to.  Down. Up. Shake hands. I signed ASL to her and she tried to figure me out.

I got to wondering what, besides age, causes deafness in dogs. Pink skin and white hair in the critical area where hair fibers receive vibrations in the inner ear are apparently the issue.  The white hair dies during infancy and the dog is either deaf in one or both ears.

Despite the fact the AKC and most vets recommend putting deaf dogs down, it would never occur to me to kill a dog because of a hearing loss. Maybe it is because I have significant hearing loss and still live a full life. And most dogs, if they live long enough, end up with fading hearing and/or eyesight and still enjoy a comfy end of life.

I got to thinking about Stray Kitty (whom I refer to as “Lucky” since Rumpydog rescued her) and what Rumpy would think of Deaf Dogs or cats, for that matter. “Lucky,” by the way, is in mid-Tennessee and looking for a home. This is the season of miracles – light, birth, and returns – for many and perhaps her miracle is just waiting to happen, eh?

There are a slew of websites on Deaf Dogs, Deaf Dog training , Deaf, Shy, and Blind Dog apparel and Deaf Dog rescue and even an obedience champion Deaf Dog

I admit that when I get my next dog s/he will be fully hearing since I’m considering a Hearing Dog for the hearing impaired.  However, I’m thrilled to note that all the organizations providing such dogs do so through rescue or animal shelters.

Family gatherings

The question of the week from Plinky is:  What kind of family gatherings do you prefer?

Right off the bat I must say my favorite family gatherings are where all the participants are still breathing.  Frankly, while the extended family may gather to offer tribute to an urn of ashes, it generally is not the most convivial of times.  Unless, I am told,  one goes to a Portuguese or Sicilian funeral when there’s a good deal of theatrics associated with the decedent. I’m advised it is akin to going to the opera. Friends who have married into these ethnic lines tell me I have not yet lived until I experience a real ™ funeral.  I must admit, that the only one that really appealed to me was the friend who had his cremains shot out of a cannon during a revolutionary war reenactment.

I must admit, though, there’s a lot of food after a funeral or memorial service, as if food in some way propitiated the gods of the Ever After so as not to claim yet another of those present still generating brainwaves. Or perhaps it is easier to send a tuna and noodle casserole than to actually know what to say. So, generally the eats are good if a member of the family gathering is no longer doing the inhale/exhale thing.

Still, when it  comes to family gatherings where everyone still has a pulse and when all the family participants have their hearing aids tuned up, it is great fun to listen to the little ones squeal in tonal ranges that can almost shatter fine crystal and leave some of us howling on the floor with a blown ear drum because the hearing aid didn’t respond quite fast enough with the sound damper.

Being a boomer who needs augmentation, let me tell you what’s so great about it. When your relatives get into spats during the family gathering, the hearing aid has an “off” setting or can conveniently be removed and stuck in a pocket.  Note: just be sure to remove it before washing the item of clothing as those little suckers are expensive! And even if you do hear the disagreement, pretend you didn’t, cup your hand behind your ear and go, “Eh? What did you say?” and the participants will usually look at each other, turn in unison and say, “Never mind…” and look for a different mediator.  And really, if the kids are squealing you may still be suffering from a bout of tinnitus and not be able to hear a bloody word.  Reminder:  Lip reading is only correct about 1/3 of the time.  You can amaze your friends by looking at them with a confused expression and repeat what you thought they said.  

Oh, yes, back to family gatherings. I did greatly enjoy going to my brother’s home for his 70th birthday.  Here’s something of a replica of what happened to his cake with all 70 candles on it.  No, it is not his picture.  He’s quite the handsome devil, he is.

At any rate it was wonderful seeing his children and grandchildren – none of whom were in the brain liquefying scream age range (thank heavens!)   My nieces were delightful and the great-nieces and great-nephews were simply the best!  I’ve found we have a budding David Copperfield in the family!  It was all quite remarkable.  I don’t remember one family fight.  Then again, I didn’t always wear my hearing aid.  Sometimes I believe in the prophylactic approach.

So, what about y’all?  What kind of family gatherings appeal to you?  I’d love to finagle an invitation to my eldest niece’s 4th of July BBQ in Georgia sometime.  Maybe. There are a few hundred people who attend and I might get lost in the crowd.  But then I could go hang out with her two Rottweilers and her Black Angus pet calf named Lucky.  And sweat a lot.  And be served boiled peanuts.  Do I want boiled peanuts? Deep fried pickles?  Then again, maybe I could attend by video camera?

Happy Holidays to all of you who are attending family gatherings!

Dog Park

For the uninitiated, a dog park is not where one parks the dog, rather, it is park to take a dog to so he can play with other dogs who are also at the park looking for the opportunity to play.

Recently, my roommate took her dog to doggie day care for half a day in a nearby town.  On the weekends the doggie day care is a dog park. Being as it was cold outside and this indoor one was quite a bit closer than the outside one I knew of I thought I’d give it a whirl, despite having to pay a $10 fee.

We zoomed over, and he was in doggie bliss – in the car with his favorite auntie, going somewhere.  When we arrived, I took the little guy to the grassy area to do this thing before we went in and the second he stepped inside the place he was all for leaving.

We’re talking about attempting to scramble back out the door sort of  “Let’s go!”  Sort of reminded me of the time we went to the beach and despite the owner’s belief he loved the ocean, he acted like Jaws was out there waiting for him.  —–>

I spent a bit of time working with him to get him over being panicked about being left behind. He was having none of it. He cringed from the folks who worked there despite having met them before.  Finally I just stripped off his sweater and basically insisted he go play.

As soon as he got in he dumped a load, which I figured was a submission thing.  Easy to clean up.  He did run and play, but was never quite right with the whole thing.  Every dog that left, he was right next to the inside dog park door, bolting for the exit.

Finally, it became more than clear that he was saying, “I want to go home! Now!”  So, after an hour, we did.

The moral of that story is that if we go to a dog park we’ll take him to one where he’s not afraid of being left behind. He had a doggie asthma attack (stress bucket that he is) and he was always watching me to make sure I wasn’t leaving him.  How can he have fun that way?  Which makes me wonder about the efficacy of doggie day care for him.