Flying, Gravity, Gymnastics, Flying Rings, and Skydiving

Prepare yourself for a very random post.

For as long as I can remember I’ve always wanted to fly through the air. As a kid I thought for sure that I would be able to figure out how to fly (never happened). I was also always trying to figure out how I could get high enough to touch the clouds. I can remember being about 3 and thinking that if I climbed to the top of the jungle gym and stood on my toes I would be able to touch the clouds. I also tried climbing up swing set poles (the good old tall swings back when playground equipments were all metal, not plastic)….didn’t work either… I also tried the old idea of if I ran fast enough towards a hill or a ledge and then jumped off that I would be able to fly….nope…just ended up with grass stained clothes from crashing.

When I was bit older (grades 1-2) I tried to apply some of the basic physics/biology theories. I had seen a cartoon in a book of a kid spinning a pail of water around really fast and the book explained that if you spun it fast enough the water wouldn’t spill. Aka Centrifugal Force! I thought this was the answer to the problem of not being able to fly through the air. By this point I had realized humans weren’t designed to fly, but thought that I could find a way to feel like I was flying through the air. So, I started applying this new knowledge to everything I could on the playground. I tried pushing the merry-go-around as fast as I could (and scared some kids in the process), I would then jump on and hold onto the bar tightly while I tried to stick my whole body out hoping that the force would be great enough for my whole body to fly out while holding on.

You know those good old giant metal swing sets they used to have back in the 80s/90s, not the little plastic short swings they have now? Oh, those were my favorite things. I would swing on them as high as I could while trying to touch the clouds then I would jump off from the highest point possible. When I learned about centrifugal force….I was sure that if I pumped my little legs hard enough and fast enough I would be able to get the swing to make a complete 360 degree circle around the bar with me remaining in the seat. Sadly, I never achieved that goal but did scare a few adults in the process.

Gravity was another force I learned about quickly as a child. A force that I’ve always disliked and a force that I still do not get along with to this day. I’ve slowly learned that one must respect and not challenge gravity. I’ve learned this the hard way and it’s involved me cracking both knees after an 1-2 story fall, landing on my head on the ground after attempting a double front flip on a friend’s backyard trampoline, and more recently falling off a ladder onto the driveway.

This brings me to the subject of Gymnastics! One of my favorite sports ever (I was really bad at it, but loved it). My mom wanted to sign me up at the age of 2 because I had too much energy. The local place had my mom wait until I turned 3. I was then involved with gymnastics on and off between the ages of 3 and 15. Now I’m miserably out of shape and can barely do back walkovers. Anyways, gymnasts can defy gravity even if it’s just for a few seconds!! I went to the 2008 Tour of Superstar Gymnastics. A.M.A.Z.I.N.G! I could watch gymnasts on the floor and bars for hours. See the end of this post for some photos (and btw the men gymnasts were shirtless for most of the show :-D). I can’t help but include a random youtube montage of gymnasts flying through the air http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MNXW8PwqbDU&feature=related

The other day I ran across this youtube video of the Santa Monica flying rings in the 1980s (a must watch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k9ju9wZ3fMw&feature=channel) . My first thought was, “omg…I must get those rings in my backyard and convince someone to teach me how to do all those flips.” Then a friend bought me back to reality by leaving a message on facebook saying “I’ve got a black dress reserved for your funeral if you get those rings!” She’s got a point there…..I think it’s time to finally accept the fact that gravity is not a force to be tampered with.

Although I won’t completely accept that fact until I complete a goal that I set for myself in the 3rd grade (a realistic goal) and that is to go skydiving one day.

Anyone want to be my skydiving buddy? 😀

Deaf Adventures #2: Can You Read?

“Can You Read?”

For some reason when people find out that you can’t hear, they seem to think you can’t do anything.

Setting: Senior year, high school, physics class.

I was taking a physics final and we had a substitute teacher. I had this substitute teacher before in other classes and thought he was okay with a deaf student in the classroom. So, after taking the final I went up to hand it in. He then asked “can you read?”

I was speechless. It’s one thing to have someone who has never met a deaf person ask me this, but it’s a whole another thing when I just handed in a completed exam. I had to resist the urge to ask him how he thought I completed the final without reading.

