Thursday, January 26, 2012

Feeling guilty your child is deaf? One CODA's advice...

I'll get the update out of the way first. The short story version of Allesandra's Bequest is a few short chapters from being completed. The editing is about 1/3 completed, which means that things are looking pretty good to have this published sometime in february. I am hoping for earlier than later.

Tonight I want to tell you about guilt. Guilt is a nasty feeling that nobody wants, and one that we try to get rid of as soon as it sets in. However, when it's in our faces everyday, we bow to its will.
Let's take that notion to hearing parents of deaf children. Most parents do feel guilty about their child being deaf, and blame themselves for it. It's in their face every time they look at their child and every time they think about it. It's oppressive, and many of these parents do bow to its will. They will do anything a doctor tells them to do to help their child be "normal", and if you know anything about Audism, that's the first time it affects a deaf child's life.
Audism feeds on guilt like a hunter feeds on prey. Once it has a person in its sights, it's game on. All the bad advice from people who are Audists twist the knife of guilt deeper into a parent, and they follow blindly in the hopes that the advice given will work. Many even believe the lie that they cannot communicate with their own child because their child can’t speak.
I have three words for any parent in this country who find themselves in this position - American Sign Language. Yea sure, it's visual and signed on the hands instead of auditory and spoken orally, but it's something your child CAN do.
My mother is the best example I can describe to you. She was born deaf, and doctors advised her parents to get hearing aids, as well as go to public school and just be "normal". They were even told by these doctors to never sign to her, as that would limit her ability to speak. The followed that advice faithfully until she was 13 years old. Nothing really improved significantly. Mom could understand written English at about a first grade level, and never developed speech. I talked about it often with my grandmother, and she told me every time that she regretted it. When she was 13, they sent her to a school for the deaf. The school taught everything orally in the classroom, but allowed signing in the residential dorms. Back then, about 99% of the students lived there. ASL was rampant, and all the children could  talk to each other. They couldn’t even do that with their families because they never learned to sign. Unfortunately for my mother, she didn't get this experience until she was 13. She missed so much opportunity for social activity and exposure to a fully accessible language. It has had profound effects on her personality and self-esteem that I'm afraid to admit are irreversible.
The really sad part about all of this is listening to my grandmother talk about it. Her guilt is even worse than it ever was, and though she has tried, she hasn't been able to make it better. There was one time when she was about 70 that she finally saw through me and my sisters what could have been with her own daughter. She saw us signing all the time and doing all the things she wished she could have done with her own daughter. That's when it finally hit her, and she signed up for a beginner ASL class. My sisters and I were thrilled, even though it was so late in life. She has never retained more than the manual alphabet since then, and her feelings of guilt have never left. While she was taking the class I witnessed the most impactful thing I ever saw between the two of them. We were visiting, and my grandmother just suddenly stood up face to face with my mother, and signing what few signs she knew and spelling the rest, she told her own daughter she was sorry for never signing with her and for not sending her the school for the deaf when she was 5. My mother just looked at her and told her it was okay, and that she wasn't mad, even though we all knew better. She just didn’t want her own mother to, even after all those years, feel any worse about it. It has been almost 20 years since that happened, and I have to fight back tears every time I think about it or mention it. I just had to stop typing to wipe off the keyboard. It was too little too late for my mother, but it doesn't have to be for others.
To any hearing parents who have deaf children, is this guilt worth it? Please, whatever you do, let go of the guilt and learn ASL. Your child is deaf, just accept it and love your child unconditionally. You can still use hearing aids and other technology if you want, but don’t deny ASL to your child. Without it, they will likely miss out on so much, and you will only feel more guilt because of it. Please take this as advisement to explore all of your options, especially the ones that doctors don't mention. Find Deaf adults that sign and talk to them. Communicate with your child and give them every opportunity to learn about the world in a way they understand it - visually. You have eyes, too, and you can do it just as they can. You can show them, and if you do, I guarantee your guilt won't be so strong, and more likely gone. You won't regret it.

R. M.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

One Way Out, Always?

Well, first off, I'd like to say that the first chapter of Allesandra's Bequest, One Way Out, Always, was published a few days ago on Smashwords. I put the book up for free to see what kind of interest it will draw. Three days is not very long, so it's a bit too early to tell.

 I tossed around the idea of my next blog post being about the book, and I didn't want to give away anything in the story beyond the first chapter. Needless to say it was a struggle, but something random just happened that might make this work. It will give away a little bit more of the story, but not enough to ruin it. Let me start with the random happening first.

I bumped into a friend earlier today who had mentioned to me that someone they grew up with in the neighborhood had just committed suicide not too long ago. My friend had just learned of this and was shocked, but wasn't very close to this person, so it became the topic of conversation for a bit. Apparently, the short version was this - there had been rumors of her battling depression. She had been missing for three days and was found deep in the woods where she had hung herself from a tree. She was in her early twenties. A terrible tragedy, obviously, and apparently ELF was acquainted with her, too. It was somewhat upsetting for her, too.

