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Sunday, October 30, 2011

ALDAcon 2011 Day Two

My day began with continental breakfast and a newcomer's meeting. I enjoyed this event very much. It was informal in nature. Longtime members of ALDA and representatives from the ALDA board introduced themselves briefly. Then, we newbies took our turns introducing ourselves. When it was my turn, I mentioned that I write a blog, and one of the regional directors asked me the name of it. When I replied, "Speak Up Librarian", he smiled and told me he reads it. Nodding his head, he added, "That's why you look familiar." What a great start to my day! I was also blessed to meet two ladies in particular. One who had come by herself I made a special point of introducing myself to. It helped that I grew up near where she lived. As we talked we found we had other things in common as well. The other lady recently joined my ALDA Chicago group so I was delighted to meet her. Hopefully, she will be someone I can see again after the convention is over.

At the convention's opening session, race car drivers and cousins, Jaki and Tomas Scheckter were introduced. Jaki lives in South Africa. He has a hearing loss and has bilateral cochlear implants. His cousin Tomas arranged for him to get these implants at a hospital in Indianapolis. He even raised money for the operations. The Gift of Hearing Foundation also donated money. Today Tomas is a board member of the Gift of Hearing and Jaki is on the board of a similar organization in South Africa that raises money for children to receive cochlear implants. They told us these stories and then shared with us how exciting it is to be a race car driver. They explained how adrenaline rushes through their bodies during the race and afterwards leaves them feeling drained and empty. They love it and wouldn't choose any other occupation.

Jaki and Tomas Scheckter

Next, we had a luncheon which featured Patti Spitler as the keynote speaker. Patti worked for 23 years as a news anchor and entertainment reporter at WISH-TV in Indianapolis until she retired for health reasons. She has Meniere's disease, a permanent and progressive condition that causes dizziness and vertigo in addition to severe hearing loss. Her therapy dog, Louie, helped her overcome the isolation she experienced after retirement. Recently, she has returned to the television business with a new show that she hosts called Pet Pals. She is also a spokesperson for Hear Indiana.

Patti Spitler and interpreter

Then I attended two workshops in the afternoon. The first one was called "Living with Deafness: Positive Self Advocacy and Career Success". It was taught by college professor, Dr. David Baldridge, who is researching the workplace experiences of the deaf and hard of hearing. The second one was titled "The Resilient Self: Surviving and Thriving Through Your Deafness". This session was taught by Sally Skyer of NTID.

Here are a few photos from the Exhibit Hall:

The CapTel display. Many of the 
booths featured assistive technology.

The Scheckter cousins graciously signed our program
books and posed for photos at the Gift of Hearing table.
Learn more about this nonprofit organization here.

Each sponsor was given a trophy.
Wasn't that a nice touch?!!!

ALDAcon 2011 Day One

It was a last minute decision for me to attend ALDAcon (the annual convention of the Association of Late Deafened Adults) in Indianapolis. I had never been to an ALDAcon before and I had been holding out because I still felt guilty about being away from my family during my trip to Costa Rica last February. I gradually changed my mind after working on the program book and reading the descriptions about the wonderful events and workshops planned. I realized I would really be missing out and began to wish I had decided differently. Then, a miracle happened. The event's program and planning chairs emailed me and offered me a scholarship to attend in exchange for the hard work I had put in on creating their convention program book. I was thrilled to accept their offer.

I got involved with the program book at the request of Kim Mettache, the planning chair. She is the president of the Northwest Indiana chapter of ALDA which hosted this year's convention in Indianapolis. Kim's group was the chapter which introduced me to ALDA a few years ago. Over time I have become more involved with the Chicago chapter, but I have always stayed in touch with my friends from the Northwest Indiana chapter. Several of them are also members of the Chicago group too. Kim is one of the most energetic, upbeat people you could ever hope to meet. I was glad to be able to help her out even though I had never taken on a project like this before.

Fortunately, I had the assistance of Terri Singer, program chair, who did much of the work herself. My responsibility was for arranging the ads and converting the book into Publisher format for the printers. It sounds easy enough, but in reality it was hundreds of emails, several technical glitches to overcome, and many hours on the computer before the book was complete. Terri told me I really needed to come to the con and see it in the hands of the convention goers. She was right. When I was there and saw people using the book to plan their day's activities, I felt really glad that I had been a part of making it happen.

