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Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Library of Congress: Delightful to My Eyes but Difficult for My Ears pt. 2

As mentioned in my previous post, I had a difficult time hearing at the Library of Congress. When Hollace and I went to the visitors desk, we were directed to view a movie and take a tour. The movie was not captioned. We asked for captions, but were told this was a new film and there had been technical problems and the captions were not yet unavailable. We were given a URL for an online video with captions. But what good was that to us right then?

The tour guide was informed about our needs and she did her best to face us and enunciate, but the acoustics in the grand building were terrible. Sound bounced off the hard marble surfaces. Soon, my head was roaring. I left with an awful headache.

When I was back in the HLAA office the next week, advocate Lise Hamlin suggested I write a complaint letter about my experience. I did and here's the email I wrote and the response I received:



Dear Visitors Services Office,

I am a professional librarian who was excited to visit the Library of Congress while in Washington D.C. for a short time this summer. I went last Friday and was amazed at how beautiful your building is. Unfortunately, I could not fully participate in the guided tour because of my hearing loss.

I use English to communicate rather than sign language so having an interpreter would not have made a difference. Two things would have helped: 1) to have closed captions on the visitors' video and 2) to have a transcript of the guided tour. I inquired about them and was told they were unavailable. I hope that you will implement both of these accommodations for people like me who have hearing loss and use English.

I left the Library of Congress with a terrible headache from straining to hear which marred my experience. I hope if I can come again it will be different the next time.

Thanks,
Sarah Wegley



Dear Ms. Wegley,
Thank you for bringing to my attention the problems you encountered during your recent visit to the Library of Congress. We strive to make every person’s time here special, so I am so sorry that your visit did not meet expectations.

The orientation film typically has captions, however we have encountered recently some technical difficulties. We are working to fully resolve the problem. I would be happy to send you a copy of the DVD for your personal use, if you send me your address. In the meantime, you can access the film (with captions) online at www.loc.gov/today/cyberlc/feature_wdesc.php?rec=6476.

Regarding the problem with the guided tour, because each docent gives their own tour, it is not possible for us to provide a script, however, I hope you picked up a brochure that has the core elements of every tour explained. I attach a pdf of that brochure here. In addition, you can study the areas you saw and other areas that are not part of the tour at http://loc.gov/visit/tours/online-tours/. 

We would like to make amends, so please let us know when you might return.

Thank you for visiting and for sharing your feedback.

Sincerely,
Giulia Adelfio
Chief, Visitor Services Office
Library of Congress
Washington, DC 20540-4990

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Library of Congress: Delightful to My Eyes but Difficult for My Ears pt. 1


As a librarian, visiting the Library of Congress seems almost like making a pilgrimage to Mecca. It simply must be done at some point in your life. I had been to Washington D.C. once before for a library convention, but had not been able to see the Library of Congress because of their early closing time of 4:30 p.m. I had not expected to visit while I was in D.C. last summer for the same reason. But one Friday morning, my internship supervisor, Barbara Kelley insisted I go that afternoon. She even sent me with Hollace Goodman, who volunteers daily at the HLAA office.

In this first of two posts, I will share the photos I took during my visit. I had not expected the Library of Congress to be as beautiful as it is. When I first came in, I felt as though I had entered a cathedral. The place was magnificent. My eyes feasted on the beauty. Here's a look at what I saw:

This is the impressive building from the outside.

 This fountain reminded me of Rome.

The famous reading room
I was surprised that we weren't allowed in. We
could only view it for a few moments from above.

Books from Thomas Jefferson's collection

Although my photos do not show other
visitors, the place was packed with tourists.

Stained glass panels in the ceiling

Closeup on a corner's detailed artistry

Minerva, Roman goddess of wisdom

I hope you enjoyed these pictures from this extraordinary library. In my next post, I'll talk about the difficulties I had as a hard of hearing visitor and share the communications I had with the Library of Congress concerning accommodations and access.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Librarian Humor


This cabinet caught my eye one day in the Library. I wondered what could be in the drawers labeled MT.

After puzzling it over, the answer came to me. There was nothing inside. The drawers were empty.


Friday, September 11, 2015

Ground Zero Search and Rescue Dog Honored



In honor of September 11th, here's a video celebrating Bretagne, who is believed to be the last living search and rescue dog from Ground Zero. On a sad day of remembrance, this video lifted my spirits.
[Please be aware that the captions are auto-generated.]

