Dear Reader

This blog is no longer active as of 2017.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A Mom's Holiday Joy

Christmas came early for me this year. It arrived on December 20th when my son Charlie came home. This year's highest moments for me included watching him graduate from high school, celebrating with family and friends at his military send-off party, and seeing him graduate from basic training earlier this month. I'm so proud of him! In the photo above, he is placing the Army cap ornament I bought him last year onto our tree. This year, I bought him an ornament that says "Proud Army Family" with a flag and a heart. My hopes and dreams for 2015 include prayers for his safety.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014


According to Urban Dictionary, there is an actual word misunderheard. It means "when an individual fails to correctly hear what another individual has said". Do you suppose someone who is hard of hearing coined that word? The experience of having a misunderhearing happens often to me.

My latest lulu was when I misunderheard Avon (cosmetics company) for A-bomb (nuclear weapon). Conceptually, they are not the least bit alike! But if you remove the consonants from their pronunciation, they both have ay-ah vowel sounds. Darn consonants, they trip me up all the time.

Thinking about this misunderhearing later, I recalled a funny description I heard once of a woman who wore too much makeup: She had enough paint on to paint a battleship. And enough powder to blow her up!

Have you had any funny hearing mistakes or misunderhearings lately?

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Learning to Hear Myself

For the second essay in my listening class, I was asked to discuss my ability to listen to myself. In that paper, the idea that I was deaf to myself emerged. I realized I had paid little attention to my intrapersonal communication. When I began to listen, I heard myself saying, "I need to do ___." Fill in the blank with any common chore. I discovered I mentally assign myself quite a few tasks to do around the house. Other messages were about the way I was feeling. The most frequent were "I am tired", "I am hungry", "I am scared", and "I am nervous". I was not hearing myself saying anything positive or encouraging.

For my next essay, I was required to listen to myself while alone in a nature setting five times. The first two times I was unsuccessful at hearing anything meaningful, but on the third outing I received a message. I told myself that all the expectations I had put on myself for the weekend were unnecessary.  My inner voice gently stated that I got done what I got done and that it was enough. I had been feeling internal pressure about not accomplishing everything that needed to be done in preparation for the week ahead within the two days allotted. To be honest, I had slept and relaxed some and my consciousness was telling me that taking a break to rest was allowed and beneficial to me. Ironically, for a 2014 New Years resolution, I had said that this year I would go easier on myself. This was a timely reminder of that intention.

On my final listening in nature session for class, I received a deeper message while sitting next to a lake. My attention was on the water and I noticed the waves moving by. My thoughts were on my family. My inner eye brought up an image of a water park lazy river with me in one rubber raft and my family members on their own rubber rafts. We were clutching each other by the arms to stay together as we floated. Eventually, we broke apart and I saw my family drifting away ahead of me in the lazy river current. My inner voice said, "Let go, let go, let go." Then, I told myself that something essential within me remains.

These reflections addressed my recent feelings of loss due to family members moving away from me. I looked out at the lake again and noticed how all of it its expanse is contained within a single body of water. I thought that even if I were in the lake on this side and a family member was across the lake we were still connected by being in the water. It was comforting to me to ponder that a sort of proximity exists even across distances.

I plan to continue to listen outdoors in nature. There is something calming about nature that allows my inner voice to speak up if I am willing to pay attention.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Deaf to Myself

This semester in grad school, I have been taking a class on listening. I never had a chance to take a listening class before so I was wondering what it would be like. At the beginning, I was inwardly hostile to the idea of learning how to improve my listening. I felt as though I did plenty of work already being hard of hearing and struggling to hear what other people said. Thank you very much! In fact, I had structured much of my day around not having to listen. I found sustained listening tired me out and gave me headaches.

My teacher has given me an entirely new perspective on listening. She says that to be able to listen to others you have to listen to yourself first. She calls that intrapersonal communication. This was a new term to me and something I did not learn about when I got my undergraduate degree in communications twenty-five years ago.

My teacher told us that trust is a gift you give to yourself. I have not been in the habit of trusting myself or validating my internal thoughts and feelings. I had always been taught to put others' needs and opinions ahead of my own. But in this class, I learned about standing in your personal power, paying attention to what you actually experience in your life, and creating the life you want through your thoughts and words. My teacher said, "Patience is the crux of listening. Be patient with yourself then others. To care about another person can often be expressed best through listening. To care about yourself can also be best expressed by listening."

I realized that until now I have been deaf to myself.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

2014 Chicago Walk4Hearing

Today was a beautiful day for the 2014 Chicago Walk4Hearing in Lincoln Park. The temperatures were in the low 70s and the sky was sunny. Walking along Lake Michigan we had cool breezes to enjoy.

I was really happy to be walking with my ALDA Chicago friends Kim, Julie, Nathan, Jenifer,  Carol, Marsha K., Marsha S., Beth, and Joe. We were joined by a student named Mimi that I took ASL with last year. We were given delicious cookies and bottles of water before the walk. Afterwards, we were fed slices of pizza and ice cream treats. It was  a really fun event.

Of course, the reason for the event was to raise both awareness and funds. My final tally was $1, 025. Thank you, supporters! My ALDA Chicago team surpassed our $3,000 goal to reach $3, 283. The Chicago Walk4Hearing total of all teams together was $82,557.68 or 83% of the $100,000 goal.

I am sorry that I do not have photos to add to this post. My camera malfunctioned at the walk and my cell phone memory was full. If I receive photos from friends with permission to post, I will share those later. Thanks again, readers, for making this walk with me via my blog.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Who is Tinsel?

I had a funny thing happen to me during my fundraising for Chicago Walk4Hearing. I just can't resist sharing it with you.

A couple days ago I noticed a donation posted by Tinsel on my fundraising page. For more than a day, I could not figure out who Tinsel was. I thought maybe it was one of you, my blog readers, but no one had ever posted a comment and signed it as Tinsel. It finally hit me who Tinsel is - a donkey on my aunt and uncle's farm in Maryland. A while back my aunt had sent me this photo (below) when I blogged about something ear related. More recently, when she and my uncle were visiting us, she had been delighted to see a photo of my son with Tinsel included in a family video.

In light of the generosity of Tinsel (and his owners), I will let Tinsel announce my fundraising update. As always, my thanks go out to all who have donated. Okay, Tinsel, take it away.

