Karen and me at Anyways Restaurant
On Saturday I was officially welcomed into my local ALDA hearing loss support group. Previously, I had participated in several of their social events, but it wasn't until I decided to represent the group at the Chicago Deaf Awareness Day that I sent in my membership application. My timing turned out to be perfect because it made me eligible to attend a lovely New Members luncheon two weeks later!
About ten of us met for lunch at Anyways Restaurant in Oak Brook Terrace. [I'm giving the restaurant a shout-out because their food was delicious and their service couldn't have been better. We were given a room with large windows which gave us plenty of light to see each other's faces and hands. Our room had excellent acoustics as well, which can be hard to find in a restaurant.] There were two other new members besides me. The other ladies, our gathering happened to be all female, were mostly longtime Chicago ALDA members. I was really impressed by their dedication to offering support and friendship to newbies like me. They were women who had been dealing with their hearing loss longer than I have and they are wonderful examples that "life does go on". Several of them signed as they spoke which I found both helpful and admirable.
I was very happy to find out that one of the other new members is a blogging buddy of mine, Karen from A Deaf Mom Shares Her World. Karen and I have known each other online and attended some of the same events but this was our first time to be introduced. I was in awe. Karen is a wonderful writer and reading her blog inspired me to share my own story by starting Speak Up Librarian. When she smiled approvingly at me, I felt ten feet tall. Later, after I'd taken my turn introducing myself around the table, she even commented that I'm a natural at sign language. I felt so accepted by her.
One of the other ladies had a hearing loss story that was similar to mine, so naturally, I was drawn to her and wanted to know more. She was friendly and I hope to get to know her better through future events. One of the ladies offers a monthly informal support group meeting with a free sign language class following. This woman has such a kind, nurturing manner that I feel certain I could learn to improve my signing skills from her. I had no idea this opportunity was offered before attending the luncheon.
At the table, I happened to be placed with my back to a fireplace with a fire going. The warmth on my back was matched by the glow in my heart from the friendship and understanding offered to me from Chicago ALDA.