Thursday, September 10, 2015

My Visit to Gallaudet University


Ever since I wrote a paper on Thomas Gallaudet for my sign language class, I've been interested in visiting the university named after him. When I went to Washington D.C. this summer, Gallaudet University was the only place on my sightseeing wish list. I was hoping I would meet someone who could take me on a tour and I did! HLAA's own Lisa Devlin is a retiree from Gallaudet's Hearing & Speech Center where she worked as an audiologist. When she found out, I wanted to see Gallaudet, she made it happen, driving me there and walking around campus with me.

Chapel Hall

Our first stop at Gallaudet was Chapel Hall which has a museum with a pictorial timeline of the school's 150 year history. I really enjoyed spending time in there. Lisa had seen it before but she liked seeing it again too. Another place that had exhibits on display was the Sorensen Language and Communication Center. Here are a few exhibits that caught my eye:

A display of manual alphabet sculpture

Yes, deaf people CAN drive.

In this historical photo of Gallaudet University's first women's literary society, the ladies in the front row are fingerspelling the word "owls" behind their mascot.

I later learned from Barbara Kelley of an interesting connection between an iconic statue on campus (pictured below) and the Lincoln Memorial. Both are the work of the same artist, Daniel Chester French.


In this statue, Gallaudet is shown teaching Alice Cogswell the handshape for "A" the first letter of the alphabet and her name. Did you know that Abraham Lincoln was the president who signed the charter for Gallaudet (which was then named Columbia Institution for the Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb and Blind) to issue college degrees? On the statue of Abraham Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial it has been noticed by many that his left hand forms an "A" and his right hand could be forming an "L". I never knew that before and think that is so cool. Check it out for yourself in this picture. You can also read more about this here and here.


I could not leave Gallaudet without visiting their library. Elizabeth Henry, one of the librarians and a friend of Lisa's, gave us a tour. My favorite part was going to the Archives Department because my current job involves digital archives. Did you know that Gallaudet's world-renowned Deaf Collections and Archives contain nearly all published materials relating to the history and culture of deaf people around the world?


Our final stop was to the bookstore where I purchased a t-shirt and travel cup as souvenirs of my visit. It was great to have my dream come true to see Gallaudet, but my timing was not the best as very few students were on campus that day. I had hoped to see crowds of people communicating in sign language but that did not happen. Have you been to Gallaudet as a student or visitor? What was your experience like?

Thursday, August 27, 2015

What I Did on My Summer Vacation

This is the third post in a series about my internship.

Photo op with Anna Gilmore Hall, Executive Director (left)
 and Barbara Kelly, Deputy Executive Director and
Editor-in-Chief, Hearing Loss Magazine

For my summer "vacation", I spent 4 1/2 weeks this past July/August in Bethesda, Maryland working as a volunteer intern at the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA). I did this to earn 4 credit hours towards my master's degree in communication studies. For each credit hour, I was required to put in 45 hours time, so altogether it was a 180-hour internship.

my desk

How did I fill my time at HLAA? I worked in the area of strategic communications assisting the nonprofit organization to communicate effectively through their magazine, website, social media, emails, and internal documents. This involved research, writing, editing, and proof reading. I loved doing this work and having the opportunity to share my ideas and be a part of the team at HLAA.

Cover Girl

My internship supervisor Barbara Kelley surprised me when she asked me to write a feature story for the upcoming issue of Hearing Loss Magazine. Not only did I have the chance to share my hearing loss story, but I was photographed for the cover! None of the office wardrobe I had brought to wear in Bethesda could be used for the photo shoot because my skirts and pants were either black or dark blue and all of my blouses had busy patterns. Cindy Dyer, the magazine's photographer, graciously lent me the clothes, accessories, and jewelry I wore in the photos. I like her style and should go shopping with her next time I need something new to wear. We took the photos in a public library in Virginia. Our original plan was to go to the Library of Congress, but that did not work out. I'll share my experience visiting our national library in another post.