Hee haw! Hi, everybody. I'm Tinsel. Here's the latest from Sarah on the Chicago Walk4Hearing:

Sarah has raised $850 (an increase of $115 from the last report). ALDA Chicago (Sarah's team) has raised $2,336 (78 % of their $3,000 goal). Overall, the Chicago Walk4Hearing has raised $42, 403.68 (42% of the $100,000 goal).

Eeyore. Sarah made a mistake when giving you her last report. She said the Chicago Walk4Hearing goals was $1.4 million. That is actually the goal for the whole year from all of the Walk4Hearing events around the country combined. Eeyore. She regrets that error.

If you still want to participate in the fundraising drive, there are 14 days left. Visit her donation page where you can see my name scroll by on the Fundraising Honor Roll! Hee haw.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Chicago Walk4Hearing Fundraising Update

I am very pleased to share with you this update on my fundraising efforts for the Chicago Walk4Hearing which will benefit my local support group - ALDA Chicago as well as the sponsoring organization, the Hearing Loss Association of America.

Dear Speak Up Librarian readers, friends, and family,

As promised, here is an update on the Chicago Walk4Hearing fundraiser. Due to the generosity of many of you, I have personally raised $735. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Your support means so much!

The ALDA Chicago team has raised $2,146 (72%) so far towards our total goal of $3,000.

The overall Chicago Walk4Hearing goal (all teams combined) is $1.4 million. Currently the amount raised is $863,545 (62%). Correction: This should have read as the 2014 goal for all the combined Walk4Hearing events around the country. The Chicago Walk4Hearing goal is $100,000.

There is still time to get involved if you are interested in donating, but have not yet done so. The walk takes place September 28 and we are collecting donations up until that day. You can donate online on my page or if you see me regularly, cash or checks made out to Walk4Hearing can be turned in to me directly.

Once again, thanks for supporting me as I try to make a difference for those living with hearing loss.

All the best,

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Discovering Deaf Worlds

With the permission and blessing of Davin Searls, I would like to share with you this letter reprinted from DDW's annual report. I have been a supporter of DDW since 2010.

Discovering Deaf Worlds (DDW) exists because of the stark inequalities that Deaf people face, especially those who live in the developing world. Over 90% of Deaf people in developing countries have no education at all; that's over 200 million who never go to school.

DDW exists because out of these millions of Deaf people whom are uneducated, as well as the millions more who are under-educated, many are neglected, taken advantage of, abandoned and abused. Due to a lack of information, access, and role models, these Deaf people and their communities do not know that Deaf people can succeed in all aspects of life when given the opportunity.

But above all, DDW exists because of the resolute and passionate Deaf leaders in these countries who are beating the odds, and showing the world that every person, hearing, deaf, or otherwise, can make a valuable contribution to society.

DDW exists to ensure we live in a world where that's possible.

DDW doesn't build schools or provide workshops to parents. DDW doesn't lobby governments for equal rights or teach employers how to work with Deaf people. Local Deaf leaders are already doing that. They just need the right support and guidance to take their efforts to the next level.

DDW partners with these leaders, providing them with training on organizational management, how to maximize local resources, and ensure sustainability. We not only want them to succeed, but to keep succeeding. In our ever-shrinking world, our Deaf community is a global one, and if Deaf cultures and sign languages from across the globe are to be appreciated, preserved, and celebrated, we cannot do it alone.

Over the past twelve months, DDW has made some of its most notable accomplishments to date. We successfully implemented the EMPOWER Program, a cross-cultural capacity building exchange between the USA and Philippines, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. We also received a second federal grant award from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which will continue until Fall 2015. Read more about the goals and achievements of these programs in this year's annual report.

Both programs are developed and implemented in partnership with the Philippine Federation of the Deaf (PFD), an organization comprised of some of the most inspiring Deaf leaders we have ever met, whom we will continue to work closely with for several years to come.

And of course, DDW exists today because of you. Thank you for your support and continued interest in DDW and our work. Please keep an eye out for more stories on our website and in our newsletter as we continue to forge new paths, new partnerships, and new successes.

Davin B. Searls
Executive Director

Learn more about DDW:
Annual Report
To read more of my blog posts on DDW, click here.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Why I Will Be Walking

Me, Anna Gilmore Hall, Marsha Kopp
at the Chicago Walk4Hearing Kickoff

I will be walking in the Chicago Walk4Hearing next month. Why? Because I am personally affected by hearing loss and cope with it every day. By participating and raising funds for this event, I want to support the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) and their efforts to advocate for a more accessible world for those of us with hearing loss.

I will be walking on the ALDA Chicago team. ALDA Chicago, a chapter of the Association for Late Deafened Adults will receive 40% of the money our team raises. Why is that important to me? ALDA Chicago has been my local support group since I discovered my hearing loss. The funds raised through this event will be used to provide Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) services for our group. The way my group uses CART is to hire a court reporter who types everything said at a meeting and projects the transcription onto a large screen. This is hugely helpful to us, but also pricey, as you can imagine.

On August 2nd, I had the privilege to attend the Chicago Walk4Hearing kickoff event. In the photo above, I am standing beside Anna Gilmore Hall, Executive Director of HLAA and Marsha Kopp, Team Captain for ALDA Chicago. At the event a delicious breakfast buffet was served. Then, Anna Gilmore Hall and Ronnie Adler (also of HLAA) spoke about the organization's initiatives and accomplishments. Next, a few parents spoke, some with kids in their arms or shyly holding their hands. There were several children with hearing loss in attendance and I was inspired by their parents' passion for helping them succeed in life. To help these children and others just like them is another reason why I am walking this year.

If you would like to support me in this effort, please visit my fundraising page to make a safe, online donation. I would also like to thank the family and friends who have helped me raise $455 so far!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Good News! Joyce Won

A message from Joyce to all who voted for her in the Oticon Focus on People Awards:

Thank you so very much for supporting me and helping me win this NATIONAL award!

It is a great honor to not only be nominated and selected as a candidate, but to have been voted by you and so many others, not just in the US, but around the world as Oticon's 2014 Focus on People award winner for "Advocate of the Year".

