Published: Anything But Ordinary—Inspiring and Unique Flowers

23 11 2011

As a gardener and as an artist and photographer, I have long been attracted to more unusual plants—those that are showy, quirky, alien-like, and over-the-top—anything but ordinary. Any plant or flower that makes me ask,“what in the world is that?” has a place in my garden! Many of these flowers can also be used in bouquets, adding a touch of the exotic and unusual to any arrangement.

In the link below, you can read my latest column for the Bloomin’ Blog, a monthly newsletter published by the flowershopnetwork.com.

http://www.flowershopnetwork.com/blog/unique-flowers-photos/

You can see my previous columns in the links below:

http://www.flowershopnetwork.com/blog/got-the-blues/

http://www.flowershopnetwork.com/blog/passion-purple-flowers/

http://www.flowershopnetwork.com/blog/fall-garden-flowers/

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Saturday sky

22 11 2011

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.






Missing mom

18 11 2011

Today marks the one year anniversary of my mother’s passing. She survived Stage II ovarian cancer for 11 years. She never gave up and never turned away anything her doctors offered to get her into yet another remission, relieve her pain, and keep her with us year after year. She is the strongest woman I will ever know. I shared many stories about my remarkable mother last November in my blog post here.

I wear one of her gold rings on my right hand every day. It has five tiny diamonds set into a gold band that crosses another band. I like to think she bought it because each diamond represents the five members of our little family. I have been surprised at just how comforting it is to wear it and then in the same moment, I am made painfully aware that it is no longer gracing her hands. It is just one of many rings she wore faithfully, earning my father’s lifelong nickname for her—Diamond Lil.

Every night, I sleep on her satin pillowcase—the one she used when she had her hair styled at the beauty shop when we were younger. I talk to her late at night when I can’t sleep, which is often. I miss her fried chicken and shopping with her at outlet malls. I miss hearing her dish on the latest legal case, missing child, political happening or celebrity scoop. I miss sharing the Star tabloid from the San Antonio Sunday newspaper. I miss hearing the comforting “I worry about you, doll” as she hung up after each phone call.

When I look in the mirror, I see her smile and very fine hair. I believe I inherited her compassion. My father says I inherited her very forgiving nature. More than anything, I hope I inherited her strength.

Janie Alta McLean Dyer, 12.26.1931–11.18.2010





Alas, poor Borders, I knew you…

16 11 2011

I was at Home Depot last week, parked in the upper level garage, when I noticed this guy in a cherry picker removing the last vestiges of our local Borders. The last evidence that it ever existed. We frequented this Borders for so many years. It was our place to go after dinner on Saturday nights. Sometimes we would be out riding around and we would say at the same time, “Wanna go to Borders?” When our friends Carmen and George still lived in Virginia, we would go to dinner (usually Mexican at El Paso) and straight to Borders afterward—scattering in four different directions, then returning with an armload of books.

Borders enticed me to part with my money many a time, but I have a confession to make. More often than not, I only purchased when I possessed a 40 or 50% coupon or if there was a discount book that I simply had to have off their remainder racks. Okay, I confess. I’m a magazine junkie, too, so it was not uncommon for me to go in and spend $40 on photography, craft and gardening magazines in one visit—until I buckled down and learned to subscribe to them cheaper. I was just one of the many bookstore regulars who would occasionally look at a book, write down the title and price, then go order it for 25-40% less on Amazon. For this, Borders, I apologize. However, I talked to one of your loyal salespeople and she told me it was poor management that got you in the end. That relieved me of at least some of my guilt. (Although truth be told, I contributed to your success for many years—it’s not my fault you chose to squander it recklessly!)

So, as a tribute to you, dearly departed Borders, I offer my Top 10 Memories (in no particular order) throughout the years.

Memory #1: Borders in Tysons Corner, one summer evening. Scores of coffee table books stacked up against the windows. Each marked with that lovely red triangular-shaped sticker—$1. $1? It can’t be. Gorgeous color books on every subject imaginable (some interesting, some not so much). I promptly buy one of each. Yes, you read that right. One of each. It takes four trips for me and Michael to carry my loot out of the store. Most topics were of interest to me; those that were not could surely be gifts for someone else, no? It is my fondest moment shopping at Borders. We would go on to find other instances where beautiful books were marked that low, but this excursion was magnificent in its quality and range of subjects. It certainly doesn’t help that in my profession, I’ve actually designed books on numerous occasions—I’ve been known to buy a book solely for its brilliant presentation. Besides, who doesn’t need an oversized book about the history of the John Deere tractor for just $1? I still have dents in my forearms from holding overstuffed plastic carts while in line. Truly good management would have provided those little mini-grocery carts for biblioholics like me. I’m just sayin’.