I just nodded my head “yes.” I then tried to escape back to my seat to avoid any further uncomfortable questions. His eyes lit up and he asked me to hold on. He then gave me a bookmark with the “Footprint in Sand” poem on it. I took it and just looked at it then looked up at him. At this point the whole class had stopped taking the exam to listen to our conversation, they all had laughed when he asked if I could read.

He then asked me to read the poem out loud because he wanted to inspire me and for me to prove that I could read. I just told him that I had read this poem before and it was a good one. I then just went back and sat down at my table trying to figure out how he thought I had completed the exam without reading the questions.

Deaf Adventures #1: Strangers in my Apartment

I’m copying some of my blog entries from xanga and livejournal over to blogger. A few of you may have already read some of these before but for those of you who haven’t….read on.

Sarah and I were getting ready to move out of apartment #1 into apartment #2 in NY. Our 3rd roommate had already moved out for the summer. I had been gone for a few days but apparently Sarah had a couple of situations with people wanting to look at the apartment. I guess at one point someone had called up from outside asking to see the apartment one night. Since it was nighttime and Sarah had no idea who this person was she said not unless our landlord called her. We then asked our landlord to let us know in advance when he was going to be showing the apartment.

One day after running some errands I pulled up to our apartment and a woman tried to get my attention as I was walking inside (we had an outside door entry and our apartment was on the 3rd floor of a house). She asked if she could come up and see the apartment. I was by myself and I told her that she could come up only if our landlord texted or e-mailed me letting me know that someone wanted to look at the apartment. She seemed to accept that so I went inside and went up to my apartment, locked the door, put away groceries, and then went into my bedroom. I had my hearing aids on and I heard some noises (keep in mind I can hear a lot of noises but identifying them is a whole another thing). I got a bit scared, just one of those gut feelings. First thing I thought was, “where’s my baseball bat?! *groans* oh right, it’s in my car….big help that is going to be” My bedroom was near the kitchen so I was trying to figure out how to dash out of my room into the kitchen and grab a pan in time.

I walked out and what do I see? The woman who I saw outside along with a bunch of other people (maybe 5-7 people) standing in the living room. I almost went off yelling like a crazy lady at them all. Turns out, the woman called the landlord and he gave her permission (not sure how she had the keys) to unlock our apartment door and let herself in because I was deaf. She didn’t even bother to knock or anything. I have to say that she was one lucky woman that I had my hearing aids on at that time and had heard something. If I had seen all of those strangers randomly walk past my room I would’ve freaked out.

A few months after living in apartment #2 I noticed that the top part of my bedroom window kept sliding down and e-mailed our landlord (who lived on the same street) about it. She had my text number and e-mail address. I never heard from her as to if she was going to take a look at the window or not. A couple of days later I was getting ready for class (the roommates were gone) and I had just taken a shower so I didn’t have my hearing aids on (water + hearing aids = bad idea). I had just gone into my bedroom and a split second after I got all dressed my bedroom door swung open and I froze. Who do I see standing there? My landlord. She was just like, “oh, I didn’t know you were here…you didn’t answer the door.” Keep in mind I had asked her for a visual doorbell and fire alarm (got the fire alarm, not the doorbell) to prevent things like this from happening. She had my text number, my e-mail address, knew I was deaf, and saw that my car was parked outside.

Just because I’m deaf doesn’t give people the right to let themselves into my apartment. Not only is it disrespectful, but they’re also putting their safety at risk. What if I happened to grab a baseball bat, a pot, or had something in my hand and went into defensive mode.

Do deaf people dream sound?

I’ve seen this question posted on the Internet and I’ve had a couple of people ask me this question. It is similar to people asking if people who are blind see color in their dreams (which I have wondered myself).

I never even thought of if I dream sound or not until someone asked me. My answer is, I don’t know.

I really don’t know. Ever since someone asked me I’ve always wondered, but could never quite figure it out myself. I can only think of one or two dreams where I remember seeing someone signing in my dream. I would say that 98% of the time I’m not signing (nor are others signing) in my dreams. I don’t think I’m hearing it either, I just somehow can understand people in my dreams. I wouldn’t necessarily say that I’m dreaming sounds, I just somehow know.