Please share this press release with as many people as you can. Oticon is truly a company that puts "People First", just as their motto claims. This non-profit based company gave the winners in each category a brand new pair of state of the art hearing aids, Bluetooth accessories to go with them, $1,000.00 donated to their charities of choice, as well as a $1,000.00 prize money. They covered all the travel expenses, meals and hotel costs of our stay for the national convention.

During our tour of the company, we learned that many of their employees stay for decades because they are extremely well cared for and they enjoy the mission behind the company and the president of the company Peer Lauritsen to put "People First".

Too many companies today put money and numbers first. It is a wonderful thing to find a company that sincerely cares about people!

Joyce Edmiston and Peer Lauritsen

Growing up with hearing loss, Joyce Edmiston lost many opportunities to interact with others, make friends and advocate for herself. Over time, she gained the courage and wisdom to make her voice heard. Today, she freely shares her hard-won knowledge as a vocal advocate for people with all degrees of hearing loss through her popular blog Xpressive HandZ. Edmiston is among the outstanding individuals with hearing loss honored by the 2014 Oticon Focus on People Awards, a national competition that celebrates individuals who are helping to eliminate negative stereotypes of what it means to have a hearing loss.

This is the third year that Oticon, Inc., sponsor of the national awards program, has invited the public to cast their votes to help determine who among the 12 finalists would be first, second and third place winners in the Adult, Student, Practitioner and Advocacy categories. More than 10,000 votes were cast by people from across the country and around the world.

As the first place winner in the Advocacy Category, Edmiston was recognized on August 14 at a special awards ceremony at Oticon, Inc.’s US headquarters that was attended by hearing care professionals from across the US. As part of her award, Edmiston has designated Hearing Loss of America Association, Lancaster County as her choice for a $1,000 donation from Oticon, Inc.

Edmiston is passionate about the teaching of American Sign Language (ASL) and has also formed a committee to educate local churches the need to provide captioned services for those who do not communicate by sign language. She volunteers with the Telecommunications Relay Service Advisory Board for the Pennsylvania PUC, the Collaborative for Communication via Captioning, and with HLAA at both local and state levels.

“Individuals like Joyce Edmiston are inspiring role models for people living with hearing loss,” states Oticon President Peer Lauritsen. “The remarkable people who are honored in this year’s Oticon Focus on People Awards program have taken their unique circumstances and transformed their lives with a positive outlook that has enabled them to overcome challenges and accomplish goals well beyond what many thought possible.”

The Oticon Focus on People Awards program was created in 1997 by Oticon, Inc., one of the world’s oldest and most respected hearing instrument manufacturers. By celebrating the accomplishments and contributions of individuals with hearing loss, Oticon, Inc. aims to call attention to common misconceptions about hearing loss and motivate people with hearing loss to take advantage of the help that is available to them. The company’s goal is to reach out to the 80 percent of an estimated 28 million Americans who could benefit from hearing solutions, but who fail to seek professional help.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Fun ASL Singalong in the Car

This video will put you in the mood for a road trip! What a great couple! Enjoy.

Here are the lyrics to You're the One That I Want, a duet sung by Olivia Newton John and John Travolta.

I got chills, they're multiplyin'
And I'm losin' control
'Cause the power you're supplyin'
It's electrifyin'!

You better shape up, 'cause I need a man
And my heart is set on you
You better shape up, you better understand
To my heart I must be true
Nothing left, nothing left for me to do

You're the one that I want (You are the one I want)
Ooh ooh ooh, honey
The one that I want (You are the one I want)
Ooh ooh ooh, honey
The one that I want (You are the one I want)
Ooh ooh ooh
The one I need (The one I need) Oh, yes, indeed (Yes, indeed)

If you're filled with affection
You're too shy to convey
Meditate in my direction
Feel your way

I better shape up, 'cause you need a man
I need a man who can keep me satisfied
I better shape up if I'm gonna prove
You better prove that my faith is justified
Are you sure?
'Cause (yes) I'm sure down deep inside

You're the one that I want (You are the one I want)
Ooh ooh ooh, honey
The one that I want (You are the one I want)
Ooh ooh ooh, honey
The one that I want (You are the one I want)
Ooh ooh ooh
The one I need (The one I need)
Oh, yes, indeed (Yes, indeed)

You're the one that I want (You are the one I want)
Ooh ooh ooh, honey
The one that I want (You are the one I want)
Ooh ooh ooh, honey
The one that I want (You are the one I want)
Ooh ooh ooh
The one I need (The one I need)
Oh, yes, indeed (Yes, indeed)

You're the one that I want (You are the one I want)
Ooh ooh ooh, honey
The one that I want (You are the one I want)
Ooh ooh ooh, honey
The one that I want (You are the one I want)
Ooh ooh ooh
The one I need (The one I need)
Oh, yes, indeed (Yes, indeed)

Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Human Factor

Today I had planned to use an assistive listening device to help me hear at a special meeting for work. The meeting took place at another university and I did all the right preparation. Two weeks ahead of time, I contacted the event organizer through email and asked him about the meeting room and whether there would be a single speaker or a panel of speakers. I was relieved when he told me it would be one speaker at a time with everyone in the same room listening. (I hate those meetings when people break up into groups and they all talk at once!) I told him about the small microphone I would bring and he said he would let the speakers know ahead of time about my request for them to wear it. Last night I carefully charged my Oticon Connectline microphone and streamer (the receiver unit which is worn like a necklace).

But I forgot to count in the human factor. Yep, that's me I'm referring to here. It took me longer than I expected to drive to the meeting's location. Instead of arriving early with time to introduce myself to the organizer and demonstrate my equipment, I came in to find the other attendees were already gathered in the auditorium and the lights were turned off in anticipation of the first PowerPoint presentation. I managed to make my way in the darkened room to the front row and grab an empty seat.

Fortunately, this auditorium was designed well for acoustics. Also in my favor, the first three people who spoke were men with strong voices that projected well. I could hear them from where I was sitting, perhaps ten to twelve feet away. There was a short break before the fourth speaker. When I saw that she was a woman, I decided I needed to approach her. While she was setting up her presentation, I asked her if she would be willing to wear my microphone. She graciously said yes and put it on immediately. Then I thought, I should test it while I'm still up here with her. So I put on my streamer and turned it on. Immediately my hearing aids switched over to their Bluetooth program. The woman spoke, but I could not hear her at all. I got flustered and decided to simply move to an empty seat closer to the podium. I retrieved my microphone and beat a hasty retreat.