Memory #2: Michael catches up on his zzzzzz’s in a public forum—ah, fond memories of finalizing my (seemingly random) selection for the evening, then heading to find Michael. Where would I find him tonight? Battling cyborgs in the science fiction aisle? Woodworking? Contemplating learning more about the harmonica, lap harp or guitar? Considering hydroponics or welding as a sideline? Pondering on whether we already owned this particular one-pot cookbook? Honing his wilderness survival skills in the nature section? Having an overpriced coffee and skimming through books he didn’t plan on purchasing in the coffee shop? Wherever he was, he would invariably be nested in a comfy chair, head bowed, an open computer book in his lap. Asleep.

Memory #3: When we first learned just a few of our area Borders were closing, we took advantage of the closing sales. As usual, the discounts came painfully slow, seemingly like this: Now going out of business—everything in the store—10% off (Really Borders? 10%? How bad do you really want to close?), then week after week finally progressing to 60 then 70% off. Thank you for finally breaking the 70% barrier and filling in those gaps on my shelves (as if there were any gaps).

One would think there wouldn’t be much to choose from at that point. Au contraire! We are fascinated by virtually any subject (just call me a bower bird). Of course, there are exceptions—anything mathematical immediately sends me back to painful days in college, wondering how I could finagle a diploma without passing math that final year. I did graduate (bless her little heart) and it did not involve special favors to any professor—although if you had told me at the time that it was the only way I would graduate, I am not ashamed to admit I would have given it serious thought. I am fairly adept at many things; aptitude with numerals isn’t one of them.

Memory #4: My father was the bearer of the bad news: All Borders were closing. Deep down, I subconsciously knew it was coming. Mercy, I was in such denial. No Borders? Where would we buy an overprized hot chocolate with yummy foam, white chocolate shavings and that cute little chocolate stick in the middle (even in the summer)? Where else could I buy yet another obscure cookbook for just $1.99? I still possess A Taste of Eritrea (really, Cindy?) among my culinary tomes. This is particularly funny, given that I cook maybe once a month and only if you can catch me in that kind of domestic mood.

Michael and I hit every single still-open Borders once the discount got to 60% and higher. Our best purchases were three short chrome bar stools covered in black pleather. Now we have some of the Borders coffee shop ambiance in my craft room. And you know those black plastic divider labels with the circular tags that stick out from each section? I scored a complete set for my own library—one for each letter in the alphabet. Just 25 cents each! (You do the math; you know how I am with numbers.)

Memory #5: Borders was one of the first stores (to my recollection) that let you listen to the music of select artists. I fell in love with Eva Cassidy’s voice when she was a staff selection and I eventually bought everything she recorded in her short life. Thanks for introducing me to Tingstad and Rumbel, Cheryl Wheeler, Katie Melua, Lara Fabian and Tina Arena as well.

Memory #6: Free coffee grounds for my garden. Thank you for enriching my little paradise for so many years, Borders.

Memory #7: Lindt white chocolate balls, impulse buys at checkout. 3 for $1. I was visiting my family one Christmas and my dad and I went to a Borders. I bought three and handed him one. He hadn’t ever had one and the look on his face when he bit into one was priceless. All he said, with his voice trembling, was “oooooooooooooohhhhhhh.” I only had one complaint, Borders. When you sell them 3 for $1 and there are two people involved, it’s virtually impossible to evenly split that third one without getting greedy with the oozy (and best) part!

Memory #8: Ah, love me some 40-50% off coupons in my e-mail. And Borders Bucks. And Borders Rewards Plus. And free drink coupons. They may have been part of why you went out of business, Borders, but they did not go unappreciated. These were the times when I could justify buying that lovely coffee table book about fancy chickens or one of Martha Stewart’s many visually arresting “look what I have that you don’t” books. And oh how you discounted those gardening books. You’re the main reason my shelves are overflowing with hundreds of books on that very subject (and no, I will not tell you just how many). Although you are gone from my life, Borders, I will always love you more than Barnes & Noble. They are now the only game in town, and although I am forced to frequent them now, I will do so with a wee bit of disdain. And by the way, I know you probably profited by selling them that membership list with my name on it, but unless they’re going to start sending me 50% off coupons, I am ignoring their repeated attempts to lure me in completely.