It made me think about how horrible these things really are. People everywhere suffer tragedies all the time, and who knows what this girl was really going though? I have a good friend that I sometimes refer to as "Mom". She might be the strongest person I know, for the simple reason that years ago, her son committed suicide, and she can talk about it openly with me. I find it amazing that she has the inner steel to do so. It's often said that the worst part of a suicide is not who left us, but the mess that person left behind. For myself, I believe that is a true statement more often than not, at least for all I have seen, I believe it to be so.

I've always been a "darker" person in my writing, regardless of what format it is. Not everything I write is, but you get the idea, I hope. This subject is really what Allesandra's Bequest is all about - suicide. Like so many people, Allesandra has her own demons to contend with, and how does she deal with it? I dare not say more without giving away the story. One Way Out, Always, gives you a brief look into Allesandra's past, and how PTSD can keep such a firm grip on someone, keeping them in darker places, even when thimgs seem like they're getting much brighter.

It's a subject that fascinates me, and perhaps only for the reason that I can;t always seem to wrap my head around it, and I think a lot of other people feel the same way. Logically, you can see the process and connect the dots, and everything else, but I don't always have the ability to really imagine how depressed, defeated, or otherwise one would have to be to go through with such an idea.

I've had bouts with severe anxiety for most of my adult life due to physical issues. I can honestly say that for myself, during those times, I would occasionally think about it. I even scared myself a couple of times when I found myself to be formulating a plan. There were spans when I would have very little of anything positive to look forward to, if I even had anything at all. And those were the moments when those thoughts crept in. Even then, though, it never was a solid and clear premonition that I could ever actually do it, and I suppose for me thats why I sometimes can't wrap my head around it. I don't think I could have been any worse at those points. Maybe there's something I was missing then, and if so, I am thankful.

 I don't know if Allesandra's Bequest will shed any light on the subject or not. I suppose that it's more or less my own personal take on what the effects of suicide are on the rest of us, and would anyone who has done so take it back if they could?

Lastly, I want to thank the eight people who have recently started following The Fraser File. Nice to know people are reading. Take care all, and I am fairly certain that the next post won't be so blackened.

R. M.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Deaf sign language users pick up faster on body language

Deaf sign language users pick up faster on body language

I just found this a few minutes ago and it's definitely the topic for this week's blog. As a CODA and being around Deaf people all my life, reading the results of the studies mentioned in this article brought one small, tiny, and perfect word to mind... DUH!.... I think most people can see the logic here. People who rely on solely visual input will generally have a better developed sense of sight than the rest of us, and therefore pick up visual cues better than anyone else. Not only is this true for Deaf people, it is also true for a lot of us CODAs as well. My first and native language is ASL, and I know I see things that many people don't otherwise see. I've been in plenty of these situations and it always makes me wonder why so many people don't see them as I do, until I remember who I am and where I came from. I can't say that I do it as well as Deaf people, though. They are in visual mode 100% of the time.

But I digress, as the most important part of this article has yet to be mentioned. Here it is;

-This work is important because it suggests that the human ability for communication is modifiable and is not limited to speech, Corina said. Deaf people show us that language can be expressed by the hands and be perceived through the visual system. When this happens, deaf signers get the added benefit of being able to recognize non-language actions better than hearing people who do not know a sign language, Corina said.-

Signed languages are their own languages! The only difference is it is visual and not auditory! And there's an advantage to being Deaf over hearing? How often is that ever validated?

I cannot express how many times in my life I have witnessed hearing people say ignorant or discriminatory things that invalidate sign language. The one I get most often is similar to this statement - "deaf people are languageless" - , based on the notion that speech is the only way to communicate. It might be the dumbest thing I've ever heard, and people perpetuate this nonsense all the time. Especially those in the medical profession, who, like it or not, make such statements without any awareness or consideration to Deaf culture. Medical professionals are NOT anthropologists! I wish an anthropologist or twenty would spend some time in the Deaf community, learn their language, and then report their findings, comparing them to any other studied culture. I think the results would be eye opening for a lot of people, including medical professionals. It should be required study for any audiologist out there to be aware of Deaf culture, and to also spend some time with Deaf people in their environment as opposed to their office where all they do is recommend cochlear implants, hearing aids, and speech therapy in the name of 'having a language', or the ability to communicate with all the healthy hearing people. Deaf people who sign communicate just fine, and just about any hearing person (blind too), has the ability to sign and communicate with it fluently. The number of people in the world with access to signed languages is more than the number of people with access to spoken ones.

Just think about it.