I claimed a seat directly in front of the podium. I figured she already knew I couldn't hear well, so it wouldn't bother her to have me there. I was now within 6 feet of her. I learned at the HLAA convention, that 6 feet is about the maximum distance where hearing aids are effective (but I don't have a source for that, so please don't quote me).

When I looked down at the microphone, still clenched in my hand, I realized what I had done wrong. I had forgotten to tell the speaker to turn the microphone on. Oops. To compensate for my error, I turned my hearing aid volume up a notch and then one more and listened closely (eyes fixed on her mouth) as the presenter talked. She was followed by another woman. This presenter spoke a little more slowly and I followed her easily enough. After that, I was finished for the day. It had been two hours of intense listening, about the same amount of time as it took me to drive there and back home. It might have been made easier with an assistive listening device, if not for the human factor. But what can I say, I'm only human.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Cleo's Pool Party

Cleo's pool party is an annual ALDA Chicago tradition dating back to 1987. I consider it one of our group's signature events. There are three gatherings each year that our members really come out in force for - the holiday party in December, the birthday party in the spring, and Cleo's pool party in the summer. Last year I missed out on it, so I was bound and determined to make it this year.

Pool during one of the rare moments it was empty.
The morning of the pool party, the Chicago area received heavy rains. Not a good sign, but the party is on rain or shine. Fortunately, the storm moved off by early afternoon. But I didn't realize that because I had dozed off while waiting for the storm to pass. As a result, I got to the party rather late so the socializing was in full swing when I arrived. I filled a plate of food and started mingling. It sure felt good to be around my deaf and hard of hearing friends again, giving and receiving hugs, sharing stories, and signing as best as we can.

My dear friend Cleo and me
I got to know Cleo when I was brand new to ALDA Chicago through working on a project together. Cleo is one of the charter members who got the group going 25+ years ago. Cleo and I are email buddies and my day is always brightened when a message from her comes to my in-box. She likes to include bright yellow smiley-face emoticons in her notes. I am so blessed to know her and just want to take a moment to say publicly: 

Thank you, Cleo, for all of your hospitality and friendship to ALDA Chicagoans over the years. We love you, Cleo!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Frustrated by Hearing Loss? 5 Keys to Communication Success

Today, it is my pleasure to tell you about this outstanding book by Dusty Ann Jessen, Au.D. Oh, how I wish I had received a copy of this book from my audiologist when I got my first pair of hearing aids eight years ago. It would have made such a difference as I adjusted to life with hearing aids. I think every new hearing aid buyer ought to go home with her list of common sense hearing aid expectations (see p. 17).

After getting my first pair, I had a coworker cross the room stopping at intervals to whisper "Can you hear me now?" like he was the Verizon Guy. Ugh. Another time while eating in a restaurant, someone asked if I could eavesdrop on a conversation at the next table. As if! I've had other people tell me "just turn them up" when I missed something they said. Most people see my hearing aids as the answer to all my hearing problems. I felt validated by Dr. Jessen when I read, "Hearing aids do not give people 'super human' hearing! But often times this what is expected of them."

I really liked that Dr. Jessen said her book is "less about hearing loss, and more about communication.” I had to nod my head in agreement when I read "we tend to communicate least effectively with those we are with the most." To address the communication breakdowns we experience in our daily life, Dr. Jessen provides tips for communicating better during normal activities such as spending time at home, riding in a car, eating at a restaurant, talking on the telephone, and attending a public event. For each of these situations, she applies her five keys of communication success: environment, speaker, listener, technology, and practice.

Featured on the cover of the book, Henry, the healthy hearing hound, appears in light-hearted illustrations throughout the book. Available in paperback, as well as for Kindle, iPad, and Nook, the book is 72 pages and includes a few pages for you to make your own notes on challenging communication situations you encounter.

You can order it online at Dr. Jessen's website Cut to the Chase Communication where you can also sign up for Henry's Weekly Successful Communication eTips delivered to your email. If you are an audiologist who wants to purchase multiple copies of the book to distribute to your patients, a discount price for bulk orders is available.

Friday, July 11, 2014

HLAA Convention: Day Four

On the final day of the convention, which is on Sunday, HLAA provides an accessible Christian worship service for all who wish to participate. This gathering had been one of the highlights of my convention experience in Milwaukee and I was happy to be able to attend again.

I was one of the first to arrive and I saw Ahme Stone getting our church bulletins ready. Ahme is the widow of Rocky Stone who founded Self Help for Hard of Hearing (SHHH) which later became the Hearing Loss Association of America. You could tell this special time set apart for prayer, songs, and worship meant a great deal to her. She was assisted by a man named Max McCarthy who led the singing. There was also a CART writer typing everything said onto a large screen. According to Max,  she "had the Spirit in her fingertips that morning". The worship service uplifted me and set the right tone for my day. Later on, I had the chance to quietly express my thanks to Ahme Stone. I'm grateful I had the chance to tell her how much her tradition means to me too.

The final event of the convention was an Awards Breakfast and Ceremony. Being new to HLAA, I was curious to learn more about the people who had contributed to the organization's success. One of the highlights for me was seeing Jacob Landis being honored with the Service Award. Last summer Jacob began a coast-to-coast 11,000 mile bike ride to visit every ball park in the U.S. Jacob, who has a cochlear implant, did this to raise funds for those who could benefit from a cochlear implant but cannot afford one. Unfortunately, he was hit by a semi truck and seriously injured on the way to his final stadium. Once he healed, he completed his trip this spring. What an inspiring young man! You can read more about him on the Jacob's Ride website.

Jacob Landis gives his acceptance speech
while emcee Michael Eury looking on
Many awards were given out, but eventually the program was over. Or so our emcee thought until a woman in a cowboy hat rushed onto the stage. As he stepped aside from the mic, he said, "This wasn't in the script." The woman announced there was one final award to present. She called Anna Gilmore Hall, Executive Director of HLAA, to the platform. When she arrived, the woman representing Texas HLAA, said with a drawl, "I'm looking forward to next year's convention in St. Louis so it's time for me to give you the boot!" Then she handed her a crystal cowboy boot with a bottle inside. What a great line and closing to the convention.