In terms of enabling employee communication access, the Hearing Loss Association of America is outstanding. For example, I attended two staff meetings in their looped conference room. When I came in, the staff gently reminded me to switch my hearing aids to their telecoil program setting. This brought the sound (from the several microphones on the table and the telephone used to communicate with staff members who were off-site at the time) directly into my hearing aids, eliminating the need for me to turn and face whoever was speaking. Additionally, a CART provider was on the conference phone call and everything that was said (including who said what) was projected onto two large screens. This made for an optimal meeting experience.

Display honoring Justin Dart, disability rights pioneer

While I was in the Washington D.C. area, the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act was being celebrated. One evening the HLAA staff and I attended A Celebration of Pride, Power, and Promise, an event at the Grand Hyatt Hotel. It was exciting to be there with leaders, activists, and politicians concerned about empowering people with disabilities. I particularly enjoyed the inspiring speeches which educated me about the history of the disability rights movement in America. One of HLAA's important roles is as an agent for change in our country so people with hearing loss can have equal access to opportunities. Learn more about HLAA's advocacy agenda here.

In my next post, I'll share about my field trips to Gallaudet University and the Library of Congress.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Paperwork and a Place to Stay

This is the second post in a series about my internship.

Finding a place to do my internship was only the first step. Next, I had to write an internship proposal and have it signed by my on-site supervisor and two faculty members in my department. These three will comprise the committee of readers for my capstone report. I also had to have a signed internship agreement that defined and verified my plans for working with the Hearing Loss Association of America.

To protect my current job while taking time off for the internship, I submitted a request to the university for an educational leave of absence for five weeks. This paperwork needed to be signed by the Dean of the Library as well as the Provost and approved by Human Resources.

These were the hoops I had to jump through for the university, but my biggest hurdle was finding a place to stay while working in Bethesda, MD. I researched short-term rentals but the only ones available were for corporate apartments that were out of my price range. I checked on Craigslist and there were rooms for rent, but I felt uncomfortable making a housing arrangement this way. My aunt and uncle live on a farm in rural Maryland and were willing to have me stay with them, but the daily commute of up to 4 hours driving would have been brutal. I had a cousin who lived nearby the HLAA office who I thought might be able to put me up with his family, but that did not work out as he was travelling out of the country at that time. I was wondering if I would have to give up on my dream.

I discussed this possibility with a few people and everyone said to not give up yet. Then I talked about the situation with my boss. He immediately went into action on my behalf. Using a medical librarians listserv, he asked if there was anyone in the Washington D.C. area who could help me out with short-term housing. The same day a woman wrote back that she and her husband could rent a room in their condo for a very reasonable price. I was amazed.

The two of us began emailing each other. She sent me a link for a picture of her cat and other family photos. When I saw a vacation picture of her and her husband, I knew everything was going to be all right. She looked like a librarian and a caring person. Her husband looked like he adored her. I knew I was in good hands.

Photo I took of my housemate, Simon

Not only were my hosts wonderful people who I enjoyed staying with, but they had a condo that was three train stops from the HLAA office. Their condo was a block and a half away from the Metro station. Location, location, location. I did not have to drive to work once and was able to keep my car in the condo's parking garage at no added expense. What a blessing.

In my next post, I'll share what I actually did during my internship.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Stepping Out by Faith


Do you ever feel nervous stepping on a sidewalk grate? Do you ever imagine the grating giving way under your weight? I have had those thoughts and feelings before, but as you can see in the photo above (yes, that's my foot) I've learned to walk on them anyways. The trick is stepping out by faith believing you will make it across safely before you put your foot on the grate.

This summer I did my communication studies internship and I have promised to share my experiences with you. Before I do that, I want to begin with the story of how my internship came to be arranged. As you will see, it required me to step out by faith.

A year ago in the spring, I decided I wanted to do an internship as my capstone experience. My other options were writing a thesis or completing a project, but an internship is the recommended option for students like me who wish to make a career change. Because my dream is to work for a company or organization that provides services for people with hearing loss, I decided to look for an internship with one of them. But where would I find such a business or nonprofit? I felt I needed a place where I could talk to several vendors face to face and present my qualifications rather than sending out unsolicited emails. My university offered career fairs, but I didn't think that was the answer. Instead, I brought to mind the Expo Hall at the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) convention. Once I thought of that solution, I began making my plans to go to Austin, Texas.

I went there all on my own. Although I have friends with hearing loss and connections in the online community, I did not know anyone else who was going to that event. I decided not to let that stop me. I studied the convention program book's list of vendors and started choosing my targets. It was not until two weeks before I left that the idea occurred to me that perhaps HLAA itself could use a volunteer intern.