Memory #9: Finally, when the periodicals hit 80% off, I could afford one issue each of those $15 craft and foreign Photoshop magazines I always avoided!

Memory #10: And my final memory…my very last visit to a Borders. It was in Woodbridge, Va at the end of summer. I drove by and saw “last day” on the storefront. (How could I not stop?) As I got closer, I saw “everything 2 for $1.” Then the “2” was crossed out and “4” was written over it. Everything was 4 for $1. Really? Surely there wasn’t much left at that bargain, right? Think again. After passing over the romance novels and books written entirely in Spanish, I scored enough books to spend $4.50 total. At those prices, I even considered a book on math (but only for a nanosecond). I’m currently 62 pages into how Chastity become Chaz. (Bower bird, remember?)

AFTERTHOUGHT: I neglected to thank Michael for all those wonderful $50 and $100 Borders gift cards he begifted me throughout the years on various occasions—birthdays, anniversaries and Valentine’s Day. Those cards are the reason why my library is topped off with oversized, gloriously illustrated books whose sole topics are snowflakes, penguins and succulents (to name an obscure few). Though some might find it an impersonal gift, he is a man after my own heart. Only a biblioholic would truly understand. I just had someone comment that they didn’t know all the stores had closed and that they guessed they could no longer use their gift card. How in the world do you keep one that long? Mine were spent before I could say thank you to the giver!





Seen & Heard: Judy G. Martin

15 11 2011

Judy Martin, a member of the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA), made her Seen & Heard profile debut in the November/December 2011 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine, which just arrived in member mailboxes. Seen & Heard is a new column in our magazine and we had 48 members get enthusiastically involved in our first outreach effort! We’ll be publishing one or two profiles (as space allows) in each issue of the bimonthly magazine. The first two members profiled were Danielle Nicosia and John Kinstler, who appeared in the the September/October 2011 issue. You can read more about their debut on my blog here.

I especially enjoyed Judy’s responses to my questionnaire—she’s very funny, interesting and outgoing and her answers definitely reflect that fact. She and I share an affinity for true crime books and tv shows and I laughed out loud when I read her long- and short-term goals. I photographed her at HLAA’s annual convention this past June, which was held in Washington, D.C.

Judy G. Martin / Jacksonville, FL / born July 15 in Columbus, NE

MY HEARING LOSS…began about age seven or eight. I got my first hearing aid at age 17 and had two hearing aids at age 42. I received my cochlear implant in January 2006 and I still wear one hearing aid.

SAGE ADVICE…Find a good audiologist. Make sure your hearing aid has a t-coil. Join or start a local HLAA chapter.

WHEN I WAS LITTLE, I WANTED TO BE A… nurse or a teacher.

THE BEST GIFT I EVER RECEIVED WAS…a blue and white two-wheeler Schwinn when I was seven.

THE FIRST THING I BOUGHT WITH MY OWN MONEY WAS… a 1965 Black Mustang with red leather interior.

THE HARDEST THING I’VE EVER DONE WAS… to quit smoking cold turkey in 1981. I had a two-pack-a-day habit. There is a story behind why I quit (not health).

I LOVE THE SOUND OF… symphony music, big band, golden oldies, birds (all kinds), wind blowing through trees, and a church choir.

IN MY SPARE TIME I… advocate for people with hearing loss and volunteer at church as acolyte, chalice minister, lector, and usher.

I MISS… New York, but not during the winter!

HAPPINESS IS… partying with my husband, family and friends.

HOBBIES? Genealogy. I have 46 first cousins and traced my German side back to the 1600s, but my Polish side eludes me and that goes back to only 1837. In 2002 I was diagnosed with breast cancer and at the same time found information that through one of my lines I was descended from French Huguenots through the Danish Huguenots. My love of genealogy and my excitement over this latest finding literally drove the fear of cancer from my heart and mind.