Anna Gilmore Hall gets the "boot"
Before I finish this post, I want to mention that it was my great pleasure to have met Alan Kutner, who organized the Show Us the Captions campaign participation in Pennsylvania and Jim DeCaro, board member of both HLAA and Discovering Deaf Worlds. I want to thank Jim Saunders, board member of HLAA, for helping me meet Anna Gilmore Hall and thank Anna for the time she made for me in her busy schedule at the convention. I also want to give a shout out to the new friends I made who weren't mentioned in these convention posts: Carolyn, Cynthia, Gloria, KarenMarcy, Patricia, and Vicki. I also want to share photos of two special ladies I met, Elise De Papp and Nancy Williams. I plan to stay in touch with all of you!

Elise De Papp and me
Me and Nancy Williams
Finally, I'd like to conclude my convention coverage with the message of Rocky Stone and HLAA that was included in our program books: Hearing loss is a daily challenge you can overcome. You do not have to hide your hearing loss. You do not have to face hearing loss alone.

Become a member or make a donation to HLAA at

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

HLAA Convention: Day Three

Saturday, What a Day!
- Happy Days theme song 

My last full day at the convention was packed full of information and fun. The morning began for me with the workshop "Finding Your Calling...Despite Hearing Loss". This seminar was taught by Nancy Williams of Grand Piano Passion. She told us her story about returning to playing the piano after 25 years. She led us in private reflections on possible childhood passions we may have abandoned as adults. Then we considered how we might overcome challenges to participating in those activities today. Finally, we made a commitment to ourselves on what our first steps would be to reclaiming those pursuits.

While we were completing these written exercises in our handouts, Nancy played her music for us, not on a grand piano, but on a more portable instrument, a keyboard. To further inspire us during this thoughtful time, she had Power Point slides of beautiful paintings for us to enjoy. It wasn't all solitary though. She asked us to talk over our discoveries with the person sitting beside us. She also invited people to share at the microphone if they were comfortable. I really liked the way Nancy organized this workshop and I learned more about public speaking from experiencing her presentation style. In case you're curious, the passion that surfaced for me, surprisingly, was my love for learning foreign languages.

Next, I attended a panel discussion with Heroes with Hearing Loss. You may be unaware of this, but hearing loss is the number one service-related injury affecting veterans. In 2011 alone, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs documented hearing loss related treatment for 1.5 million service men and women. Often overshadowed by the other challenges our service men and women face, hearing loss is nevertheless intertwined both physically and emotionally — as a trigger, a constant reminder or an every day frustration. It is a very unique and personal challenge for many veterans. [Text source: Heroes with Hearing Loss website]

The panel featured a moderator, an audiologist, and several men with military service. I found it fascinating to learn how these servicemen have turned their traumatic experiences into a benefit to other military families by sharing information on the resources available for veterans. They said that military personnel believe they are indestructible and it can be difficult for them to seek help when they need it. If they seem unwilling to have a discussion about their hearing loss with concerned family members or friends, they may be more open to listening to "one of their own". As you and I know, being public about your hearing loss requires courage. I salute these men who are real heroes on and off the battlefield.

After this presentation, I met with Valerie, my new friend from Florida. The two of us ventured outside the hotel for lunch. We walked over to a nearby restaurant called Z'Tejas. I'm giving this restaurant a plug on my blog because the food and service were excellent. We were seated on the outdoor covered patio where we had a beautiful view of the Texas hillside. Our waiter brought us cornbread in a mini cast iron skillet. My entree was a grilled vegetable torta: portobello mushroom, zucchini, yellow squash, roasted red bell pepper, spinach and tomato with cilantro pesto and roasted green chile vinaigrette on a telera bun. Absolutely delicious. It was nice having some down time from the conference to kick back, relax, and get to know someone new. This was Valerie's first time at HLAA and I confided to her that I had felt overwhelmed in Milwaukee and that this second time around was a whole different experience.

While we were still at the restaurant, I received a text message from Leslie, the woman I had met on the plane to Austin. She and her boyfriend Sam had come to the expo at HLAA and wanted to meet up with me. As soon as I got back to the convention and parted company with Valerie, I saw them. It was like greeting old friends. I was so thrilled to show them around the wonders of the vendors' exhibits. They were especially interested in the Hamilton CapTel and Caption Call booths as they had not known about captioned phones. All too soon, I had to leave them to attend my next workshop. I'm so glad they took me up on the invitation to come over to the HLAA vendor hall. I hope they stay in touch and perhaps we will meet again in St. Louis, the site of next year's convention.

Sam Trychin, Ph.D.
The next workshop I went to was "Conflict Resolution: A Positive Approach" presented by Dr. Sam Trychin. I was excited to learn from this man who is well known in the hearing loss community for his teaching and writing on communication strategies for coping with hearing loss. My last grad school class was a whole semester on conflict management. What I had been expecting to learn there, but didn't, I learned from Sam in just over an hour. He presented a step by step approach to resolving conflicts. "Where has this man been all my life?" I thought. I could have used this information decades ago. Better late than never, I suppose. I didn't leave until I had purchased the two books he had for sale: Problem Solving in Families: Suggestions and Procedures for Negotiating Behavior Changes Related to Hearing Loss (which contains the content presented in this workshop) and Living with Hearing Loss Workbook, 4th ed. If you would like to read these books yourself, you can order them through his website.

My final workshop of the convention was "Managing Hearing Loss with a Smile on Your Face" presented by Rose Minette of Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services. She talked to us about signal to noise ratio. People with normal hearing need a +6 stronger signal than noise, but people with hearing loss can require a +15 to +20 stronger signal than noise. So there you have proof that it's really hard for us to hear in noise. I know I have almost felt as if I were "drowning" in noise at times.

Despite the difficulties hearing loss presents, there are ways you can advocate for yourself and help others understand your needs better. Rose gave everyone who attended a DVD called Let's Make It Clear produced by Texas DARS and starring Gael Hannan. You can find it on YouTube at or watch it below if you have the time. I highly recommend this nearly 20 minute captioned video. I could certainly relate to Louise's experiences and I need to use her technique of stopping a conversation gone wrong and starting over again.