My story is going to get really good starting here. I arrived at the Austin airport and got onto the shuttle van that would take me to my hotel. It seemed as though all of us who got on had hearing loss  and were going to the convention. A man sat next to me on the van, turned to me and said, "You look familiar." I was surprised because I did not recognize him at all. I said quietly, "I write a blog called Speak Up Librarian, perhaps you came across it online." "Yes, that's it." We introduced ourselves. The man turned out to be Richard Einhorn, the convention's keynote speaker. It was a thrill for me to be recognized from my blog, but I was embarrassed (and still am) that I did not know who he was. My only explanation is that I was very focused on obtaining an internship from the vendor list and had not looked through the convention program's other sections closely. Richard was gracious about it. He asked me what I had been writing about lately and we chatted on the ride. Then, I got up my courage to tell him why I was in Austin. To my surprise, Richard told me he was a board member of HLAA. He offered to introduce me to Anna Gilmore Hall, the Executive Director. I was thrilled!

But my quest for an internship was not fulfilled that easily. As it turned out, I went up to Richard after his keynote address and he was standing with Anna, but they needed to have their photos taken and were led away. An introduction could not be arranged at that time. Of course, I understood and was sure another opportunity would present itself. Meanwhile, I visited the Expo Hall and gave my resume to a few companies and organizations. None showed much interest in my offer to do a volunteer internship for them.

The next morning, after having the complimentary breakfast in the lobby, I returned to my hotel room instead of heading over to the convention. I felt a strong desire to read my Bible and pray over my situation. I reviewed the story of Abraham's servant in Genesis 24 and prayed to be as successful in my mission as he was. When I finished, I exited the front door of the hotel just in time to see the shuttle van for the convention hotel leaving the parking lot. Well! I was a little miffed at the delay and wondering why God would let this happen when I had been turning to Him for guidance and direction.

Oh ye of little faith, I would tell myself now. But at the time, I did not know how this was going to work out for the best. What happened next was that I sat down on a bench in front of the hotel prepared to wait for the shuttle van to return and then go over on its next trip. A few minutes later a well-dressed couple came out of the hotel entrance. I noticed they were wearing the same red lanyards with convention name tags that I was. They spotted that too and kindly asked if they could give me a ride over to the convention. Even though I did not know them, I felt comfortable accepting their offer. When we walked over to their car in the parking lot, the woman got into the driver's seat, her husband got into the front passenger seat and I sat in the back. As the woman backed the car out of the parking space, her husband turned around towards me and introduced himself as Jim Saunders, an HLAA board member. I could not believe it, but did not miss a beat as I said, "I'm really glad to meet you" handing him a copy of my resume and explaining why I had come to Austin. He promised to take it directly to Anna.

Jim must have been as good as his word based on what happened next. That morning there was a symposium session and I got up before it was over to use the ladies' room. Can you guess who was standing just ahead of me in line? Anna Gilmore Hall. I smiled at her and said, "My name is Sarah and I've been trying to meet you." She told me that she had been given my resume. She may also have said that Richard had mentioned me to her, but I can't recall that for sure. We agreed to get in touch during the convention.

As busy as she was, she gave me almost a half hour to talk in her hotel room about my resume and what I could do for HLAA. She suggested several different projects, all of which sounded interesting to me. By the end of our time together, she agreed to take me on as an intern. Woo-hoo, mission accomplished! God answered my prayers. A few times over the remainder of the convention Anna tried to connect me with Barbara Kelley, the Deputy Executive Director and Editor of Hearing Loss Magazine, but it never worked out. That would have to wait until my internship a year later.

In my next post, I'll share how other logistics for my internship worked out.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Lego Art at Morton Arboretum

Photos of Lego art I saw at Morton Arboretum yesterday.

Monarch butterfly as seen from tram.

Monarch butterfly close up.


Peacock

Dragonfly

Pansy with bee

Wheelbarrow

Grandfather and granddaughter gardening

Tortoise

My favorite was the butterfly. Which was yours?

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Arboretum Advocacy Pays Off with Accessible Communication


Today I visited Morton Arboretum with my local hearing loss support group, ALDA Chicago. This nature preserve was a relaxing, peaceful place to visit on a hot, sunny day. I last visited the arboretum in the fall five years ago when I photographed their tree root sculptures and scarecrows.


