Jun 29, 2011

Sounding Off (A Wordy Wednesday Post on Being Hearing Impaired)

I am hearing impaired. It's part of who I am. It's not a big deal to me now--I've always been that way, even though I didn't always know that I was hearing impaired.

During college I spent several summers and winter breaks in Miami Beach, Florida working at an ice cream store. In the summer of 1990 the U.S. decided to go to war in the Persian Gulf. News stories ran about soldier shortages, and the media started panics about reinstating the draft. Several news programs ran stories about women in the military. I was 20 at the time, and my imagination took over: what if the draft was reinstated and they decided to require women to register? 20 is prime draft age...  I wondered about it aloud in front of my friend, Mary. She said,
"Jen, you don't need to worry about that. You're deaf! You can't hear a thing I'm saying if your back is turned to me. You have to see me and read my lips to know what I'm saying. The military would never take you." 
Mary's words changed my world...Prior to that, I had no idea that I was hearing impaired.

After Mary's comment I made an appointment with an audiologist, who told me that my hearing loss was severe enough that I could benefit from hearing aids. Thankfully, my parents assisted me on my journey to hearing more (hearing aids are very expensive and are not covered by health insurance.) I got my first pair of hearing aids at age 21.

flickr: Some rights reserved by ikesters 
My first hearing aid experience occurred on the bus ride home from my audiology appointment, and it left me wondering what all the hearing hype was about. Screeching bus brakes are a sound I'd never heard before age 21 (and I can honestly say that it is a sound I could live without!) From that day on, I've made a lot of adjustments. Here are some realizations that occurred after recognizing myself as a person who is hearing impaired.
The pluses:
  • I can choose whether or not to hear certain things. Not every sound is something I want to hear well or hear at all (screeching brakes and police sirens, for example.)
  • While I feel that I can do my job better when I wear my hearing aids, it is nice to take them out at home--especially when my kids are loud. It's nice to turn down their volume by taking my aids out!
  • It is kind of cool being able to lip read! I can secretly spy on conversations occurring across the room, or tell my husband what the coach is saying on the sidelines of televised football game--even when there is no sound.
  • What I lack in hearing, I make up for with other senses. I am very attuned to others' body language and facial expressions. People often don't have to speak in order for me to recognize their feelings.
The minuses:
  • Hearing aids are very expensive. Even the smallest repairs cost more than $100. As a result, when something happens to my aids I can't always afford to fix or replace them.
  • Lots of media is focused on the hearing world and doesn't accommodate those who are hearing impaired.
    • YouTube videos can be captioned easily, but very few people who upload videos take the time to caption them. 
    • There are some amazing podcasts out there, but I often can't hear everything they're saying. Very few podcasts offer transcriptions (1. thank you NPR! and 2. See this helpful site  for tips on how to transcribe your podcasts by using a script or using Dragon Naturally Speaking software.)
    • Netflix recently began captioning some of their streaming content (applause!) but they still have a long way to go. It would be amazing if all videos included captioning!
    • Close-captioning on live broadcasts is often not very accurate. There are lots of misspelled words, typos, mistakes and a great deal of lag--the words come long minutes after the picture.
    • Movies, live performances, speeches, and sermons rarely offer accommodations. When they do, they are bulky headsets that are so uncomfortable they detract from the enjoyment of the event. 
Hearing impairment is a mostly invisible disability, so people don't know you have it unless you tell them.  If someone informs you that they are hearing impaired, here are some tips on how you can communicate with them more effectively:
photo credits: CSAIL
  • Don't assume you need to talk louder unless you are asked to do so.
  • Don't over enunciate or exaggerate your lip movements. Lip readers can read the movements of normal speech, but it is impossible to read someone's lips when they are over-articulating. 
  • Try not to speak to us when our backs our turned. Face-to-face contact is best for verbal communication.
  • Do communicate in writing when possible. Phone calls and face to face meetings are sometimes difficult to follow.
  • Be patient. Those of us who are hearing impaired sometimes miss things. If we know we've missed something we will ask you to repeat it ("what?" "huh?" "Could you please repeat that?") But sometimes we don't even know we missed something! If it looks like someone doesn't hear what you just said, try repeating it.
  • When in doubt, ASK! I think just about anyone with any type of disability would welcome your questions over your assumptions. Don't be afraid to ask! It is more offensive to have someone stare at my hearing aids, holler in my face, or exaggerate their lip movements than it is to have them ask directly about my hearing impairment.

Jun 24, 2011

From PragmaticMom.com--Top 50: Multicultural Children’s Books Every Kid Should Know + My Summer Reading

Thanks to Pragmatic Mom for putting together a really excellent list of multicultural books for all ages!   I am sharing it everywhere I can share! Some of my kids' all time favorites are here, as well as some that I am excited to check out from our library soon. You can check it out here:

The girls are especially excited about finishing the summer reading program and have been reading every day.

All rights reserved: jenmardunc
All rights reserved: jenmardunc

I also signed up for the adult summer reading program. Here is a review of the second book I have completed--4 more to go!

Jen's bookshelf: read

Color Blind: A Memoir

4 of 5 stars

At first I was just fascinated by the cultural aspects of this book. I did not know that it was common practice for Nigerians to have their children fostered in Europe. I was enthralled by Precious Williams' description of her childhood as ...


Jun 22, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: When Camp gets Canceled-Time to Cook up some FUN!