The final event of my day was the Fiesta Banquet held in the conference hotel ballroom. The meal was delicious and the entertainer for the evening was comedienne Gael Hannen! She did a hilarious impersonation of the strategies us hard of hearing folk use to try to hear just that little bit better. I thought to myself, "Has she been spying on me?" I felt completely exposed but since I had never met her and people all around me were nodding their heads in agreement, I guess that's just how it is when you're hard of hearing. Pretty soon everyone in the room was laughing at how ridiculous we can be when we think we are fitting in and fooling everyone around us (not). Gael even put several of the moves into a lahn* dance routine and had us following along in our seats. At the end of the evening, she brought down the house with her declaration that we are all hohs - which of course sounds the same as the less flattering hos. I really can't explain why this was as funny as it was. You had to be there for that. This had been a day to remember, that's for sure.

*That's the Texas pronunciation of line. Gael is Canadian so it was quite funny hearing her speak in a fake Texas accent.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

HLAA Convention: Day Two

Photo from the HLAA Emerging Technology Symposium
This is what communication access looks like: There is a speaker at a microphone, in a looped room, with the spoken words projected on a large overhead screen in real-time, as well as an American Sign Language interpreter. Well done, HLAA!

Day two of the HLAA Convention featured a symposium on emerging technologies.  The first speaker, Bruce Borenstein,  represented a company called AfterShokz. This company sells headphones that use bone conduction. The way they work is their headphones fit around the back of your neck instead of over your head and the parts that usually sit in your ears rest instead on your cheekbones. Bruce, who is the President and CEO of the company, said these headphones were designed with runners in mind so they could keep their ears open to environmental noise (such as an approaching car).

During a question and answer session with the audience, I learned that these headphones are not intended for sensorineural hearing loss such as I have. But I was intrigued and thought I would like to try them out anyway. There was a long line forming of other people with the same idea so we were directed outside the auditorium. When it was my turn, I was amazed at what I heard through bone conduction. The music sounded so rich and full. I had not heard music sound like that before. You can learn more about the company and their products on their website at

The next company that presented was Etymotic Research, Inc. Mead Killon, founder, Chief Technology Officer, and President, and Gail Gudmundsen, Managing Director of Audiology demonstrated the next generation of Companion Mics® which allow four people at a time to be linked up as both listeners and speakers. This product is still in production and is not yet available for sale. I was interested in learning that the company has created a home hearing test with results that are comparable to the ones you get at the audiologist's office. You can learn more at their website

There was more to the symposium, but I had listened enough to have the wow factor. I left to explore the vendors' displays in the exhibit hall. I'll write more on that in another post.

Before coming to the convention, I had made plans to meet Dr. Dusty Jessen, workshop presenter and author of Frustrated by Hearing Loss: 5 Keys to Communication Success. I had purchased and read her book ahead of time and was interested in meeting her in person. We ended up having lunch together with her mom in the exhibit hall before her afternoon workshop. It was a pleasure meeting both of them. Dr. Jessen autographed my book and posed with me for a photo which her mom took of us. I will post a separate book review once I've finished this series on the HLAA convention. In the meantime, you can learn more by visiting her website at

Dr. Dusty Jessen and me with the book she wrote

After lunch I attended her workshop where I learned the following 5 facts:
  • 20% of Americans have hearing loss
  • 30% of Americans 65 and older have hearing loss
  • 50% of Americans 75 and older have hearing loss
  • Hearing loss is the 3rd most common health problem in America, following arthritis and heart disease
  • 100% of Americans are affected by hearing loss because it affects everyone around the people who have it.

Dr. Jessen said hearing aids are only one piece of the communication puzzle. She emphasized the importance of anticipation as the listener. She has seen her mom use this technique successfully. She also mentioned that you can get a car program for your hearing aids. This was news to me. I am going to ask my audiologist about that at my next visit as I often turn down the volume on my hearing aids to reduce unpleasant road noise.

After this, I returned to my hotel for a nap. I wanted to rest up because HLAA had an exciting outing planned for us that evening. At 5:30 p.m. we boarded buses and went to the historic Scholz Biergarten, a German barbecue place that offered Texas swing and line dancing.

I was amused by this sign at the entrance and couldn't resist snapping a photo of it. Perhaps HLAA should consider changing its name?

I had a wonderful time at the barbecue. My new friend Velda and I grabbed a seat at a picnic table in the outdoor patio area. Before long we were joined by other ladies and we soon had a successful group conversation going. I want to highlight this because it is not something I typically experience when I'm in a group situation. Each of us were careful to be sure everyone could hear and follow what we said. We took turns with only one of us speaking at a time. I enjoyed our conversation very much and will treasure the memory of these women and our socializing.

As much fun as I was having outside, the line dancing indoors was calling me. I had never line danced before but had always wanted to give it a try. I danced three songs with a song in between each to sit down and catch my breath. I had no idea line dancing was so strenuous. It was fun because most of us were terrible. When we changed directions, we often ran into each other. The instructor failed to show up, so one of the conference attendees stepped in to guide us. I didn't get her name, but you can see a little bit of her in the photo above. She is wearing a blue and white checkered shirt, cowboy hat, and boots. We would have been totally lost without her. She held her hand up high and used her fingers to count off the steps.

Here's a photo of the band that played for us. I bet they were pretty amused by our line dancing prowess. All in all, that night in Texas was a fun evening of food, friendship, music, and laughs. I am so glad I went.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

HLAA Convention: Day One

I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the Hearing Loss Association of America's convention June 26-29 in Austin, Texas. This was my second time attending their convention as I had been to the one in Milwaukee in 2010. When I went that time, I had gone with a group of friends from my local support group. This time I was on my own, but I had a great time meeting new people and making friends who share the hearing loss experience.

The first new friends I made were a couple I met while on the plane travelling from Chicago to Austin. I flew on Southwest Airlines which allows passengers to choose their own seats. Believe it or not, the seat I chose was next to a deaf woman and her hard of hearing boyfriend. Naturally, I assumed they were going to the convention as well. But they weren't and had not heard of HLAA before. I shared my latest issue of Hearing Loss Magazine, which I had brought to read on the plane, with Leslie and she read it from cover to cover. I invited the couple to come over to the vendor expo in the convention and we exchanged contact information. What a great start to my trip.