Capitol Building as seen from my hotel room

I drove down to Indianapolis Wednesday afternoon. I arrived in time to check in, meet my roommate (arranged by Terri), and grab something to eat at the mall attached to the hotel. As I was on my way to the food court, I ran into my good friend Jen and her mom. We joined up and had dinner together. Then afterwards, we all attended a convention sponsored captioned showing of The Big Year starring Steve Martin, Owen Wilson, and Jack Black. The movie was a light hearted look at three men's attempt to see the most different types of birds in a year. Apparently it's based on a book and is a real competition among birders. I had never heard of it before myself. In the theater I saw several of my ALDA Chicago friends and other people I knew. The captioning was terrific. The theater had moved up their installation of captioning technology to have it ready in time for the convention and generously donated tickets so we attended for free. Bravo, Regal Theaters.

Back at the hotel, I turned in for a good night's sleep and took a moment to contemplate my own Big Year. So much had happened to me since I had joined ALDA Chicago the previous October. Through accepting the position as Social Chair for the group, I had grown as a person. I had organized outings for the group, attended board meetings, learned to navigate and administer their website, and met many new people. I had been to Costa Rica with Discovering Deaf Worlds. I had been chosen as an Oticon Focus on People Awards winner and been to LA. Yes, this has definitely been a Big Year for me. The Association for Late Deafened Adults had been a big part of it so it was only fitting that I ended my year at their convention. I was coming full circle I thought to myself as I drifted off to sleep.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Having Fun with Elkhart County's Elk Art

I hope you've enjoyed my series on the elks I "hunted" at Elk Art on Parade. I want to finish with a few fun photos taken during the day. My lovely friend Linda who drove me all over Elkhart County was feeling camera shy that day, but she was sporting enough to snap these photos of me interacting with the art.

So far I haven't mentioned that we had a rainy day for our "elk hunting expedition." But the raindrops didn't stop me from having a great time. This elk titled "Simply Spring" was one of my favorites. This is what the artist Nikki Long said about it:
"I wanted my Elk to represent the bond we feel toward the friends and family in our lives but was finding it hard to translate that into art. So, I decided to ask the women in my life to pick their favorite flower to represent themselves and their family. In the end, I hope to look at each flower and have a beautiful reminder of them and how much they mean to me."

Dubbed "Rooted from the Heart, this elk was my other favorite. I figured this elk with its many wonderful values had something to tell me about how life should be lived. This is what the artist said about the concept for this elk:
"My plan is to locate one or two elementary school children from every elementary school in the county, and an equal number of seniors to help paint the design. The idea behind this lies in the Heart as the root of our community. Each child will paint a heart with a tree growing from of it, signifying growth and their branching out into our lives and community. Inside each of the hearts, elders will paint words of experience, compassion, guidance and love, thus displaying the wisdom that they have to offer all of us, and especially within a family setting. It is my hope that our bright red elk will capture the attention of passersby, even from a distance, and invite them to come and be inspired, to treat each other with kindness and respect, and demonstrate the love that each of us has to offer here in Elkhart County."

Check out what was written inside its ear!

What can I say? When I saw that this elk wore the same
shade of lipstick that I do, I just couldn't resist!

I took this final photo. I was pleased to be able to capture the American flag unfurled in the background of this patriotic elk called "Made in the USA - RV Capital of the World". Elkhart is known for being a manufacturing center for recreation vehicles, also known as RVs.

I hope you've enjoyed this series of photo posts. To see more of my Outdoor Art photography, visit my flickr page.

Speak Up Librarian Goes Elk Hunting part 3

"Pop Art", intersection of
Jackson St. and Johnson St., Elkhart
I took this photo out the car window!

"Strength, Stamina, Agility"
Matterhorn Conference Center, Elkhart

"North, South, East, West - Home is Best"
Elkhart Municipal Building

"We're Going Places"
as seen at Goshen Public Library
This is a travelling elk.

