Month: September 2012

Om Mani Padme Hum


Last night I went to a 2 hour presentation by Lama Surya Das sponsored by the Unitarian Universalist Buddhist Fellowship at the UU Church of Reading.   When I got my ticket I considered contacting the organizer and inquiring where it would be (the hall or the chapel) and whether the Lama would be using a microphone.  Then I thought, “Eh, how much worse could it be than some of the meditations where I don’t hear the Buddhist Priest very well?”

I got there a little early and got a spot on the end of the third row where I was close enough to lip read.  Saw the organizer and he said the Lama would wear a microphone. I figured, with the adjustments I can do with my hearing aid, I’m good.  How wrong one person can be?

The first clue I got was when I realized that even with a microphone the Lama speaks in a range I have a hard time hearing, even with augmentation.  The second clue was that during normal speech his lips don’t move – his mouth opens, but he’s one of those folks who speaks relatively softly and has little lip motion.  Rats!  So, I maxed out my hearing and and set the microphone to forward.  Uh, huh… Then he started a chant using HH the Dalai Lama’s Chant – Om Mani Padme Hum.  Did I mention there were quite a few more people than the normal Satsang?  Maybe 50 or more?  And the Lama (who is a Chant Master) chants far more loudly than he speaks.  So I turned down my hearing aid.  Then in the middle of the chant I realize that he is breaking away to say some sort of prayer while the others are chanting.  I try turning up the hearing aid – bad, bad idea. I settled on a setting that let me sort of hear him through the drone of the chant around me.

Rather than relaxing into the chant, I’m desperately trying to lipread someone who tends to speak without moving his lips. If he paid any attention to me at all (assuming he saw me) he must have wondered why a woman was starting intently at him.  🙂

After the chanting and the obligatory joking about when the meditation really was over, he began his discussion of Buddha Standard Time, based on his book of the same name.  By that time I had the mother of all sound headaches and cut way back on the hearing augmentation, focusing more on lip reading.  Challenging!  At an rate, the Lama posits that it’s not that we don’t have enough time, it is how we allocate our time. As he discussed being in the now without anticipating the future or worrying about the past, I thought, “He ought consider how hard it is for the Hard of Hearing to understand what’s being said, how intensely we have to focus, and how much we do live in the moment. ”  I momentarily contemplated how wonderful it would be to have one of my regular interpreters on the stage where I could watch him or her and how much better it would be.  At that moment I realized that in the future I was going to ask everyone for an accommodation.  Life is too short not to ask.

Interestingly enough, for all the discussion of not watching the clock, having to watch him all the time, I noticed he checked his wristwatch frequently to make sure he was on time.  🙂

Once the discussion was over and the questions were asked and answered he took a short break and then went in for a book signing.  I did have the book, but I’ve never really understood the purpose of having an author sign a book. I suppose it is a memento of the night or a way to sell it for more – whatever. That being said, I’ve signed a few of my workbooks upon student requests (still baffled by why anyone would care about a signature).  While the Lama was signing books the organizer asked me if I was able to hear anything.  I allowed as how it was, “Not much.” and then asked if there were another event if the Buddhist Fellowship would pay for sign language interpreter(s) for me.  “Of course!” I was told.   Andy doesn’t realize how much that means to me, considering how often one has to fight to get accommodations – and he knows they’d have to pay for the terp(s), not me.  I’m gratified by the warmth and inclusion.  But they’re Buddhists, of course they’re about inclusiveness.  And, he pointed out, having an interpreter for me would open up events to many others.

On my way out (no, I didn’t have the Lama sign my book) I ran into someone having a set of meditative sessions at her home and was invited to attend – and sit right next to that Lama so I can hear him.  Again, that inclusiveness of Buddhists.

When I got home I went to bed nursing that sound headache – and could not sleep.  In the middle of the night I pondered on one of the stories told about a Lama who meditated so deeply he had no need for sleep.  Apparently, despite the need to break away and watch, I’d been into the rem states for sleep long enough and deep enough that I didn’t need sleep.  I was up and down much of the night, finally drifting off for a few hours in the early morning.  Note to self:  No deep meditative states for long periods of time in the late evening.

Audism


What’s audism?  It looks like I misspelled autism, but I didn’t.   In short, audism is a negative attitude – or an opressive one – towards Deaf people by deaf or hearing people and/or agencies or organizations through failure to accommodate them.

I remember years ago, in social work school, being aghast that a social work professor there forced his totally deaf child to be oral. He mainstreamed his son and totally isolated his child from the Deaf community.  That, to my mind, is full-blown audism. There are lesser forms.  For instance, refusal or failure to use sign in the presence of a sign-language speaker is audism – assuming you know how to use it, of course.

There is a belief the mainstream of society holds that all persons should be able to walk, talk, see, and hear – among other things – in order to be “normal” or “able bodied”.  Anything less is a disability.

In particular, members of the Deaf community are largely happy with themselves. Yes, life is a little more difficult when you have a hearing impairment, but (as my blind ex pointed out to me) it is a condition and not a disease the deaf will die from.