CITY, COUNTRY, BEACH OR MOUNTAINS? City and country. I was born on a farm, lived in the suburbs and as a young chick chose to move to Manhattan. Except for the fact that I met my first husband there, I loved every square inch of that beautiful city, from Battery Park on the tip of the island to the uppermost Inwood section, from the Hudson to the East Rivers. Although I’ve been a Florida resident for six years, I am a proud almost-lifelong New Yorker! You can take the girl out of New York but you can’t take New York out of the girl.

MY FAVORITE PLACE TO BE… is at home where I can putter.

I HAVE A WEAKNESS FOR… food.

I COLLECT: nativities and have 57 sets as of Christmas 2010. They get put up every other year because every other year we travel to New York to spend with family. During the intervening years, we travel north at Thanksgiving.

PLACES I’VE CALLED HOME… Nebraska, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Florida

WORKING NINE TO FIVE… advertising, publishing, newspaper, church

MUSIC TO MY EARS… John Denver’s “Annie’s Song” (Tom—my husband—and my song), “Ave Maria,” “Adagio for Strings,” Mario Lanza’s “All the Things You Are,” Gershwin’s “An American in Paris”

LITERARY FAVES… Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion, Ann Rule’s book on Ted Bundy—The Stranger Beside Me, Daniel Keyes’ Flowers for Algernon, and Dorothy Canfield Fisher’s Understood Betsy

FAVORITE MOVIES: Them, Miracle of the Bells, Night of the Living Dead, Affair to Remember, Imitation of Life

THE LAST BOOK I READ WAS… Ann Rule’s In The Still of the Night.

MY MOTHER TAUGHT ME… how to cook and how to iron men’s pants.

MY FATHER TAUGHT ME… that men can be moral and trustworthy.

GET ANYTHING GOOD IN THE MAIL LATELY? Yes—My N5 Processor!

WHAT’S THE BEST THING SINCE SLICED BREAD? Facebook!

I HAVE A FEAR OF… being stabbed to death. I read too many true crime books and watch too many true crime shows on TV.

EARLY BIRD OR NIGHT OWL? Whoooooo? Night Owl, definitely.

SOMETHING THAT YOU HAVE IN YOUR HOME THAT YOU ARE SURE MOST PEOPLE DON’T… Many, many books and three-ring binders filled with genealogy history and printouts of ancestors

MY FAVORITE POSSESSIONS ARE… my cochlear implant processors, computers, genealogy printouts and records, and finally—42 photo albums with pictures pasted in the old-fashioned way, 18,500 photos on my computer, and one box of photos and negatives to be sorted before I shuffle off this mortal coil.

EVER MEET ANYONE FAMOUS? Red Skelton, Rex Harrison, Sammy Davis, Jr., Ted Steele (bandleader from the 40s) Fred Astaire. I went around the revolving door twice with Willie Nelson at the old El Morocco.

MY LONG-TERM GOAL… is to live long-term.

MY SHORT-TERM GOAL… includes remembering what my long-term goal is.

PET PEEVE… drivers who talk or text on their cell phone while driving and weaving or driving slowly in the left lane.

RIGHT NOW I AM CRAVING… Boars Head Blazing Buffalo Chicken on white bread with fresh tomato and mayo.

IF I RULED THE WORLD… there would be no war or poverty.

MY GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT IS… my happy 33-year marriage, my two children and through them my three grandchildren.

I WANT TO BE REMEMBERED… as a person who tried to live the best way she could—not always successfully—but with the best of intentions.

“Every issue of Hearing Loss Magazine is filled from front to back with fascinating, useful, thought-provoking, humorous, and educational articles. As a newsletter editor, I’ve done lots of interviewing and am incessantly interested (some say nosy) in the lives of others. Folks will often say they are not newsworthy, but I always respond that every life has a story. I always appreciate the absolute professionalism—the layout, the photography, the planning, the editing—of this publication. I’m proud to pass it on.” —Judy Martin





Senthil Srinivasan: Opening Up

15 11 2011

Senthil Srinivasan is our cover feature for the November/December 2011 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine, which I design and produce bimonthly for the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA). I met Senthil online after discovering his website, Outerchat, and asked him if he would be interested in being profiled for the magazine. Three years later, he has written an article for the magazine. He flew from Milwaukee to Northern Virginia in mid-September so I could photograph him for the publication.