The next amazing thing that happened to me was on the shuttle from the airport to the hotel. A man sat next to me and said I looked familiar. I did not remember meeting him before, so I mentioned that I write an online blog. He asked me what the name of the blog was. I said, "Speak Up Librarian" and he said, "Yes, that's it." I have never been recognized from my blog before so that was pretty thrilling for me. He asked me what I've been blogging about lately and I told him the story about SoundBite. He told me his name was Richard Einhorn and that he was the keynote speaker for the conference. I felt a little embarrassed that I hadn't recognized him! I mentioned that I was interested in talking with HLAA staff and he told me he would introduce me. We had a lovely time chatting during the half hour ride from the airport to the convention hotel, the Renaissance Austin.

Photo of me & Richard Einhorn taken during the convention.
I had arranged my hotel room too late to get into the convention hotel, so I was booked in at a nearby hotel called Staybridge Suites Arboretum. I'm giving this hotel a shout-out on my blog because their guest service was incredible. The hotel staff ran a shuttle van service back and forth throughout the day to the convention hotel. All guests needed to do was send them a text message. I really appreciated the way they never made me feel like a bother and were quick to respond to my messages. 

A half hour after arriving at the hotel, I took the shuttle over to the convention. I registered and received my conference bag and T-shirt. Then I headed up to my first workshop, Pat Dobb's presentation on The Hearing Loss Revolution: Empowering People with Hearing Loss through the Nine Guiding Principles. Pat organized her workshop around telling her own story. She was a very interesting speaker. She gave her audience a bookmark with the 9 principles printed on it. If you are curious to learn what those are, please visit her website where you can find them and much more.

The next workshop I went to was Brian Patrick Jensen's talk on Perserverance to Triumph. At 48 years of age, Brian suffered a sudden hearing loss which cost him his job as a vice president of human resources. When this happened, he talked to the contacts in his job network and asked them to tell him honestly what his chances were of obtaining a similar position. They all told him no, it wouldn't happen. Brian's workshop acknowledged that employment bias against the deaf is real. He talked about how humans are hardwired to be overly optimistic and how that can be a trap. He said that people who persevere are "cynically wise".  Brian is now employed with Communication Services for the Deaf. I really appreciated what he had to say because I had never considered life from that perspective before. You can learn more about his perseverance beliefs at this blog post on his website. 

Then it was time for Richard Einhorn's keynote address. I found a seat near the front of the large auditorium. The room was looped so I switched my hearing aid to the T-coil setting which delivered the audio from the sound system directly to my hearing aids. Richard showed us a short video from "Voices of Light". He composed the music for this silent film about Joan of Arc. You can hear a small sample here. I was glad he added this to his presentation as I was unfamiliar with his work. Richard is a tech wizard who uses many gadgets to deliver the sound quality he needs in difficult hearing environments like restaurants. He spoke of PSAPs - personal sound amplifiers and wireless multi-mic assistive listening systems. He said that we need to get over our embarrassment about hearing aids which leads the manufacturers to make them smaller and less visible. He reminded us that larger devices are more powerful and will give us better sound quality. Most memorable of all, he stated that the smart phone is a "Swiss army knife for hearing loss". Alas, I do not own a smart phone so that part of his talk was lost on me. You can learn more about Richard's approach to dealing with hearing loss on this NPR interview. You can find the transcript of the NPR broadcast here.

My exciting day ended that evening with a Get Acquainted Party which featured a western theme. Caption Call sponsored this event and offered raffle prizes and a Wild West photo booth to add to the fun. I put on a western shirt and had my photo taken against a plain backdrop. The photographer selected a Wild West background for my photo and printed out a copy for me. I scanned the photo and some of the sepia color is gone but you can get the general idea. It was really fun to watch other people try out the various costumes provided and take their turns posing. I enjoyed chatting with the women I had met throughout the day and getting to know them better.

On the shuttle ride back to my hotel, I had the pleasure of meeting another one of the conference speakers, Nancy Williams. It was marvelous to connect with her ahead of her presentation which is one I had picked out to attend with great anticipation. 

I can't imagine a better first day at a convention. I knew I had come to the right place even if I had to come on my own. I will share more about my convention experiences in additional posts to come.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Why Joyce Edmiston is an Inspiration to Me

Joyce Edmiston is the author of Xpressive Handz blog. Her writing and posts often include inspirational quotes.  Here are a few examples (of the many) that have encouraged me:
She really believes in these positive words. When I shared some personal dreams and my accompanying self-doubt and fear, she told me: You want more because God has more planned for you and your soul knows this. What an affirmation!

Recently Joyce took a personal risk when she insisted on equal communication access to a public event she wanted to attend. The organizers initially said no and offered her a free seat in the front row to placate her. But Joyce stood firm and rallied the support she needed to make them change their minds and offer CART (Communication Access Realtime Translation) services. Joyce's advocacy and action will make the next deaf/hard of hearing person's CART request easier. 

You can make a difference in Joyce's life by voting for her to win the Oticon Focus on People Awards for Advocacy. Joyce needs a new pair of hearing aids. She has spelled out exactly why in her post I Never Leave Home Without My Hearing Aids. The hearing aids she owns now are 15 years old and worn out. She does not have the finances to replace them at this time. Receiving a new pair as part of the Oticon award would make a big difference in her daily life.

I have never met Joyce in person but am honored to say she has touched my life as an online friend. So much so that I nominated her for this award and am asking all of you to please vote for Joyce. Take a minute today and visit this link to read more Joyce's story and vote for her: 

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Calendar Garden Revisited

Today I took time out of my busy schedule to spend a day in the country with my mother and two of our closest friends. We had perfect weather for our outing to DeFries Gardens in New Paris, Indiana. I had visited this lovely park known for its calendar garden four years ago and had been wanting to return ever since. You can view photos from that visit here.

The garden was as beautiful as I remembered. Today was extra special because to our surprise there was an art showing and musical entertainment. I enjoyed looking at the artwork on display and choosing my favorite. An art judging had already taken place, but the park was sponsoring a most popular category and encouraging each visitor to place a vote. I was entranced by two and was tickled to find when I looked in my information booklet that both pictures were by the same artist, Marj Miller. My choice was Morning Beauty, a painting of a morning glory, which you can see at the far right in the third photo from the bottom.

We had such a wonderful time here and having ice cream afterwards at South Side Diner in Goshen, Indiana. I will remember this day with pleasure for years to come. I hope you enjoy looking at these photos. You can learn more about DeFries Gardens at this website.

