Music to My Ears: Nancy Williams

27 08 2014

In the September/October 2014 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine (published bimonthly by the Hearing Loss Association of America—HLAA), Barbara Chertok interviews pianist/author/publisher Nancy Williams. I photographed Nancy at HLAA’s Convention 2014 in June in Austin, TX.

Photos © Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

NancyWilliamsCoverMusic to My Ears by Barbara Chertok



HLAA Member Barbara Chertok interviewed Nancy Williams, an HLAA member who despite a hearing loss, is an accomplished pianist and much more. Discover what inspired Nancy to reclaim her passions.

What caused your hearing loss and when did it begin?
Although I wasn’t diagnosed by an audiologist until age six, my parents suspect that I was essentially born with a hearing loss. My loss is genetic, as a result of a mutation in the Connexin 26 gene. For much of my childhood, my hearing loss was confined to the high frequencies, and my hearing in the low-to-mid frequencies was normal. In seventh grade, I was fitted with my first hearing aid, a behind-the-ear model, bulky by today’s standards.

In an article you wrote, you revealed you not only denied your hearing loss to others but even to yourself. Now, you tell people about your hearing loss. What brought on the change?
I have to credit reclaiming the piano for helping me to be open about my hearing loss. Returning to the piano shortly after my 40th birthday spurred my desire to write about the intimate relationship between music and hearing, sound and silence. I wrote an article for my online magazine, Grand Piano Passion, about how wearing hearing aids figured into my piano recital.

After reading that piece, a friend asked me to attend, as a member of the press, a reception by the Hearing Health Foundation (HHF), a New York-based nonprofit funding research for a cure for hearing loss. At the reception, I was elated by the prospect of a cure. For the first time in my life, I was in the company of a large group of people with hearing loss.

Shortly thereafter, I joined the HLAA Board. Becoming an active member of the hearing loss community solidified my commitment to write openly about my hearing loss, yet the catalyst was my love for playing the piano.

If people question how you can perform on the piano or interpret what the composer has written when you have a significant hearing loss, how do you respond?
I am fortunate in that no one has directly questioned my ability to play, although occasionally I have worried that people might be voicing those objections to themselves. I think the best way for me to respond to the potential objections is to simply play, demonstrating to people my love of the piano.

The Association of Adult Musicians with Hearing Loss, founded by Wendy Cheng, a violist with cochlear implants in both ears, has a similar strategy. Their recent CD, Hear This!, is an inspiring example of musicians with hearing loss putting forth their music.

You claim to have a ‘listening profit’ when it comes to your piano playing. Would you explain that for us?
I coined the term ‘listening profit’ as a counterpoint to the much more familiar term ‘hearing loss.’ The act of listening is quite different from the act of hearing. Lindsey Dryden, a gifted filmmaker who is deaf in one ear and created the movie Lost and Sound, remarked in a Grand Piano Passion interview that she often wondered whether she was good on the piano as a child precisely because she was partially deaf. I believe that people with hearing loss listen more keenly and more consciously than musicians without hearing loss. I have found that striving to overcome the disability of not hearing is part of what aids my musicality.

Do you have tinnitus [ringing in the ears] and does it interfere with your piano playing?
My tinnitus is very mild. I am not sure whether that is because I have worn hearing aids for most of my life and using amplification can help mitigate the symptoms of tinnitus (the Hearing Heath Foundation, where I serve on the board, has a great treatment of this topic), or whether I have just been lucky. Occasionally I hear a rapping sound in my left ear, but my mild tinnitus does not interfere with my playing.

You have written about the stigma against hearing loss being real. What do you feel it will take to eradicate this stigma?
I think the most important ingredient in eradicating the stigma against hearing loss is for people who are functional in society but nonetheless suffer from hearing loss to be more candid about their condition. That is easier said than done, because our society stereotypes people with hearing loss as slow, out of touch, thickheaded, and unlikely to accomplish much.

