Sunday, April 22, 2012

the disability truth

 

You’ve come a long way with me.

 

You know that I’m profoundly deaf, often silly, and unfailingly clumsy.

You might also know that I lipread and I speak clearly.

 

This puts me in a rare category that many do not know how to handle.

Do I just talk directly at her?

Do I get a pen a notepad?

Do I raise my voice?

Do I whisper and mime?

 

I stood behind an elderly man in a checkout line.  The teenaged employee repeated himself with much impatience.  Eye-rolling.  Exaggerated sighs.

He completed his purchase and I stepped forward.

“UGH.  Those deaf people!  ‘What?  What?  What?’”

 

The polite smile froze on my face.  I felt my cheeks turn hot and forced myself to pay for my groceries without punching him in the throat.

I brushed my bangs out of my face and tucked them behind my hearing aid. I nudged my ear slightly and watched his eyes jerk suddenly toward the squeal.  I refused to look away as it registered across his face.

I took my receipt and said “thank you”, in a voice that carried a trace of a deaf accent.

 

 

And I’ve wondered for 15 years if that ever made a difference to him.

He couldn’t have known that I was the current winner of a state Deaf pageant on my way to the National Deaf pageant.  That I was so profoundly deaf that my audiology tests showed hearing loss worse than the deaf person who didn’t speak or read lips.

 

He couldn’t have known that the flush-cheeked 20-year old in front of him was hardly different than the elderly man shuffling out the door.

 

Rach pageant2

 

~

 

I spent two years on a speaking tour circuit.  The pageant system raised money for scholarships and I worked for a highly regarded law enforcement agency while finishing my college degree.

The public speaking terrified me, I quickly learned that I preferred interacting with school assembly children.  They believed they could do anything.  It was their parents and deaf adults that scared me.

 

Here’s the part of the post that will earn me some instant enemies and cement why I refuse requests to write for deaf websites.  What shocked me most about these encounters was the prevailing belief:

disability

 

The #1 question I was asked repeatedly? 

“How much money do you get monthly from SSI?”

 

They found no shame assuming I received state assistance because my ears didn’t work.  No shame assuming that I didn’t have a job.  No shame assuming that my deafness excused me from even having to try.

 

There are certainly people who need this.  Without a doubt.  But what happens if you never try?

 

I was raised by two of the hardest working people I know.  My hearing loss did nothing to dampen their expectations that I would work hard to be the best RACHEL I could.

Not the best Rachel-Cut-Her-Some-Slack-She’s-Deaf.

surgery

 

It is with this gift of parents who didn’t automatically discount my potential based on my disability, that I take a (probably) unpopular stance on this:

 

prom

source

 

 

I hope this comes across as compassionate.  I hope you can understand that this is just my perspective: as a person with a disability, as a daughter, and as a mother.

 

The story continues with the mother saying that her daughter worked hard to try to be elected homecoming queen.  You can read in her reasoning that her daughter deserved it in part because of her disability.

 

No.

Just NO.

 

 

You are not worth more by being a homecoming queen.

As heartwarming at it might sound, you’re not entitled to be something simply by virtue of a disability.

 

I would be cheering along with everyone else had she been selected.  I sat in front of a hotel room tv and screamed happily when Heather Whitestone won Miss America.  I love a “she overcame her disability” story better than anyone.

 

But lets look at the facts:

#1.  You don’t “earn” being homecoming queen.

It’s a popularity contest, pure and simple.

No number of billboard advertisements would have persuaded the majority of a high school campus to vote for someone.

 

#2.  Her worth isn’t based on a vote by high school students.  Her lifetime success won’t be measured by this. 

 

#3.  The homecoming queens I see on Facebook a decade later aren’t necessarily happier.  Real success is having one true friend for high school still on your Friends list.

 

#4.  While I don’t begrudge this mother for wanting a special moment for her daughter – what are you teaching your child when you express disappointment that people did not give her something on the basis of her disability?

We ALL have a disability.  Something that forces us to work harder to do the same thing that someone else might do easier.  Success that is bought with a billboard isn’t her success.

 

#5.  Let’s face it… I’m annoyed that Mom’s way of dealing with her own disappointment is to bring more media attention to it.

When I was in high school, the last thing I wanted is to be identified as THAT DEAF GIRL.  (Guess what?  Classmates on Facebook often only recognize me once I say, “I was that deaf girl in Mr. Booth’s Chem/Phys class”).

I’m sure this girl doesn’t want to be known as THAT GIRL WITH MILD CEREBRAL PALSY WHOSE MOM TRIED TO BUY HER A CROWN.

 

 

Again, please don’t mistake this for being uncompassionate.  I’d be her biggest cheerleader.  This article just left a bad taste in my mouth from the years of answering:

“I don’t receive state assistance.  I work hard at my job.  People are mostly kind about disabilities if you give them a chance”.

 

Let’s encourage our kids to be compassionate, respectful, kind.  Help them to be successful at being a good friend.  Celebrate the good stuff.  Say, “I know you can!” for the hard stuff.

We all need to work hard to be the best someone we can.

 

And if you have a disability?  Use it to do something good.