Today's visit was special because thanks to the advocacy of a group member who also works at the arboretum, we had a script provided for our one hour tour on the tram. The script was not a word-for-word transcript of our guide's spiel, but a summary of the key points for each stop we made along the way.


Here's a peek at the script which we were allowed to keep afterwards. (I apologize that the script is cut off in my photo, but otherwise the words would have been too small for you to see.) The arboretum staff set it up so we had a photo of a sign trail to use as a reference next to the tour information. Because they had distilled the guided tour down to these essential points, we were able to avoid having to read the whole time and were able to enjoy the view as we passed through the woods. Usually, the tram driver speaks throughout the entire tour. Ours waited until she reached the points marked on our pages and stopped the tram. She spoke slowly, clearly, and the loudspeakers worked well. Afterwards, she was available for questions.


I was very pleased with the efforts made on our behalf. This was the first time the arboretum had done this. Now they will evaluate our feedback and perhaps consider making a script available at the tram ticket desk to anyone who would like one. This communication access helped our group enjoy a tour that without the accommodation would have been scenic, but not informational. I wanted to share this experience with you to inspire you to seek out how you can be accommodated in a similar situation. When I begin blogging about my time in Washington D.C., I will discuss how I had the exact opposite experience at the Library of Congress. Communication access makes all the difference.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

CDC, It's as Easy as 1,2,3


Two weeks ago the Center for Disease Control (CDC) announced the results of a new study on the prevalence of disability and disability type among American adults.  Survey questions asked about disability in regards to vision, cognition, mobility, self-care, and independent living. An asterisk at the bottom of the report explained that questions about deafness and difficulty hearing were not included.

Why didn't they ask about hearing loss as a disability? This study was conducted through random-digit-dialed calls to landlines and cell phones and apparently there was a misconception that people who are deaf and hard of hearing are unable to respond to telephone surveys.

Ever since the CDC announced the study, the Hearing Loss Association of America and the Hearing Health Foundation and others have raised a ruckus. As a result, the CDC is asking how to reach out to people who are deaf and hard of hearing. This is my response: You can call us. Here are three ways we are using the telephone these days:

1. Amplified phones
2. Captioned phones
3. Video relay phones

We may not be able to hear the phone ring, but nowadays, phones can also vibrate and flash. Some people even use service animals to alert them to a phone call. CDC, don't exclude the deaf and hard of hearing from your next survey. There's no excuse when it's as easy as 1,2,3.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Blog Break

I will be taking a break from blogging until mid-August.
Hope you are having a wonderful summer!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Little Free Library



I came across this "little library" and thought it was a clever way to encourage people to read and share books.

Have you ever seen a little library?

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Interview with Author Betty Adams

I'm really excited to share with you my interview with Betty Adams, a hard of hearing author who has just published her first book, Dying Embers, a science fiction fantasy YA novel with plenty of tears and hope. Betty's novel will be available August 19 upon debuting at Worldcon 2015. A link to order her book will appear at the end of this blogpost.

Sarah: Hi, Betty. Welcome to my Speak Up Librarian blog. I enjoyed reading your book! Thanks for this opportunity to learn more about you and your writing and share that with my readers through this interview.

You introduced yourself to me by sending greetings from "one hard of hearing book lover to another". Did you experience hearing loss as a child or did you lose hearing as an adult like I did? What has your hearing loss experience been like?

Betty: Well, yes, actually. The best theory of my medical professionals is that the original hearing loss occurred when I was an infant and contracted an infection. However it wasn’t discovered until a routine grade school physical. Because my mother taught all of us sign-language from birth my language skill were not noticeably affected except for a slight slurring of the ends of my words which at-home speech therapy corrected. However I can probably look forward to the problem getting worse as I age and there is a decent chance I will eventually lose all hearing. The condition itself is called recruitment. Which basically means that I lost the function of my cochlea in the lower ranges. The rest of the organ tries to compensate and makes the perceived noise level jump painfully once I can hear it.