To those who have been deaf from birth, it is impossible to imagine what sound is, how it carries, and exactly why it is so important.  And, frankly, to some folks (like me) sound can be more of a hindrance than a help (at times) – and yes, I do enjoy sounds … at least some of them … when I am in control of the situation.  I’m in control of darn little when it comes to sound, though.

One of the only communities I know to have formed around a “disability” is the Deaf Community.  They share a language and a similar culture.  I know that anthropologically it isn’t “really” a culture, but we can save that argument for another day.

I can understand the horror of Deaf parents who are told to implant their deaf children with Cochlear Implants (CIs) . This is an indication to them that they are somehow lacking something – that their children are lacking something.  Which – actually – they are, that being hearing.

However, one can live a full and robust life without hearing. I hear the arguments that it is far easier to have a child introduced to a CI than waiting for them to make that choice as adults.  At the same time, I’m all too aware that this is a surgery with all the risks of any surgery in terms of dying from anesthetic or developing other problems as a result. It does involve boring into the skull.   There are deaths from bacterial meningitis that have been attributed to the CI.  The last I heard there were about 17 in total.  We hear 17 and think, that’s a small number.  Which it is, unless you are one of the parents who lost a child because of it.

It is far more common for hearing parents to get CIs for their children because they want their children to participate fully in the hearing world.  However, my impression is that they linger in the world of the Hard of Hearing (HoH).  They are neither fish nor fowl – not fully hearing and not fully Deaf.  I know folks with CIs and I wear a Hearing Aid and I’m not against any of it.   I might even consider a CI at some point – maybe. But I do think that we should stop and think about how important it is to attempt to impose our values – against or for CIs – on others.  Certainly, when kids grow up they have the right to get a CI even if their extended family is part of the Deaf Community.

Gallaudet University has a FAQ on Audism I’d like to recommend.  (Click Here for FAQ)

Deaf Awareness Week


Deaf Awareness Week is in its 4th day and I’ve really not had much to say.  I guess I’m sitting back and thinking.

This week a lawyer friend of mine from a southern state which shall not be named  was confronted by a chewing tobacco spitin’ good ole boy cop who refused to spit his ‘baccy out so she could read his lips;  and also refused her an interpreter. Mind you, she is a deaf lawyer – so what happens to her happens to all of us – in spades.

Now, I admit that I suggested (my Dad) Judge Cox’s cure for ignorance – involving a 2×4 upside the head – kinda gentle like – just enough to see stars, but I’d guess that’s no longer allowed to push information into an ignorant cop’s skull.  Times do change.  ‘Course its better than having to swallow that wad on judge’s orders.

So I suggested the ACLU. Why, when it is just local?  Because it is local everywhere. I bet you can’t find a small town in America where some cop isn’t handing out a line of crap to some deaf person and having fun with it.  Why not make a federal case out of it.  Isn’t that what it took to desegregate schools – local school, mind you?

‘Course, this does mean that Deputy Jim Bob or Judge Bobby Jim are going to have to pull up their big boy pants and start acting like sentient human beings.  It is something that’s been overdue for a long time.

Did I ever mention getting a Glass warrant and catching a Canyon County Idaho Judge in a violation of the Federal Civil Rights Act?  And wasn’t that fun?  Why, he lost his job. (Evil, wicked smile)

Oh, and here’s a photo  of a guy named Rick Bender talking about what chew did to him – seems he has lost the bottom of his face.  Just one more reason now to chew snuff. You can find this photo at http://www.chewingtobacco.com/images/rick-bender.jpg

Warrior Woman? Me? Humph. Just because I sign and use hearing aids and don’t tolerate fools gladly merely makes me like my old man.  They used to call him The Hanging Judge. Has a nice ring to it.

It is still all about perceptions


Around a year ago I was merrily attending  ACA meetings online at stepchat.com  The only thing I missed with the fellowship of a real life group. In talking with a variety of people in other 12 step programs I heard a lot of comments about really needing an ACA group (rather than an Al-Anon ACA group).  The focus of the programs is decidedly different.

So I ordered a few hundred dollars in books paid for a meeting space and endeavored to start a group. Of the three core members one’s in Great Britian, another is now working two jobs and the rest of the folks who drop by are just checking it out.  Last week I gave notice at the church.  We can’t make the rent and – to be honest – I’m tired of holding it together.

The perception is that if you build it they will come. There a million reasons not to come and the perception of “I can go next week” is all too easy.  It’s like a lawn.  It can be seeded with grass, but if the turf is not tended then you end up with barren muck.

I’ve heard shock, “Oh, you’re closing it down?  Where will I go?” My thought, “You’ll go wherever you’ve been doing these last 6 months won’t you?”  No muss, no fuss.  I gave it six good months and this is all I’m giving it.  Seems logical that it would either catch fire or fizzle.  It fizzled.  Back to stepchat.com  I love stepchat – I can always hear there since it is all java based chat. 🙂

It may all be about perception


Life has been presenting me with learning opportunities as of late. That is a gentle way of commenting about being slapped upside the head with various realizations.