"Heart of the Midwest"
Indiana University Health, Goshen

"Rooted from the Heart"
Old Bag Factory, Goshen

"Sweet Corn, Indiana"
Bullard's Farm Market, Elkhart

"Garden Elk"
Walker Park, Elkhart

Cummins Park, Bristol

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Speak Up Librarian Goes Elk Hunting part 2

Each photo is captioned with the title the artist(s) gave the elk as well as its location. All of these ones were in the city of Elkhart, Indiana.

"Congratulations, Elk Art", Christiana Creek Country Club

"Grow Up Great", PNC Bank

"Mr. Elk Goes to the Lerner", Civic Plaza South

"Hart of Harmony", Central Park

"And the Beat Goes On", RiverWalk

"Matty and the Bird", Civic Plaza North

"Simply Spring", Wellfield Gardens

"Botanical Garden", Wellfield Gardens

"Healing Heart", Havilah Beardsley Home

"Native American Tribute", Elkhart Clinic

My Elk Hunting Expedition in Elkhart County, Indiana

My Souvenir T-shirt

I recently visited Elkhart County, Indiana to see Elk Art on Parade. All around town, life size fiberglass elks, decorated by local artists, were on display. In November, the elks after being exhibited for five months, will be auctioned for charity. The proceeds will go to Child and Parent Services (CAPS), Elkhart County's non-profit child abuse prevention agency.

According to the Elk Art on Parade website, the elk was chosen because
When a calf (baby elk) is born, it spends the first year of its life with the herd. The entire herd takes responsibility for nurturing and protecting the calf for the first year until it is able to care for itself. This model is what we desire for Elkhart County’s children; a community where everyone takes responsibility for nurturing and protecting its young. CAPS continually strives to engage the community in keeping our young protected and nurtured.

Not to mention that elks are the symbol of the city of Elkhart as shown in the photos below:

Elk above the entrance to the Municipal Building

Elk on the pavement outside the Municipal Building

Elk on the side of a water storage tank

Elk logo at a country club

It was a lot of fun driving around town looking for the elks. I had a map of their locations, but better yet, I had a friend driving who had located them all beforehand.

I thought this one that proclaims "Greetings from Elkhart County" was the perfect starter. In my next two posts, I'll share a few favorite photos of the elks. You can see more photos of what I saw while experiencing Elk Art on Parade at flickr.

"Heart of the Midwest", Goshen, IN

Monday, October 17, 2011

My New Hearing Aids in Different Sound Environments

In my previous post on my new hearing aids, I wrote about the speech banana and the sounds that I miss. My hearing aids boost the amplification for the frequencies of sounds I don't hear. The catch is they also boost the volume for environmental noises in those same frequencies. Check out the chart below and you will see that the sound a fan makes is right in the place where I need the most help. That is my dilemma. Without hearing aids, fans are barely noticeable. With hearing aids, they are very intrusive to my listening experience.

My new audiologist assures me that my brain will learn to stop paying attention to background sounds like fans over time. The strategy that I'm using is to have only one program for my hearing aids. Before I had an additional program to use in noisy situations. I ended up using it as my default setting. I didn't give my brain a chance to adapt to these "new" sounds. Right now I'm in an adjustment period, but I'm determined to give this a chance to work.

Here's a description of various sound environments I've encountered during the last two weeks.

  • Outdoor Environment

My hearing aids are a pleasure to wear outdoors. The day after I got them, I had a conversation with a neighbor I had never met before which is something I would definitely have avoided in the past. I was able to hear her just fine. When I walk my dog Rusty, I can hear his tag jingle against his collar ring. I have never heard that before. I asked my husband if it was a new sound because Rusty just got a new collar for his birthday, but he says it's always sounded like that. I am hearing bird song as melody rather than individual tweets. I had to laugh at myself the other day when I told a friend about listening to the cicadas. I exclaimed on how musical they were and not so overwhelmingly noisy. My friend pointed out there's a whole lot less of them around this time of year. Oops. I haven't encountered any weed wackers or snow blowers so far but lawn mowers aren't too bad.

  • Inside the House

The microwave timer sounds different than I remembered. It's much easier to hear as is my oven's timer. The television's sound is better. I'm understanding my husband and son's speech much more easily. When I first got my new aids, my husband washing dishes in the sink was so loud, I asked him to stop. I know what you're thinking, I must be crazy! Well, rest assured, I wised up quick. Now when water is running and the dishes are clanking against each other, I turn my hearing aids down a couple settings to cope. The worst noise of all in the house for me is our bathroom fan. It's unbearable. Unfortunately, the fan comes on whenever the light is on. I'd really like to get that fixed. Until then, the bathroom fan is my biggest challenge in the house.