And that, everyone, is my second lesson in Audism. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them on here. I will be happy to respond to any and all. Until next time...

R. M.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Fraser Reviews The Frog?

Hello again everyone! This blog may be a bit earlier than I expected, but it's just gonna have to do. Why am I reviewing the Frog? Well, because he asked me to. That, and the fact that as most of us CODAs will readily admit our extreme love for music. If I'm mistaken in this, all of you CODAs can tell me. I'm a big boy. I can take it, just please, please, put those floggers down. Here's the review;

I am very excited to give my review of the Frog's third album, entitled "T3RD". The Frog himself asked me if I would review the album for him, and I figured, 'why not?' So, after listening to it, I then listened to the Frog's two previous albums, Transformation Complete and Motivation to Procrastinate. Little does he know, until reading this, that is, that I am so enamored with the albums, I am going to review all three! How does that old Folger's ad go? "We secretly replaced the review of T3RD with a review of all three of the Frog's albums. Will he notice the difference? Let's find out…  
The Frog puts his music in the genre of alternative folk/indie. I'm not so well-versed in musical genres specifically, but it seems like this should fit - sometimes. The truth is, the Frog's music is all over the place, which is what makes it so fun and unique. Some songs are existential, some seem to have deep meaning, and most just feel overall silly, yet, no matter how you define the lyrics, they are all superimposed onto a musical backdrop that is catchy and fun. Sometimes I just don't know if the music is more aloof than the lyrics, and that just adds to its character. Throw in that all songs are created from the Frog and his cigar-box ukulele, which are heard in every track if I am not mistaken, and maybe you can begin to see the picture. If not, just give it a listen. Even if it's not your style of music, there's something to be deeply appreciated in it. For now, I think I may need to go through these albums in order.
The first album, Transformation Complete, consists of eight stripped down tracks - just the Frog and his ukulele, with accompanying tambourine on the tracks Vote For Me and Where Would I Be?, and a bass drum in Tie Me Tight. It's as basic as you can get, and in my opinion, the best. I'm a sucker for the raw energy in it, but that's just me. What I really hear in this album is someone with all the talent and creativity that any great musician has. Yea, ok, so what? A lot of musicians have that, right? Of course. But do they put it all out there and go for it? Here's that raw energy I was speaking of. The lyrics are brutally honest, and the Frog shows his bravery, putting all his issues and feelings out there, regardless of repercussions or skewed perceptions. The music is in its most basic form, and the vocals are as unpolished as an old set of silver from your grandmother's china cabinet. You know, the ones that look perfect in its surroundings despite its tarnish? Never mind that the rest of the songs just have that knack of getting in your head all day, and you still love it. If you don't believe me, listen to Little Rich LaFave. Yea, that is Transformation Complete.
Motivation to Procrastinate is the second installment of the Frog. The music is a bit more polished, adding in more instruments (we'll call them the unknown band for now), but the energy and silliness are the same (listen to Veggies and Moustache Baby to see what I mean). The addition of the horn section takes it to another level musically, beyond that of the unknown band itself. Lyrically, it's still all out there for everyone to witness, and still gives it a hint of that "raw" feeling. Something else is happening here too though. "I'm gonna kill zombies, zombies"? "I saw a ghost in my apartment once, it was so scary, so scary"? Could this turn into a theme? On to the third album for confirmation.
The third album, T3RD, is the evolution of what the Frog has become. Super powers of hypnotization, tornado attacks, freeze breath, fireball power, x-ray vision, super speed, invincibility, invisibility, and it all boils down to this. The zombies and anyone else who get in his way are pretty well screwed. Kermit was never badass like this. The unknown band got a bit more involved in T3RD, and it all rounds out now. The Frog gets a little more experimental with different styles of music in the tracks Tornado Guy (crazy hyper rock), Hop (club?) and Change the World (a little Froggified rap, featuring JJF). The glue to this album is definitely the musical variety, the ridiculousness, and the Frog's ability to put everything out there in his lyrics.
There you are, Mr. Froggy Dillinger. All three albums reviewed. All I have left to say concerns all three albums, and that is this - when you listen to all the albums, you will identify the spark of insanity that the Frog embraces and runs with, leaving all issues and truths out there for everyone to criticize, or relate to.  It's the serious in the not-so-serious, the fun in the hysteria, and the truth in the madness. So give the Frog a listen and see if you can find it yourself.
P.S. There is a picture at the bottom of this page that will link you to the Frog's website, where you can listen to all the albums and tracks. The picture is T3RD's album cover art. Macho Man likes it, too.
R. M.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Future books, and a discussion about Audism...