A somewhat giddy, slightly snockered acquaintance told me that after years if knowing me she had no idea I was Hard of Hearing (HoH). This follows fairly closely on the heels of being asked to handle a telephone deposition for another lawyer and her response when I reminded her I am HoH and I want to be across the table so I can have the back-up of lip reading.  “I forgot,” she said, “I don’t think of you has having any limitations.”  I do talk on the phone using adaptive equipment, but not during critical times such as depositions.

This past week I attended an event with a speaker who was a short, stout woman in her mid 70’s, her hair done up in what I’d call a “washer woman’s knot” liberally streaked with silver.  She spoke in the gravelly voice associated with aging. She was a dynamic speaker, moved the audience, and I was able to follow her through sound and lip reading. On break she stumped her way out to smoke before resuming her place at the front of the room. At the end of the event I went up to thank the speaker sharing her time and experience. Having grown up the way I did, I always accord a slightly deferential manner to individuals I consider my elders. I was stunned to find out this woman with the heavily lined face and clear difficulty in getting around was several years younger than I! Yikes!

This brings me full circle to perceptions. I’ve had people just about drop their teeth when they find out my age. It is because I have lost weight, work out, walk with a spring in my step, and make an effort to look presentable. I’m also fortunate not to have had major medical problems and my knees and hips work fine.

There is a perception in the world that we all hear or see.  It is only a white cane with a red tip or seeing two persons signing that tips others off there may be a difference.

I was mainstreamed in school. I learned how to “voice” and even learned to sing. I watched everything like a hawk to figure out what was going on. I suppose it is only to be anticipated that without wearing a sign that says I can’t hear you no one is going to understand that I may not hear them.

Recently, I’ve been using the remote for my hearing aid (my aid has few external controls and I require more flexibility) and when I hold it up to adjust the hearing aid THAT has gotten more attention and discussion than anything else.

I must admit that I do wish family and friends would take a bit more notice that I really do have a hearing problem, but that is the way of the world. It is all about perceptions.

Mabon


Today is Mabon, the second harvest.  The first was Lammas (Lughnassadh).  It is an equinox festival.  The fruits of the field are coming in.  We’ve got locally grown pumpkins, peaches (sort of small this year) and other fruits.  The corn of various types have been harvested.  The early veggies are all picked unless there was a second planting during mid-summer.  The next major time of year for farmers is in the fall when the slaughter of animals took place.

When I lived on a farm in Idaho I was more in tune with the cycles of the earth.  I still don’t need a calendar to tell me the season.  I look to the world around me.  The trees are now tipped with scarlet, orange, and gold.  The hydrangeas are starting to turn myriad colors.  The crops – vegetable and fruit – are largely in, although some still linger.

When I was a child this part of summer was filled with work. Mom and I harvested peas, beans, raspberries, carrots, corn, and more from our garden.  We canned and froze for the winter ahead.  I went to the orchards and collected windfall fruit for a pittance and we turned it into jams, jellies, and preserves.  I climbed the peach tree on the back ditch and got all the peaches I could.  We traded tomato jelly, jam, and aspic for the cherries (earlier in the year) from a blind friend’s tree – and we were all happy.  Neighbors cringed to see me coming with baskets of squash – they always produce too much.  (laughter)

I was a bit less enthusiastic about harvesting our chickens.  I was the head holder while Dad was the neck chopper.  I was the one who hung them on the clothesline to bleed out or chased them around the yard if they got loose headless.   Man, those birds could run!  I learned to dip the carcass in scalding water and pluck the feathers before we processed them for the winter.  The turkeys – they were mean and they were big – I never got to participate with thanksgiving dinner.  We wintered over the quackless ducks 🙂 I loved those ducks!

I miss being a part of the circle of the year.  Today we’re so disconnected from the land.  I’d love to raise chickens in the back yard, but no-go where I live.  I’d love to have all sorts of critters and plants.  But plants take water and water costs money and we all live crammed together and people today think food plants are ugly, because they are stupid used to getting everything at the store.

Even as a HoH little kid I could easily get along on our little farm. It wasn’t much, mostly Mom’s garden, the horses, the birds and the field out back, but I loved watching the polywogs in the ditch grow into frogs, loved feeding the horses the white bases of the bulrushes, harvesting the bulrushes and corn stalks as decorations.  It was another world.  My daughter and grandkids will never know it – and that’s sad.

May you have a blessed and joyous Mabon celebration!

Deaf and hard of hearing defendants


Today I went to my law school to do research on an unrelated matter.  While there, I started talking with a few of the professors who are involved in criminal law with juveniles and adults and told them that I am willing to consider working pro bono with deaf or hard of hearing clients if they hear of any.  I’m particularly concerned regarding Deaf or HoH teens (juveniles) or parents of kids in the system who are Deaf and HoH.  I’m not superwoman. I still have to eat.  But I think it is time for me to begin following my true passion regarding attempting to make sure the needs of the Deaf and HoH are met.   Sometimes all I am is a stop along the way – sometimes I find the perfect person to hand a case over to – and sometimes I’m the one on point.

The biggest problem is getting funding for interpreters.  A professor suggested I create a non-profit foundation.  Um, that’s one thing I’m not sure how to do.  I need to find someone to help with that, I suppose.