I also have people ask me if I sign in my sleep. I’ve only caught myself signing once. I’m a pretty active sleeper and I’m much more likely to talk than sign in my sleep. I’ve never had anyone tell me they’ve seen me signing in my sleep but I’ve had numerous people say I talk in my sleep.

This leads me to a question I’ve always wondered myself.
Do hearing people really “hear” sounds when they’re having a conversation with someone in their dreams or do they just somehow know what’s going on? This question is a lot more difficult to word than I thought it would be, hopefully someone will know what I’m trying to ask.

What is a Cochlear Implant (CI)?

I could type up a very LONG entry about CIs. However, I will spare you all and just make multiple short entries about CIs instead of one long post.

What is a Cochlear Implant (CI)?
“A cochlear implant is a small, complex electronic device that can help to provide a sense of sound to a person who is profoundly deaf or severely hard-of-hearing. The implant consists of an external portion that sits behind the ear and a second portion that is surgically placed under the skin. An implant has the following parts:

* A microphone, which picks up sound from the environment.
* A speech processor, which selects and arranges sounds picked up by the microphone.
* A transmitter and receiver/stimulator, which receive signals from the speech processor and convert them into electric impulses.
* An electrode array, which is a group of electrodes that collects the impulses from the stimulator and sends them to different regions of the auditory nerve.

An implant does not restore normal hearing. Instead, it can give a deaf person a useful representation of sounds in the environment and help him or her to understand speech.” (http://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/hearing/coch.asp)



How does a Cochlear Implant work?

“A cochlear implant is very different from a hearing aid. Hearing aids amplify sounds so they may be detected by damaged ears. Cochlear implants bypass damaged portions of the ear and directly stimulate the auditory nerve. Signals generated by the implant are sent by way of the auditory nerve to the brain, which recognizes the signals as sound. Hearing through a cochlear implant is different from normal hearing and takes time to learn or relearn. However, it allows many people to recognize warning signals, understand other sounds in the environment, and enjoy a conversation in person or by telephone.” (http://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/hearing/coch.asp)

Here’s a video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Poyj7U2wzhQ&feature=related

Capturing a Conversation

Since the last entry was pretty long. This one is going to be shorter.

One of the things I love about sign language is that it can be captured in still photos. It’s pretty cool to go through pictures and be able to recall a conversation that happened a few years ago just by seeing one sign. It’s also funny trying to remember what the heck we were talking about at that moment–it turns into a guessing game. You can actually take a picture of a conversation using sign language when you can’t with spoken English.

I probably should mention that if you haven’t noticed, I love pictures (regardless of if they’re my pictures or other people’s pictures), if you don’t believe me ask Tara who saw me take 2,800 photos in Europe! I’m just a very visual and hands-on person. 🙂

Here are a few examples.

My First Language

I came up with a few topics over the weekend that I wanted to blog about but am trying to save some of them for when I don’t have anything to write about! I narrowed it down to 2 that I wanted to blog about. I think they both deserve separate blog entries. This entry will be a bit about my first language. The next one sometime soon will hopefully be about how ASL (American Sign Language) can be captured in pictures.

So, every once in a while I can’t help but wonder what the world was like for me before I knew how to sign. I was officially “diagnosed” when I was 20 months with profound hearing loss in both ears. Even though my audiogram does show that I have some residual hearing (a VERY tiny amount), I cannot hear anything at all whatsoever without my hearing aids. That means what? My world was made up of vibrations, body language, and facial expressions only. That is how I understood people around me. That was my primary language. It wasn’t spoken language or sign language it was body language.

According to my mom, people would make comments how how expressive I was as a kid. When I look through pictures I feel like I know exactly how I was feeling at that very moment just based upon my expressions/body language. That was my language, that was how I communicated with people.

As I got a bit older, I wasn’t sure what was “accepted” by society. Within the hearing community I was almost too expressive that people would over interpret and think I was overreacting so I started toning it way down. It also started to become an easy way for people to figure out how I was feeling at that moment when I didn’t always want people to know. Then when I became more involved with the deaf community, people would then comment that I was wayyyy too “monotone” with my body language/expressive.