Since he was a guest in our home during his stay, I got to play tour guide. This was his first visit to the Washington, D.C. area. Immediately after I picked him up at the airport Friday morning, we did what I call “drive-by sightseeing” in downtown D.C. and he even got to see the smallest house in Old Towne Alexandria (shown at right) and possibly the U.S. The house measures just 7 feet wide and 36 feet long—a mere 350 square feet total! Learn more about this tiny house here.

We spent the rest of the afternoon touring Mount Vernon. The next day, Michael, Senthil and I attended the Walk4Hearing kick-off brunch at Clyde’s in D.C., which just happened to be taking place the weekend he was visiting! He had already met some of the HLAA staff at the Milwaukee Convention in 2010, so there were some familiar faces in the room. After a delicious brunch, we did some more “drive-by sightseeing,” with Senthil jumping out at various sites to get some quick snapshots. Some stops included the U.S. Capitol, the White House, Ford’s Theatre, the house where Lincoln died, and the Washington Monument.

Afterward, Senthil, Michael and I had the opportunity to see the Pentagon 9/11 Memorial for the first time. What a sobering but beautiful tribute to the lives lost that day. I will share some of my photos of the memorial in a future post. On Sunday morning, Senthil and I did the cover session by the Potomac River in Old Towne, Alexandria. I did the interior shots in my studio later that evening. On Monday morning, Michael dropped him off in D.C. so tour a few of the Smithsonian museums and do some solo sightseeing for the day before he headed back to Wisconsin in the late afternoon. It was a whirlwind visit and we accomplished quite a bit!

Senthil Srinivasan: Opening Up

The author (36) shares his personal story. Read about his journey to opening up about his hearing loss and finally realizing he is not alone.

I was born with bilateral, mild-to-moderate hearing loss. With the exception of early childhood, I grew up around hearing people. My first four years of school were in special education classes with students with various degrees of hearing loss. In fourth grade, I was integrated into regular classes with hearing students. It was not easy being the only kid with a hearing loss. I started to shy away from other students to avoid teasing and bullying, of which I had my fair share. When I attended the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee for my degree in graphic design, I focused mainly on studies. My lack of socialization didn’t bother me much. Once I graduated, I shifted my focus to building a career. Then there came a point when I started longing for friends, and even wanted to date someone. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any success. With not having a lot of friends at work or outside, I was looking for an answer. It got to the point where I was starting to hate myself.

My Hearing Loss Journey
My journey started when my parents and sister were vacationing in the Wisconsin Dells tourist area. They were in the Storybook Gardens, and an angel asked my sister for a wish. She wanted a baby brother. My parents were so touched by her wish that they brought me into this world. I was born three weeks ahead of schedule, fully developed but weighing just four-and-a-half pounds. However, I was also born hard of hearing. At the time, newborn infants were not tested for hearing loss, so nobody knew that I had a hearing loss for several years. (Right: Senthil and his sister Sheila)

I was a happy child and everything seemed normal to my parents for a few years. But, when I didn’t talk even at two years old, they became concerned. Others reassured them that some boys develop speech a little later than usual, and so they shouldn’t worry too much. Even so, my parents took me to the Children’s Hospital in Milwaukee for an evaluation.

After a half-day of evaluation, the doctors concluded that I was hyperactive, and at their suggestion, I was enrolled in a special class for young children with developmental needs. As far as I was concerned, I was just happy to go on the little school bus and get all the attention at school. Little did I know that I wasn’t hearing everything; my residual hearing fooled everybody! I used to say ‘oopa’ with much excitement when the school bus came to our house to pick me up, and my parents couldn’t figure out that what I was trying to say was ‘school bus.’

Fortunately, a breakthrough came when I visited India with my family a year later. My uncle took me to an excellent ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist and had him test me. The ENT just played with me, asked me questions, and mostly observed my responses. After his evaluation, he told my family that he strongly believed I had a hearing loss and recommended that we see an audiologist when we returned to the United States. Sure enough, proper auditory testing revealed that I had a bilateral, mild-to-moderate hearing loss. Right away, I was fitted with hearing aids. My mother told me that my face lit up the first time I wore them. She had never seen that look on my face and was happy to see such a big smile. I felt fortunate to hear many of the sounds a person with normal hearing would hear.