Due to the nature of my hearing loss, my experience can best be described as complex. My speech therapy caused me to unconsciously raise the pitch of my voice in order to hear what I was saying. Unfortunately, that put my voice right in the range where most older people begin to lose their hearing. So when I talk with anyone with a grey or silver head I am in the habit of dropping my pitch and raising my volume. Because I have a large vocabulary and can hear a part of every word spoken I can eventually figure out what is being said, but the delay in response time means people can get irate at me. The recruitment means I have a hard time understanding men (with their deeper voices) over the phone when I can’t read their physical cues. Perhaps the most obvious affect on my life is that I cannot go to the theater or listen to a sound system with the bass active. The pain that artificially amplified bass notes cause is something like getting punched in the gut and sends caffeine like jolts through my system.

Sarah: Thanks for your willingness to share that, Betty. As a self proclaimed book lover, what kind of books do you enjoy reading? Any recommended must reads?

Betty: I am a voracious book reader and will enjoy almost any clean, well written book. I tend to spend the most time with Science Fiction adventure stories and animal themed stories. One author I can wholeheartedly recommend is Brian Jacques and his Redwall series. Don’t let the theme of talking animals fool you, his are works for all ages.

Sarah: I have not read Brian Jacques before. I will have to check his books out. Thanks. Congratulations on Dying Embers, your first novel, coming out in August. What was your inspiration for the story?

Betty: When I was a teenager a very close friend of the family had a child with a terminal illness. A few years later my personal physician co-founded a humanitarian organization called Mamma Baby Haiti to improve pre and post natal care in the earthquake ravaged Haiti. The trauma of the first incident inspired the emotions; the courage and selflessness of the midwives and doctors of Mama Baby Haiti inspired many of the technical details.

Sarah: How long did it take to write Dying Embers?

Betty: To simply get the rough draft down on my hard drive was the work of only a few months. The editing and expanding took nearly three years.

Sarah: How did you get your book published?

Betty: With the two things that all authors need; persistence and luck. I submitted it again and again to different publishers before it was accepted by MQuills.

Sarah: In Dying Embers, the aliens have names that were given to them by their government in accordance with their role in society. They also have names bestowed upon them by the human children. Drake, one of the main human characters, has three names and I enjoyed the part where he chooses delightful names for the embers: Stormbreaker, Cometflare, and Skyfire. How are names important in your story?

Betty: The names are very critical to the story and were the one aspect where I fought with my editors, who would have preferred a more streamlined approach. The aliens have come out of a very socially restrictive culture where their very worth is determined and labeled from birth. Accepting the personal names from the humans was a big step for them psychologically.

For Drake Awiegwa McCarty his first and middle names represent the split in his personality that losing his parents caused. His scientist mother insisted on a common first name on the grounds that it was scientifically proven that it would make life easier for him, his more whimsical father insisted on a name that would give him a connection to his Native American roots. Since they both, but mainly his father, used Awiegwa (Cherokee for elk) informally it was the name he came to associate with love and comfort.

The name Drake he associated with formality and responsibility.  After losing his parents and helping his sister raise their brother and cousin he began to identify more as Drake as a survival method, only identifying as Awiegwa when he could escape the responsibilities he had accepted. It thus became a guilty pleasure for him. Part of his character growth is learning to accept that it is okay to let someone else take care of him, to identify as a child again. When he chooses the more whimsical and delightful names for the embers that is his way of extending that care and fatherly love to them.

Sarah: Thanks for elaborating on that, Betty. My favorite aspect of your story was the caring relationships between the aliens and humans as they function as a family. I liked that both the tough warriors and the detached scientists had an unexpected tender side. Another character who exemplified this was Sal. I was unclear on what this character, described by another as a "mysterious talking truck thing", was exactly. Can you tell me more about Sal?

Betty: Sal is a mystery to everyone, including himself. Neither he nor any of his family know of any other living member of his species, or even if he is in fact a member of a species or simply one of a kind. He has some very dark secrets in the parts of his past that he does know which color his interactions with everyone he meets. They make him very unsure of his place in his family and those insecurities fuel his xenophobia. His only real loyalties are to his family, both the Franklins and the Clan that they belong to. Their moral code is something he clings to desperately in no small part because he doesn’t fully trust himself. He has a very quick temper but for most offenses forgives easily. However, he can be extremely vengeful when someone he loves has been wronged or his own pride has been wounded. Knowing this, he depends on his driver to draw the line between justice and revenge for him.