I know people who work in worlds ranging from music to finance who are unwilling to be candid about their hearing loss for this exact reason. So it’s up to each person to decide how much candor they can risk. Every time someone with hearing loss unveils their condition and asks for what they need, we as a community take another step toward loosening the stigma. I believe we will be greatly helped by our current generation of children, who sport cochlear implant bling and other hearing aid fashions.

Do you feel a special kinship with Beethoven because of your mutual hearing loss? Do you hear the music within as he did?
I hesitate to answer this question in which Beethoven and I appear in the same sentence. However, he is one of my favorite composers, and the second movement of his Fifth Piano Concerto is about as close to heaven as I am able to get. I have always felt a tremendous empathy for the anguish he must have experienced as he lost both his hearing and the society of those close to him.

It fascinates me that we can in a sense hear music in our brain, and that is in essence how Beethoven managed to compose while he was deaf. I am able to hear within my mind the piano music that I study closely. In the years since my hearing loss was first diagnosed, my audiogram has been slowly worsening, such that my hearing loss is now moderate in both ears, sloping to severe in the high frequencies. I’ve tried to consciously develop the skill of hearing within, with the thought that if someday I am unable to hear at all, I still will be able to hear my music.

You founded Grand Piano Passion, an online magazine. What is its mission and purpose?
Grand Piano Passion celebrates all who make music despite a hearing loss, no matter their instrument, level, or age. We profile both amateur and professional musicians who have a hearing loss, and we also cover the best books and articles in this field. One of my favorite series is Hearing Health Affirmations, articles that showcase the positive affirmations of musicians with hearing loss. Also not to be missed is a series called Practice Listening by Jay Alan Zimmerman, a deaf composer who has been called ‘Broadway’s Beethoven.’

Do you use any assistive listening devices when you listen to music?
I purchased the Phonak ComPilot, which I use while using my iPhone—the ComPilot pipes sound directly from my iPhone into my hearing aid—as well as for listening to classical piano music on my computer. Listening to music is a big part of my job as the founding editor of Grand Piano Passion, so the ComPilot has been very useful for me when I review albums for my online magazine.

You refer to yourself as an ‘amateur’ pianist, yet you have performed at Carnegie Hall. Why is that?
In 2012, I took a master class on performance and our final recital was held at Carnegie Hall. Short of my wedding day and the birth of my two children, this was the best day of my life. I got a wonderful taste of the life of a concert pianist.

Although I am not a concert pianist in the strict sense of the term, performing [on] the piano is increasingly occupying a larger part of my professional life. I speak on finding your passion, and often my speaking engagements include performing a select repertoire on the piano. By sharing my music, I am able to demonstrate both via sound and emotion just how powerful a passion can be. I presented my workshop “Finding Your Calling… Despite a Hearing Loss” at the HLAA Convention 2014 in Austin this summer.

Do you ever choose to learn a piece of music because it falls within the range of the hearing you have in the lower frequencies and not in the higher frequencies where your hearing loss is more significant?
The frequency range of a piece of classical piano music is most definitely a consideration for me. For example, the wonderful fioritura, or series of grace notes, which concludes Chopin’s Nocturne in E-Flat Major begins on the second highest C on the piano keyboard, a region where even with my hearing aids I hear mostly the little plunk of the key hitting the key bed. I play these notes mostly by touch. When I studied Debussy’s Clair de Lune, a shimmering meditation on nighttime that is beloved by many pianists, I chose not to perfect the music, one reason being the concentration of notes in the upper end of the keyboard.

You returned to the piano after a 25-year hiatus. How much of your former repertoire were you able to retain?
When I first returned to the piano, the only note I could remember was middle C, that note on its own line, between the two staffs. I had to count all other notes from middle C. I had forgotten the notes, along with all the repertoire I had studied and performed as a teenager, as a defensive mechanism of sorts against reclaiming the piano. I think many adults carry a passion deep within, and excavating it can take a lot of commitment. I’m happy to say that now I have relearned Debussy’s Reverie, a piece I first performed in recital when I was 13, and now is one of my favorite pieces in my repertoire.