Friday, June 13, 2014

My Friend Joyce is an Oticon Focus on People Finalist!

Vote for Joyce Edmiston in the 2014 Focus on People Awards!
Vote Online at now through July 15

Oticon, Inc. has narrowed this year’s finalists down to nine outstanding people with hearing loss who are helping to change negative stereotypes of what it means to have a hearing loss. Each is unique, remarkable and inspiring.  And we are pleased to announce that Joyce Edmiston has been chosen as a finalist in the Advocacy category!

Please help us recognize Joyce as one of the top finalists by casting your vote at

This is the 16th year that the Oticon Focus on People Awards has honored hearing impaired students, adults and advocacy volunteers who have demonstrated through their accomplishments that hearing loss does not limit a person’s ability to make a positive difference in the world.

We encourage you to read all of the stories from this year’s finalists.  Our goal is to help Oticon reach as many people as possible with the inspirational stories of the Focus on People Award finalists. 
Please share this email with your family, friends and anyone you think would enjoy reading about the accomplishments of some remarkable people with hearing loss who show that hearing loss does not limit a person’s ability to achieve, contribute and inspire.

And please encourage them to vote for Joyce!

Voting closes on July 15. Winners will be announced in August.

Advocacy Category Finalist Joyce Edmiston

As a child with hearing loss, Joyce Edmiston lost many opportunities to interact with other children in social and school activities. As a young adult, she recognized that “I missed out on friendships, meeting fascinating new people . . . I didn’t know how to explain my hearing loss or advocate for myself.” Over time, with encouragement from her husband, bloggers and Hearing Loss Association of America, she gained the courage and wisdom to make her voice heard in a hearing world. 

Today, Joyce freely shares her hard-won knowledge as a vocal advocate for people with all degrees of hearing loss. Through her popular blog Xpressive HandZ (, Joyce provides a forum for discussion of a wide range of issues for people with hearing loss around the world.  

Her insightful, heartfelt postings aim to generate thought-provoking discussion that allows others to be “heard” as well.  All viewpoints, opinions and stories are welcome.  Joyce writes, “I love reading stories about deafened, hard of hearing, and Deaf people. . .  you’ll learn, you'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll understand, and you'll relate.”

A scan of her posts reveals the scope of her efforts to encourage the teaching of ASL in schools, to inform the deaf and hard-of-hearing population of valuable, useful information, and to meet the communication needs of those who do not use sign language as their primary mode of communication. 

Though passionate about the teaching of American Sign Language (ASL), Joyce formed a committee to educate local churches the need to provide captioned services for those who do not communicate by sign language.  This same committee brought live captioning to the Giant Center in Hershey, PA for the first time.

Joyce volunteers with the Telecommunications Relay Service Advisory Board for the Pennsylvania PUC, the Collaborative for Communication via Captioning, and with HLAA at both local and state levels.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Captions Capture the Votes

Millions of people rely on captions. That number includes the deaf and hard of hearing and also those who use English as a second language. Captions give us equal access to communication. This is important when it comes to major decisions like who to elect to our government.

To address this issue, a nonprofit organization called CCAC (Collaborative for Communication Access via Captioning) is sponsoring a nonpartisan campaign in the United States. This campaign involves contacting candidates for political office and requesting that they add captioning to their online videos and make real-time captioning available for their live events. For candidates willing to do this, CCAC will post their names to a national list that will receive widespread distribution.

I am supporting CCAC's campaign as the state team leader for Illinois. Last night I sent out my first requests using candidates' Contact Us forms on their campaign websites. I was surprised to discover that I was unable to contact some of the Chicago representatives because my zip code fell outside their districts. [If anyone reading this is a resident of Chicago and would like to help me out, please contact me.]

Here is the sample email I am using to introduce myself to the candidates and explain the campaign.

Hi {Candidate’s First Name}, 

My name is Sarah, I’m an Illinois voter, and I want to tell you about an exciting non-partisan campaign to help candidates reach more voters and help voters understand candidates’ messages. This campaign called Captions Capture the Votes is about providing captioning for videos on the web and real-time captioning for live campaign events so you can expand your reach to the hard of hearing and deaf communities as well as those who use English as a second language. The organization I am affiliated with is called Collaborative for Communication Access via Captioning or CCAC for short. Their website link with more information about this campaign is

CCAC will publish a listing, nationally, in wide networks, of candidates who are providing access for their 2014 campaigns with captioning. 

If you would like to be a part, please contact me. If you need help getting started with captioning, CCAC can give you a listing of service providers. 

Sarah Wegley, a volunteer citizen advocate for equal communication access

Readers, if you would like to join CCAC in this effort, contact the organization at

To learn more, please visit  or their Facebook page at

See also CCAC founder Lauren Storck's guest post on my friend Joyce Edmiston's blog, Xpressive Handz

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Healthy Hearing Feature Story

Recently Lauren Clason of Healthy Hearing interviewed me through online chat for a profile piece on their website. I was very pleased to see the published article which includes the surprising event that led to the discovery of my hearing loss, my musings on when the loss might have started and what the possible causes might have been. The article concludes with my current challenges and hopes for the near future.

When I shared the link on Facebook, I saw Healthy Hearing had given my story this lovely tagline: Sarah's hearing loss helped her launch her own successful blog...and a brand new career. Thanks, Healthy Hearing!

You can read the story here.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Gardening with Puppy

This is our dogs' favorite flower bed.
We know better than to plant any annuals
here. The little plants you see are a
perennial morning glory which will
grow up onto the trellis.

I wish I had gotten a "before" photo. This flower bed 
looked so pretty with its new marigolds. When I 
went inside for a drink of water, Melody 
trampled and beheaded each one.

This crime really took us by surprise!

The criminal: Melody

Of course, our other dog, Blondie had her share
of crimes as a puppy. For a look back, check out
these posts: BlondieFunny text message, and

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Chicago Architecture in Photos

Today my husband Rob and I went on the Chicago Architecture Foundation's Chicago River cruise. This is something we had been talking about doing for a long time and today was the perfect day weather-wise to fulfill our dream. The cruise lasted 90 minutes and featured a docent describing the history and architecture of the buildings we saw. Here are my favorites of the many photos I took.