  • In the Car

I have discovered my car makes a sound when you start up the engine to remind you to put your seatbelt on. I had never heard that before. I actually get a kick out of hearing it in the morning. I'm sure that will wear off but for now it's a novelty. I have the car radio turned to a lower volume level - by as many as 10 settings at time. Unfortunately, I am not yet able to enjoy music on the radio or easily understand what the broadcaster's are saying, no matter what volume setting I try. I have to admit, that's been a bit of a disappointment to me. More times than not, I am leaving the radio off. Road noise on highways is loud but not as loud as it was with my previous aids. I feel like I am coping with it. Before I used to take my hearing aids out when I was driving on highways. Surprisingly, a squeaking noise that I heard my brakes making before is actually less audible now. I have no explanation but it does help me understand why when I had a friend listen to the brake noise, he said everything was fine and didn't seem at all concerned about the noise I was hearing.

  • In my Cubicle at Work

I have two challenges there. One is a space heater. Almost every day my work area is so cold, I turn a space heater on to keep warm. It took me a while to adjust to this sound with my previous aids (remember my comment about program 2) and I'm having to start over again with this pair. Sometimes I recite my audiologist's words - my brain will learn to ignore this noise - repeatedly to myself like a mantra. Sometimes I turn my left hearing aid down a setting or two. The other problematic sound is the HVAC system. Currently it sounds as though a vacuum is going constantly. I'm working on ignoring that too. On the plus side, I can more easily detect when someone is nearing my desk.

  • Best Buy electronics store

This place was a nightmarish cacophony of sounds for me. I actually felt as though I were in physical pain and had to leave the store before my husband was finished browsing. This is not the place to go when you are adjusting to new hearing aids. Just take my word for it.

  • Church

I was pleasantly surprised to hear the choir singing. I really missed that part of the service previously. The only solution for me was to sit right next to them. But naturally my regular pew was on the other side of the church and creature of habit that I am, I was much more comfortable there. I should also add that regular pew was a better spot for hearing the sermon. With my new aids in, the sounds of church - papers rustling and the congregation reading aloud in unison - did not bother me as they had before.

I hope that helps convey a bit of what my listening experiences have been like in the first two weeks of adjusting to my hearing aids. Drop me a question in the comments section if I overlooked a setting that you're curious as to how it sounds. As always, I welcome your comments and advice.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Chicago Walk4Hearing in Photos

We had a sunny day with a bit of wind.
Temperatures were brisk in the high 50s-low 60s range.

Here I am at the starting line with my 
official walk hat and my team tshirt.

 My son Charlie walked with me.
Together we raised $600.

Before the walk began, there was balloon
 twisting and face painting for the kids.

Ronnie Adler, Walk Chair, announced that 1,000 people
came to walk. According to the Chicago Walk4Hearing website
just over $163,500 was raised. My team ALDA Chicago
topped our goal of $3,000 by a hundred dollars.

My son must have taken this sign to heart. 
He couldn't walk, he had to run. He covered
the distance 3 times lapping me twice.

This sign was a welcome sight!
We walked 5K (3.1 miles).

Water and snacks were provided for all of the walkers.

At the end, we were treated
to free pizza and ice cream.

Brenda Battat, Executive Director of the Hearing
Loss Association of America, and me

In the photos below, you will see some of the tshirts worn by
groups who walked as teams. Coming up with a creative
shirt design is part of the fun of the Walk4Hearing events.
This was the back of my group's tshirt.

I also saw versions of this tshirt as Ready or Not,
Hear We Come which I thought was quite clever.

See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.
The little boy on this shirt has a hearing loss.

HLAA Lincoln Park chapter's T-shirt

I like this design's use of the letters D and u!

I'd like to say THANKS to everyone who
sponsored Charlie and me on this walk:
Mom, Dad, Aunt Louise, Uncle Gene,
Bill, Ann, Lydia, Carol, Pam, Martha and Linda.
Your support means everything to me.