Even to this day I still get comments from hearing people when I’m being expressive that they think I’m overreacting about something (when I’m not). I still get comments from deaf people that I’m not expressive at all and they cannot understand me based on my signs only.

Back to my first language. I really think that this played an important factor in my language development and ability to relate with others. I can remember being in pre-school and elementary school where I would get into trouble for refusing to answer a question using sign language or spoken English. I simply COULD NOT understand why others didn’t seem to understand that I was answering their questions using simple body/face expressions. It made perfect sense to me to do this and was so much quicker. I can remember being maybe 5 and thinking that it was ridiculous that I had to “spell” out my thoughts/feelings using words, it just took up so much time!

Even to this day, I will forget from time to time. When I’m tired (i.e. first thing in the morning), I almost “regress” and tend not to talk to anyone through sign language/spoken English or I’ll just limit it to as few words as possible (not complete sentences at all). I will try to just communicate through body language/facial expressions.

The nice thing is that this is never really a problem when I’m with my deaf friends. Our first exposure to any type of language was body language and we can hold a whole conversation just through body language. Sometimes I’ll forget that when I’m with my hearing friends and I’ll wrinkle my nose in a certain way (there are many different ways and it all means something different, lol). Anyways there’s this particular type of nose wrinkle (you deafies know which one I’m talking about, 😉 ) that’s kind of subtle and I have noticed that a lot of my hearing friends don’t even notice it even though it’s very obvious to my deaf friends. A subtle nose wrinkle or even a tiny eyebrow movement can speak volumes. Spoken words can lie but it’s harder to lie with body language. To me, this is an important skill to have in genetic counseling. A lot of different emotions can come up during a GC session and in our society we have a tendency to act like we’re okay when we’re not. Oftentimes, a patient will say one thing but their body language will say a whole other thing. Or even they will almost ask a question with their body language even when they say they don’t have any questions.

I’m going to get off the topic for a minute here and I want to be sure that all my readers know that when I compare deaf and hearing people…I’m not doing it to be negative or to criticize a certain group of people. I’m simply doing it because it’s how I understand the world around me and how I learn to understand my world better by understanding the differences between my 2 worlds. There’s no right or wrong way to do things, just different ways.

I could go on and on about this topic but I’ll restrict it to this entry for now. It’s just such a fascinating topic to me.

Here are a few photos this entry is based on. I oftentimes stop and think that for the first 20 months of my life that body language was how I understood the world around me and set the foundation for how I have always (and will continue to) understood the world around me. I can also see in these pictures that I’m trying to include others in what’s going on at that time just by how I’m interacting with them through facial expressions. Especially with my dad who was usually the one taking the photos, you can almost see that I’m trying to talk with him through gestures/expressions. Or I’ll be “checking” in with my mom (or with the person next to me by looking at their faces) to figure out what’s going on (trying to read that person’s body language ) while other people in the picture are looking at something else. When I’m with a group of people (regardless of if they’re hearing or deaf), I’m always tuning in with their expressions/body language to understand what’s going on.

Of course, it’s part of human nature and all kids do this. However, most kids also had auditory input going on at that time also.

The intensity of my facial expressions seem to reduce dramatically between the ages of 2 and 3 which is when I learned sign language. My expressions in pictures after age 3 are very similar to the ones that hearing people make and not deaf people. This makes perfect sense because I didn’t have much exposure to deaf culture until I was about 15. Most (not all) of these pictures (I think there’s about 10 pictures total) are before my parents found out I was deaf or shortly afterwards. These pictures are not the best ones to prove the points I’m trying to make but I only have a handful of my childhood pictures scanned.

Even though every kid points. You can see from these pictures that pointing was more than just pointing. It was how I expressed something I wanted to say.

When you stop and think about it. As humans, we want to communicate with each other and will find a way to do it.

E-mails

I can set it up to where I can enter up to 10 e-mail addresses and a notification will be sent to those addresses whenever I update my blog.

Comment and leave your e-mail address (or e-mail me if you don’t want your e-mail address public) if you want a notification sent whenever I make a new post.