Education Challenges
I was placed in a special program for deaf and hard of hearing children at Lowell Elementary School in Waukesha, Wisconsin. By then, I had lost about four years of hearing and language development, and was playing catch-up with my peers. The teachers at Lowell School were wonderful and I was just happy to finally hear and understand everything.

Every morning I would arrive early at school, put on a box with a transmitter and receiver, and then play with the school-supplied building blocks. The memory is so vivid that I can still see the sun rising as I stacked the blocks as high as possible before watching them come tumbling down. It was a special moment in my life as I began my journey in the hearing loss world. I believe this memory is the perfect metaphor for how hard I’ve been working to stand tall and never give up, even when it seems everything is tumbling down around me.

My years at Lowell Elementary School were the best times of my childhood. Thinking back, I suspect it was because I was with other deaf and hard of hearing students, and there was no one to make fun of me. Outside of school, not too many people knew that I had a hearing loss since my mom kept my hair long on the sides to cover my hearing aids. For many years after that I continued to hide my hearing loss but later I changed my hairstyle to be shorter. Looking at my old pictures, I ask myself, What was I thinking?!

When I reached fourth grade, the special education board decided that I was ready to join regular school with a few sessions of speech therapy. Since our house was closer to a different elementary and middle school, I had to leave all my friends and start over in the new school with hearing students. Making friends became much more challenging, and I kept most of my problems to myself, rarely going to my teachers or parents about them. I think this molded my adult life.

Some of my experiences at middle school, high school, and college included:

• On orientation day with the regular class, a teacher accompanied me in a group of hearing kids. I remember feeling anxious and nearly passing out, but I didn’t tell anyone about the incident, not even my parents.

• When I started middle school, one of my classmates asked me to sit with him during lunch. He was sitting at a cool table with popular kids. However, when I joined the group, the girls at the table gave me that look as if I didn’t belong there. Seeing their faces made me feel like an outsider, and I never sat at that table again.

• I took a band class in middle school because I loved playing drums. My drum teacher was very supportive of me, but other drummers used to tease me a lot during the class. If I messed up, they would giggle among themselves. I remember that a red-headed girl, who was the only girl playing the drums, would always pretend to like me by flirting and making facial expressions. When I moved away, the others would laugh with her. Eventually I dropped out of band just to avoid being teased.

• During high school, I became extremely shy and avoided any attempt at making friends. I was afraid of being teased and hurt even more. I spent most Friday nights with my parents rather than going to parties or other social outings.

• My days at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee were fine since I was dealing with more mature students, and I had a lot of support from the University. I didn’t have much time to think of anything except studying hard and getting a good job. I graduated with a high GPA and even got a full-time job before my graduation! As I said earlier, my primary goal in college and in my career was work, not friends and fun—although I had to work much harder than hearing people to compete in the workforce.

As a result of these experiences, I had trouble socializing in my adult life, and ran into several communication barriers when it came to meeting people and making friends. Although I can hear almost everything with my hearing aids, I still struggle to understand what everyone is saying, especially with background noise. There were times when people would talk to me using their low voices and I would nod along, even though I couldn’t catch all the words. And it was frustrating to constantly ask people to repeat themselves.

Seeking and Getting Help Lifting the Communication Barriers
When I attended the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UMW) in the late 1990s, I was eligible to receive DVR (Division of Vocational Rehabilitation) funding. They helped cover the cost for hearing aids, tuition, and services provided at UMW. I found UWM’s services beneficial, especially note takers—students who UWM hired to take notes during lectures for me. Even with my hearing aids, sometimes I struggled to take notes while listening to professors, and note takers helped me keep up with the classes. I also knew some deaf and hard of hearing students who used sign language interpreters. That was more than 10 years ago, and I’m sure even more services are being offered in schools today thanks to advances in technology and expertise. I accomplished a lot more in my life than my parents ever imagined. My mother told me that she doubted I would ever learn to speak or understand people. She even thought I might not get to graduate from college someday. Fortunately, hearing aids, speech therapy, and hard work have gotten me to where I am today. As the school years went on, I got out of the special education classes and became fully mainstreamed into classrooms with hearing students. I graduated from college and secured a full-time job as a web designer.

I was not happy with the way I looked back in high school and college, and I have come to realize that the hearing aids were a major reason why I was and still am so isolated from the outside world. There were also other reasons that played a big role, such as my shyness and not having an outgoing personality. Rather than analyzing the past each and every day, I have decided to open up and share my life experiences and the path that led me to where I am today.