Sarah: Aha, so Sal is a mystery! Even though he was tough to pinpoint, I enjoyed reading the scenes that included him and was touched by the way he eased the pain of the embers. You've created a unique world in Dying Embers. It's similar to our own, perhaps in the near future. Will you have additional stories coming out that take place in this world? Will any of the characters from Dying Embers be appearing in other stories you have planned?

Betty: If all goes as planned there will be at least two direct prequels to Dying Embers and some short stories showing the world that Sal and Zech live and work in.

Sarah: That's excellent news. Please stay in touch and keep me up-to-date on how your writing career is going. I wish you success!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Good Vibrations: Enjoying How Music Feels

Meet the Beatles tribute band
Last night I was at an open air concert staged in a baseball park's concession area before the game began.  The musical group performing was Meet the Beatles, a tribute band (pictured above). My husband Rob, who is hearing, enjoyed the music tremendously and informed me that the "Paul" and "John" singers really sounded like the originals.

I had the audacity to suggest we play a game of "Name that Tune". Ha! As if I stood any chance against someone who had grown up with this music. Naturally, Rob won that easily. Sometimes he identified the song after only a note or two.

Although you can't tell by the photo, the weather was cloudy with thunderstorms in the forecast. When it started to rain on the drive over in the car, I had removed my hearing aids.  Because of this, I was comfortable standing close by the band as they played. In my hand, I held a half empty water bottle. With its cap off, I could feel the strong vibrations of the music "amplified" by the bottle. This added to my enjoyment. Even if I couldn't be the first to name the songs or catch any of the lyrics other than the ones I could remember, I had fun grooving to the good vibrations the band produced.

Have you ever experienced feeling the music?

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Photo Scavenger Hunt

The Man in Sunglasses photo

ALDA Chicago recently sponsored a photo scavenger hunt in downtown Oak Park, Illinois. My husband Rob and I went and had a lot of fun. How the hunt worked was we were divided into teams of 3-4 people, given 3 sheets of photos, and directed to a four block area to find each location pictured and take our own digital photo with our team as proof that we found the right spot. The tricky part was that the street we were directed to was filled with unique storefronts. We had to carefully look in each window, observe the building materials, and check out the sidewalk areas in front.

My team wasn't very systematic. When we spotted a location across the street we crossed over to take our photo and then often continued on with that side of the street. We had a bit of backtracking to do before both sides of the street were checked. We also had to keep an eye out for the other teams so we did not give away where an item was located. It was a lovely summer day and there were lots of people out on the street so taking the photos on the crowded sidewalks was often awkward. One passerby recognized what we were doing and shouted out some encouragement.

Trimmed tree

Although this wasn't a race, we were competing with the other teams to see who could find all the correct locations. When we found this tree (pictured above), which had been trimmed since the photo on our list had been taken, we thought for sure we had this competition in the bag. Rob's careful eye noticed the recent trimming and our teammate Marsha S. compared the building and traffic light in the background with the list's photo to be certain this was the right tree. When we returned to our starting point, we were surprised that everyone else had found that tree and thought the same thing as us:  only they could be that clever. Hee, hee.

Since all the teams found all the photos, we were given a tie-breaker puzzle. We had to guess the number of golf tees in a glass jar. It was impossible to count them. The best you could do was make an estimate. My husband and I had seen on TV how to solve this kind of math problem. We took everyone on our team's guesses and figured out the average. It worked and we won gift cards to Starbucks!

 This was a great group activity which I would recommend to other organizations to use. Have you ever participated in a photo scavenger hunt?

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Workshop Feedback and Faith

[This is a follow up from an earlier blog post in which I shared my struggle to meet my teacher's expectations on an assignment and my family's sage advice to focus on the feedback of workshop participants rather than my instructor's reaction.]

I'm delighted to share with all of you, some feedback I received from my Communication Training workshop for ALDA Chicago. In the Spring 2015 newsletter, editor Marsha Swetin wrote a recap of my presentation for the organization. She titled her article, "Hats Off to One of Our Own" with a graphic that showed lots of different types of hats. I loved that! With her permission, I am reprinting an editor's note she included:
As members of the audience, my daughter and I really found Sarah’s workshop presentation right on the mark.  My daughter and I speak to each other daily and there are often communication problems because I don’t understand what she is saying or I am not an active listener.  There is an old expression: “It takes 2 to tango.”  Well, it takes 2 to have a meaningful conversation.  Both the speaker and the listener must be fully engaged with each other for this to happen.  Thank you Sarah for making us realize how important this is.
For me, Marsha's comment means that all the hard work this class entailed was worthwhile. My class is over now and my last assignment, a 7 minute video presentation of my workshop development, received a perfect score. I earned a final grade of A for the course.