Well here we are, time for a new post. The holidays were fun and it's back to work tomorrow.  I have spent some time over this break working on a couple of new books. The first one, Allesandra's Bequest, is really becoming a lot more work than I had imagined it to be, which is fine, it's just unexpected. I have gone back and forth over what the narrative format should be that will help tell the story around the poems that are the basis for the work. I have decided on a format, and the down side is that I have to write a new narrative for this, so I am now in that process. The upside is that it was something I have thought of doing for a long time. The poems themselves are years old, and this story has been in my head for even longer. This will be the third version of it that will have been created, and hopefully the easiest and most entertaining to read. the original is actually a concept album, much like Pink Floyd's The Wall or Green Day's American Idiot. I plan to have this written and available on Smashwords sometime in February of this year.

The second book is going to be about growing up CODA. Basically, it will be about my experiences with my Deaf parents, the community, and how every hearing person in my life has reacted to that, and more Deaf related things. I have an outline for it, and am pretty sure it's going to be a decent length book. For me, writing this book will serve a couple of purposes. One, I hope that anyone who reads it that is not familiar with the Deaf community will get an insight into it, and have a level of understanding that will foster respect towards Deaf people instead of the discrimination that often occurs as a result of ignorance. The simple fact of not knowing about something contributes to it quite a bit, and I remember from experience.

When I lived in northern Maine as a child, our small little town's inhabitants were all white, except for one family, who was black. I assume they were African American and not from another part of the world, but I am not entirely sure, so i will just say they were black, just as myself and everyone else were white (I hope this offends no one. It's not intended to, and I'm not the best with political correctness). One of the girls in the family was in my grade, and I don't remember if she was there from kindergarten or moved to town later on. At any rate, at some point between 1st and 3rd grade we ended up sitting next to each other in the cafeteria. We were eating our lunch and I remember that I was uncomfortable sitting next to a girl (you know, cooties and all), but I was the last in line and had no other place to sit. I remember things were fine until she asked me if I wanted something form her tray that she didn't like. I don't remember what it was, but I do remember that I liked it, so I said 'yes' and she grabbed it with her hand to put in my tray.

Here's where ignorance comes in. When she put it in my tray, and moved her hand away, I noticed her palm. It wasn't the same color as mine, obviously, but the darker lines in her skin where the lines in her hand were freaked me out. I simply thought they were dirty, and I had severe aversion to eating anything I thought was gross (another little boy thing to do). I made the comment to her that I didn't want them because her hands were dirty. She said they weren't, that they were clean, and then she was clearly upset. I don't remember if she cried or not, but I felt bad that I offended her. When I realized how ignorant I was, and it was just the way her palms looked, I felt absolutely, 100 percent terrible. I was too shy and embarrassed to apologize to her later and never did. yet I've never forgotten it. Does that make me a racist? I say no, because I wasn't thinking, 'I don't want your food because you are black.' Being ignorant of it is what got me in trouble, because of my ignorance and fear of food contamination (ask ELF), it led me to believe and ACT upon something that wasn't true. However, I never did apologize to her, and to this day, I wonder if she sees me as a racist person. I hope that she doesn't, but I can't blame her if she does. It may be an empty apology out here in cyberspace, but if you are reading this or someone who knows you is, I am sorry I ever said that. It was completely ignorant, and I never meant it to hurt you.

This is an example of what I mean about ignorance. Deaf people are a small minority in a world full of hearing people. This means that Deaf people deal with hearing people on a daily basis, whether its at home with family, or out at a bank, in a store, or at a hockey game. The flip side is this; the majority of hearing people never meet a Deaf person. It may happen once in their lives and that's all. Now from that equation, can you tell me who is ignorant about whom? It was the same dynamic where I grew up when pertaining to black and white people. When a hearing person is ignorant of Deaf people, their langauge, and their culture, things go bad, and acts of audism occur. I committed an act of racism as a child, even though I am not a racist person. There are plenty of hearing people out there who commit acts of audism all the time and never realize they have done so. Their ignorance never allows the notion in their head. How can you know about something you haven't experienced or learned? Which now brings me back to my second book.

My goal for this second book is for the reader to get an appreciation for and a basic knowledge of Deaf people. It can go a long way to foster understanding, and reduce discrimination. So that lengthy ramble concludes one purpose of the book. The second is much more simple, and a lot less time to explain. Writing it will be therapeutic for me. So much of my life has been shaped by Deaf people that I don't always know why I do some of the weird things I do. Some are blatantly obvious, while others are quite obscure. Hopefully this allows me to sort them so I can be more self-enlightened, and I'm sure it will. Writing always does.

One last thing before this is done. I ended up talking a lot abuot Audism. I would like to point your attention to the picture ont he right with the blue ribbon. It is for an Audism Free America. Clicking on the picture will bring you to the AFA blog, where you can learn more about it and their fight for Deaf equality. And for those of you who do not know ASL, the videos are captioned, as well as written below in the blog, so you'll know what the rest of us do.

Until next week, friends...

R. M.