Making Pizza Dough into Balls (copyright jenmardunc)

Chips Ahoy and Home Made Frozen Yogurt Pie (copyright jenmardunc)

Time to eat! (copyright jenmardunc)

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Jun 14, 2011

First Encounters: What If?

Flickr: digitalbob8
Over the weekend while running some errands I was listening to NPR and heard a couple of stories that started me thinking/laughing/wondering (the podcast is at the bottom of this post.)

The episode focused on FIRST ENCOUNTERS of every sort--first kiss, first time meeting a foreigner, first time hearing. As human beings we are constantly bombarded by information. What happens in our brains when we see something or someone for the first time?

The simple answer: we categorize. We instantly compare what we are seeing for the first time to the stored information in our brains, trying to make sense of it. This instantaneous process sometimes leads us to jump to conclusions about what we are seeing. Sometimes we label things or people incorrectly. Much of the time there is no malicious intent--we are simply trying to make sense of the world around us. There is a problem, however, if we don't stop to check ourselves--to see if our brain's instantaneous classification system did a good job. There is a problem if we allow our brains to "judge a book by its cover."

Think about all the things that describe who you are. List them.

How many of those qualities are things that you can physically see in less than a second?

Think about the things that people see when they look at you.

How many of those things accurately describe who you are inside?

(If looking at yourself is too hard, choose someone you love--your child, for example, and list the qualities that make them who they are.)

The point is, that in the extremely short time it takes our brains to process information, we are making judgments about what we see. It is natural. It is necessary in order for us to sort out the endless stream of information we are exposed to. But our brains are not always seeing the full picture.

Wouldn't it be interesting if our brains could see deeper than the surface? Maybe there wouldn't be so much hurtful judgment of each other for skin color, body shape, hair type, or other physical differences. What if we could see the essence of each other? What if we didn't just settle on our brain's categorization and went past that first encounter?

Jun 8, 2011

Summer Reading

Yesterday was the last day of working in my classroom for the school year-- it is now officially summer! This is the first summer in three years that I am not taking any classes at the University and I am looking forward to doing something that I haven't had much time to do recently: read for pleasure!

I read a lot, but most of my reading is for teaching or learning. I miss being able to get caught up in the plot and emotion of a book. That is why I signed up for my local library's Adult Summer Reading Program at the same time I signed my children up for their Summer Reading Program. The best way to teach children to be readers is to model being a reader!

In the past I've found some real gems just by strolling through the stacks or looking at the patron recommendations' list at my library. My new familia at Multicultural Familia is inspiring me to revisit some of my favorites, though.  Here are a few multicultural novels that really touched me:

Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya

Image via Wikipedia
This book really moved me. It caused me to think about my own spirituality, how it feels to be pulled between two cultures, and what it is like to believe in magic. Anaya captures the voice of a child beautifully in this story of Antonio, a boy growing up in Guadalupe in the 1940's and 50's. It was required reading for a Chicano Literature class I took and I am thankful that my professor introduced it to me.

The Hindi-Bindi Club by Monica Pradhan
Image via goodreads

This is one of the gems I discovered last summer through the list of recommendations written by my fellow library patrons. It is a novel about mothers and daughters, about cultural identity. The story describes the history of women who move between India and America, how they both cherish and sometimes fight their heritage. One wonderful part of this book is Pradhan's description of how food is used to celebrate and preserve cultural heritage. There are even recipes for the dishes described in the book! I enjoyed reading this immensely, and then enjoyed sampling Indian cuisine and exploring Indian film all summer. Before reading this novel, I really knew very little about Indian culture. It literally opened my eyes to a whole new world that I now really enjoy.

Image via Amazon.com
Deep River by Shusako Endo

Four Japanese tourists visit India. Each has their own spiritual journey as they travel the country during a time of great political turmoil. The book is very poetically written and very emotional. Reading it feels like floating, flowing, and being carried along the deep river of the title. I learned about both Japanese culture and Indian culture by reading this wonderful book. Quite simply...it is a beautiful novel.
Do you have any book suggestions? Please share! I would love to find some new books to read this summer!

Jun 3, 2011

Is that Her Natural Color?

When people see my middle child, their first reaction is almost always the same. They wonder about her hair. Years ago, I might have been offended. We lived next door to another mixed race family who's child was born with bleach-blonde hair and the mom always got the same looks and questions. People wondered aloud if we colored our babies' hair. She was offended. For a while, I was too. It makes you wonder what kind of mom they think you are--one that would but chemicals on a newborn's head to change her hair color! But now it's no longer a shock when they ask what they always ask:

Is that her natural hair color?

2011 All Rights Reserved, Bobby Duncan
The genetics are pretty amazing. In order for her to have red hair, she must have inherited the gene from both sides of the family. My sister is red-headed, so we know where it comes from on my side; but my husband is black and the red-headed tendency is not so obvious unless you look at one other feature: freckles. Red hair and freckles go together.

2011 All Rights Reserved, Bobby Duncan
My husband, beautiful mother-in-law and one brother-in-law all have freckles. Beautiful, aren't they?

I found an article that argues the number of redheads will decrease as the races intermingle. But my daughter is an example of how our intermingling races are still very capable of producing vibrant, beautiful redheads.

Jun 1, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Naturally Red

2011 All rights reserved Jen Marshall Duncan

2011 All rights reserved Jen Marshall Duncan

2011 All rights reserved Jen Marshall Duncan


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