Reaching Out to Others Through Blogs
In 2008, I started an online forum as a way of getting out of my shell and reaching out to others. From that day, my life started to change. My first posting explained my reason for starting the blog: to express my thoughts, feelings, and tell stories about my hearing loss, with hopes of creating an interactive forum to benefit everyone. I learned more about how the Internet-driven world, especially social networks, could be used to connect people with hearing loss. When I created a group in Facebook including a link to my website, it attracted more members to DeafandHOH.com and encouraged them to share their experiences and struggles.

I was so excited, I started two more websites: one for blogs (www.OuterChat.com) and one for a hearing loss forum (www.OuterDialog.com). I wrote more than 100 posts, and it became the journey of my life! It felt good to let out my feelings after all these years. After reading other people’s responses to my postings, I learned that I wasn’t the only one in this world struggling with hearing loss. As the discussions grew in the forum, people started asking for places where they could meet and chat with others. I began Open Chat Night. Some inspiring moments from the chat:

• A 10-year-old girl, accompanied by her mother, needed to vent her feelings for not having friends at school. That really touched my heart and reminded me of how I felt in school. Listening to other people who had gone through similar experiences helped her to feel not so alone, and she realized that she didn’t have to let these setbacks limit her.

• A young man from Iowa who couldn’t afford a computer would make trips to the local library, using their computers to talk with the other Open Chat Night members until closing time,

• A deaf teenage girl from Canada with cerebral palsy comes regularly to our sessions. The chat means the world to her; she tries not to miss a single session and always informs us if she can’t make it.

• One time a person from Egypt came to the chat in spite of the time difference!

I truly had no idea when I started this venture that it would have such a positive impact on so many lives! I have about 300 subscribers and the Facebook group is slowly expanding with more members as well. I have taken steps to actively get involved in the community, such as the Milwaukee Walk4Hearing and the HLAA Chapter meetings in the Milwaukee/Racine area. I am also getting tremendous support from a few people at work, when before I would not have allowed myself to make any friends there. (Above: Sentil with his family at a wedding in New York this past September. Left to right: nephew Nathan, father Nallaswamy, mother Lakshmi, niece Anika, sister Sheila and her husband Mike.)

At some point, most of us have allowed hearing loss to become a roadblock to enjoying life to the fullest. One of the most important roadblocks is communication. Communication is a crucial part of our daily lives and it can affect relationships with family and friends. It can affect your communication skills with co-workers on the job, and even your grades. I am sure many of us with hearing loss have dealt with at least one of these communication roadblocks, each of which leads to endless problems for the present and future. We have to keep finding ways to integrate solutions to these barriers. The use of hearing aids, cochlear implants, assistive listening devices, captioning, and loop systems help us to become a part of society where we can more easily communicate with others.

I am always saddened and surprised to hear about people who have gone through so many years of dealing with hearing loss without using the technology that would change their entire life instantly. We need to advocate more strongly for the supply of technological information to these people.

The Journey Continues
Using the Internet really helped me to open up, share my experiences, and reach out to others. I am slowly becoming more social and getting out of the house more than ever before. Rather than curling up in a ball and quitting, I will continue to reach out to people. It makes me feel good about myself to contribute and help others. Over the past several years, I’ve learned that I’m not the only person in this world facing these challenges. That’s what I want everyone to realize when they join this community; they’ve become a part of a group where everyone cares about you and will support who you are. Just remember—you’re not alone.

Giving up is not part of my vocabulary. I have learned that you must like yourself for other people to like you, so I will continue to move forward with my goals and stay positive about myself. I know good things and people are all around me. I can’t wait to experience whatever comes next!

Senthil Srinivasan lives in Waukesha, Wisconsin, and for the past six years has worked as a web designer for PowerSports Network in Sussex, Wisconsin. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee with a bachelor’s degree in graphic design. You can read his blog at OuterChat.com.





Artist Alexa Meade and her human canvas

4 11 2011

Washington, D.C. artist Alexa Meade paints live models (including their surroundings) and then photographs them. Her work is simply amazing!

With her permission, I am showing a few samples of her work and linking to her website here and flickr gallery here. I hope to do an in-depth interview with her soon.