I included the word faith in this blog post's title because I have never before relied on prayer to get me through a class. I experienced a great amount of self doubt and uncertainty while taking this class. I found myself praying on my knees before I left at night for class. I didn't think I could do it on my own. I desperately wanted to stay home and forget all this grad school nonsense. Sometimes it was physical stamina I lacked. Twice I came to class sneezing, coughing, and generally miserable from a bad cold. My professor, who is health conscious, was uncomfortable having me there. What carried me through all the stress was the belief that what I was doing mattered. That God could use me to help others. In the end, this class was not about my getting an A, it was about moving out of my comfort zone and trusting God to be beside me all the way.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Never Been "Deaf Kissed"

I enjoyed the 1999 Drew Barrymore film "Never Been Kissed" about a woman who had never been kissed passionately. This award winning short film by Charlie Swinborne called "The Kiss" is no chick flick. Instead, it's part deaf awareness and part prank. I thought it was funny and great and wanted to share it, although I must admit I've never been "deaf kissed". Have you?

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Unwanted Book Sets Become Art Canvasses







These photos are from an art exhibit titled "Stories and Stuff" currently on display in my library. Artist Jeff Stevenson used unwanted book sets to create these male portraits. His idea was inspired by the book, The Story of Stuff by Annie Leonard. I thought it was a cool idea!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

President's Award

At the annual ALDA Chicago birthday party luncheon today, I received the President's Award from Joe Linder and the board in recognition for my volunteer service. Words can't adequately express my love and gratitude for this support group. I have received more than I have ever given. It was an honor to have Joe say that I embody what the group is all about.

You may not know this, but ALDA national's slogan is lost my hearing, found a family. I can affirm this has been true for me with the ALDA Chicago chapter.

I would like to dedicate this award to my parents who have consistently demonstrated the joy of serving others.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Workshop Report


Last Saturday was my workshop. I had a great turnout with 19 people attending. My target audience was hearing people and eight of my attendees were friends and family members of people with hearing loss. Because CART captioning was provided their loved ones with  hearing loss could attend with them. Many were affiliated with ALDA Chicago.

I began by demonstrating what different types of hearing losses sound like through video and audio clips. In their training workbooks, I provided them with a chart that illustrated the four levels of hearing loss (mild, moderate, severe, and profound). One of the activities was for them to figure out what was being said by listening through "deaf ears". None were able to do it successfully. I think they were a little surprised to experience the listening challenges of hearing loss for themselves.

Then, I discussed three important proactive behaviors that speakers can do when a listener has hearing loss: to get the listener's attention before speaking, to face the listener the entire time, and to check for understanding. Short video clips that showed these experiences from a person with hearing loss' perspective were used to demonstrate the importance of these speaker behaviors. Then we did a simultaneous small group role play activity to reinforce this learning.


Next, we talked about the bane of background noise. To figure out solutions, we played a game of "Family Feud". The answers were based on the survey responses I had received during my front end analysis before designing the workshop's content. I had created a game board using poster board with Velcro strips so I could attach the answers as they were given. Just as in the TV game show, the answers weren't necessarily "right" but rather the ones provided through the survey. This gave the workshop participants an opportunity to think of their own answers too which I wrote down.

Finally we talked about what to do if a misunderstanding occurs. There is so much more that could be covered on the topic of hearing loss and communication, but I was limited to a one hour time frame so I stuck to the basics. I really appreciated the questions and comments I received from my target audience which gave me better insight into their communication concerns.
   

In this photo, you can see the CART captioner's laptop, the CART projection screen, and an open captioned video playing. Hooray for communication access through captions! When one of the attendees mentioned the background HVAC noise present, I replied that we had compensated for it by providing CART captioning for the session.

I received positive feedback from the attendees. Many of them have been watching me grow and learn over my years of involvement with ALDA Chicago. I was really honored that they chose to support me in this endeavor. My next assignment is to create a video describing my training project from start to finish.