Don’t waste the hard stuff.  God has a reason for it.

bill signing1

 

You know why blogging is so amazing?  Because y’all help me forget that I actually AM deaf.  I’m a person to you.  And I’m grateful.

 

This is Rachel.  Stepping off my soapbox.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

terrible. really terrible. then pretty wonderful. then gross.

 

 

I’ve been a terrible blogger.

 

Oh the stories are there waiting.  The material is fresh daily.

(I mean, seriously?… I live with a redneck.  And a kindergartener whose classmates think it’s hilarious to use OFFICIAL names for body parts. 

Help me.)

 

But lately, my blogging time gets stolen by that thing I can’t talk about.  Do you know how draining it is to deal with an adult bully?  Physically, mentally, and I-can’t-stop-crying emotionally?  Do you know what it’s like to have your husband worry more about you getting sick on the way to work every morning, than he does about his own cancer treatment?

Yeah. Suckage.

 

 

I’m just beat up by the time I sit down in front of the computer and try to find the funny.

 

iamwoman

 

 

(I totally need that on a t-shirt).

 

 

But the good stuff is still there.

 

Easter is a big deal to us.  I mean, beyond the yearlong hoarding of eggs to be blown, then decorated, then smashed on unsuspecting victims…

IMG_7538

 

 

Yes, that is my sister and my 81 year old grandmother.

IMG_7540

IMG_7542

IMG_7545

 

For shame, Ju.  I think you are officially out of the will.

 

~

 

 

I apparently was an early target.  See my name on May-May’s egg?

 

IMG_7495

 

 

I guess I shouldn’t feel too bad; we’re raising some political geniuses:

 

IMG_7512

 

 

~

 

But really, what it was all about?  Celebrating the fact that NOTHING is stronger than God.  Not death, not the economy, and not a bully.

 

Apparently I miss all the good conversations.  My mom shared that Itty Bit had listened carefully to the story of the resurrection and spoke what was on his mind.

 

IMG_7451 copy

Grandma?  Why did Jesus grow up and then die?  Why didn’t he die when he was a baby?

 

Well, because he had lots of things to do.  He told people about God and he healed lots of people.  He healed blind people so they could see, and deaf people so they could hear.

 

(sad face)

 

Awww…. I wish my Mommy had been born then.

 

 

~

 

You know that funny feeling you get in your throat when you realize you haven’t screwed your kid up entirely?  Because he wishes something like that for you.  Because he talks to Jesus in his head after we go to bed.  Because he lets his mom force him to wear polka dot bowties.

 

Yeah, that one.

 

I had to swallow around it.

 

 

~

 

And then the combination of my redneck mister and my hilarious potty mouth boy rocketed us straight back to The Truman Show.

 

See. Mr. Daddy has totally set himself up for a very awkward conversation when Itty Bit reaches a certain age.

While reading a book about animals, Itty Bit suddenly looked up and asked how baby kittens were born.

And because I was considerate enough to bear my husband the SON he wanted, I naturally defaulted to the parent of the male gender.

And without missing a beat, Mr. Daddy looked straight into our child’s eyes and said, “they say ‘knock knock’.”

 

KNOCK KNOCK?

You told our child that babies are born by saying KNOCK KNOCK??!?!

IMG_6681

 

Good luck with that in about 10 more years.

 

(Oh dear Lord, we do have TEN more years, right?)

 

~

 

 

Would you believe that I felt mildly robbed?

Considering that my son now thinks it’s UNFAIR that girls get to have babies and boys don’t.

Because a miniature ninja KNOCK-KNOCKing inside of your stomach sounds fun.

 

~

 

This led to a completely random conversation that (thankfully) was not in a public restroom.

 

Mommy!  I gotta go pee!

Okay fine honey. Go.

Mommy?

Yes?

Why don’t girls have pee-pees on the outside?

Umm… They’re just different.  That’s how God made them.

 

 

Well… that’s not FAIR!

What???

That’s not fair!

Sure it is honey.  You get to pee outside on the strawberries.

You get to have babies!

Umm yeah honey.  It’s fair.  Trust me on this one.

 

 

(He thought for awhile…)

 

Mommy?

Yes honey?

But they poop the same.  So THAT’S fair.

 

 

Then he wagged his little finger in my face and smiled a smug little smile.

 

~

 

 

He left me speechless.

But that might have been kind of the point.

IMG_7454 copy

 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

if these walls could speak

 

 

Seriously… when did my kid grow up to not need something called a nursery?  Or decide that HE gets to pick the theme for his bedroom?

 

So sad to surrender the right to put ultra cute things on his walls…

 

See?

 

etsy crying

 

etsy sleepy

 

etsy diaper

Oh wait… maybe I’m not SO sad about him growing up a bit ;)

 

 

But this one – unfortunately, still applies…

etsy floor

 

 

SycamoreStreetPress has no idea that I’m linking their stuff up today.  But if they did, I totally would not get my feelings hurt if they wanted to charm my redneck with some early Christmas d├ęcor…

etsy jolly

 

 

And that, my friends… is how you start your day off with pure awesomesauce.