Vlogs

I hope to create vlogs every once in a while. I had this great plan to create a vlog today using my digital camera, but turns out it saves automatically in .mov and I can’t edit it in Windows Media Player. I don’t know anything when it comes to this kind of stuff.

Help!

Do You Have a Gene Mutation?

I went to the NSGC (National Society of Genetic Counselors) conference in California in October. Let’s all admit it, we all love the free stuff that we get from conferences.

So, I’m wandering around all the booths and wowing at how much is spent on all the jazzy stuff they give out (a little thing that says “moos” every time you turn it and cracks me up every single time, a mini kaleidoscope, etc). I was also trying to get my little sheet stamped (you have to get stamps from certain booths to enter a drawing for prizes). Now, it’s always a bit awkward when I go to these booths. I never know if they’re trying to talk to me or not. In a quieter setting I can hear when people nearby me are talking and will look up (with hearing aids on). In a setting like this I cannot discriminate where the sound is coming from, it all blends into one big noise. I don’t want to start the whole “yeah, I’m deaf” “omg, I’m so sorry!” thing. I also don’t want to happen to be looking down and appearing rude when I don’t respond when some one’s talking to me. These things are so chaotic at time and not deaf friendly. My strategy is to just kind of sneak up to tables if there’s a group of people there and grab a bunch of papers/pamphlets/etc. they have lying out there (along with free chocolate) then dash off before anyone has the chance to strike up a conversation with me. Lip-reading in situations like these is just impossible then I feel like every one’s judging me based on my inability to communicate in the same way that everyone else is. Keep in mind only 20-30% of spoken English is readable on the lips in ideal situations (not taking into account group conversations, mumblers, accents, facial hair, etc.) I have the hardest time focusing to lip-read when there’s people walking around all over the place, it just distracts me too much. Throw in people I’ve never lip-read in my life and then trying to lip-read gene vocabulary.

Anyways, I went up to a booth to collect some information and to get my sheet stamped. However, the guy wouldn’t hand me my sheet back until he tried to start a conversation with me. Apparently the guy next to him saw my name tag and was familiar with the city I’m from. Then he started rambling and was obviously waiting for an answer and I knew I couldn’t get away with faking a “yes/no/maybe/I don’t know” answer so I was just like oh, I’m deaf. I was totally expecting him to just be like “oh ok, sorry…seeya.” Then he got all excited and wanted to ask me something. He wrote down this:

Connexin 26?”

Then he went on to say that his granddaughter’s deaf and she has a CI.

That’s how I knew I was at a genetic conference. The only place someone will actually ask if I have a mutation. I had to resist the urge to laugh, because that’s such a genetic thing to say! I have to admit that I’ve had to resist the urge to ask strangers on the subway if they have a genetic condition or a specific gene mutation (to see if my personal diagnosis was correct) but of course I would never do that.

Do you have a gene mutation? We all do, so let me rephrase this. Do you have a known gene mutation? If so, how would you feel about it? There is a negative association with having a “mutation” (which is why a lot of GCs will use a different word such as “change”), but why is it that way? Does it have to be that way in all situations? In what situations might it not be negative and when might it be? In what situations might it be more acceptable? Some people may be glad to just to have an answer and an explanation.

Should I be ashamed that I have a gene mutation for deafness? Should I be embarrassed that I can pass this “defect” onto my children? I disagree, but that is society’s general attitude towards it. I’ve never felt a negative association with having a gene mutation for deafness regardless of what some people think. Many culturally deaf people are proud to be genetically deaf. This idea is hard for some to grasp. I wouldn’t necessarily say that at this point that I’m proud to be genetically deaf. I’m kind of neutral about it. It’s just part of who I am, just like I have blue eyes and brown hair. I’ve never met anyone who says they’re proud of their specific eye color (they may say they like it or don’t like it, but wouldn’t necessary use the word “proud”).

I have told a few people about this incident and I’ve had varying reactions to it. Personally, I found it funny. I would say about half found it funny also and the other half found it somewhat offensive. I never really thought about finding it that offensive, but I can see where they’re coming from. It is a fine line to walk.