When you play the piano, whether for your teacher or in a concert, does it worry you that you might miss hearing a wrong note because of your hearing loss?
This is an interesting question because it gets at the distinction between hearing and listening. As a pianist, even if I physically hear myself play a wrong note, unless I am listening attentively to the music, the wrong note could escape my notice. So I think the bigger challenge is to truly listen to the music, both its melody and accompanying harmony.

What would you tell a budding pianist with hearing loss embarking on a career in music?
There are inspiring examples of pianists with hearing loss, such as Kori Linae Carothers, Jennifer Castellano, and Ricker Choi (whom we have featured in Grand Piano Passion).

For people with hearing loss who have a passion for the piano, or any instrument for that matter, I wholeheartedly encourage them to pursue their callings. Passions help all of us to develop the whole person. Many adults find that when they activate long dormant callings, they realign other parts of their life, strengthening their professions, forming new friendships, and even growing closer to their families and the people they love most deeply.

Barbara Liss Chertok lost her hearing suddenly in 1957 at age 21 from what was diagnosed 35 years later as Cogan’s syndrome, an autoimmune disorder. She hears with bilateral cochlear implants. She joined SHHH/HLAA in 1979 and is an active member of the HLAA Sarasota Chapter. A former lipreading/speechreading teacher, she is a freelance writer/interviewer for Hearing Loss Magazine. She serves on the National Advisory Board of the American Hearing Research Foundation. Barbara can be reached at barbchert@gmail.com.

Nancy Williams on the Web
www.grandpianopassion.com
http://www.Facebook.com/NancyWilliamsPiano
http://www.Twitter.com/NWilliamsPiano
www.youtube.com/nancywilliamspiano

Relevant Links
Association of Adult Musicians with Hearing Loss: aamhl.org

Hearing Health Foundation: hearinghealthfoundation.org

Interview with Amateur Pianist Ricker Choi
http://bit.ly/GrandPianoPassion-Choi

Hearing Aids at My Piano Recital by Nancy Williams
http://bit.ly/PianoRecital-Williams

A Different Way of Listening—Lindsey Dryden on Hearing Loss, Her Music and Her Documentary
http://bit.ly/LindseyDryden-HearingLoss

 





Seen & Heard: Meredith Segal

27 08 2014

Meredith Segal is our Seen & Heard profile for the September/October 2014 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine, published bimonthly by the Hearing Loss Association of America. I photographed Meredith at HLAA Convention 2011 in Washington, D.C.

MeredithSegalS&H

MEREDITH SEGAL / Hockessin, Delaware / Born April 6, 1978 in Bogota, Colombia

THE BEST THING ABOUT BEING AN HLAA MEMBER IS… knowing that I am not alone in what I am dealing with and that there are people who I can reach out to and know that together we can come up with a plan to get through the challenges. It helps to brainstorm with others who truly know what you’re dealing with.

MY HEARING LOSS… My parents didn’t discover my hearing loss until I had testing in kindergarten. I didn’t get my first pair of bilateral hearing aids until first grade (I was 6). My hearing had always stayed the same until I got to high school and I knew once I was switched from in-the-ear to the behind-the-ear hearing aids, my hearing was worse. I qualified for a cochlear implant and got it March 5, 2013. I now have a cochlear implant in my left ear and wear a hearing aid in my right ear.

WHEN I WAS LITTLE, I WANTED TO BE A… basketball player (got a lesson in reality from my mom, who informed me that I couldn’t be a professional basketball player because of my height—I was in either fourth or fifth grade).

MY FAVORITE CHILDHOOD MEMORY IS… spending time with my family, trips we took together, and getting to go to Honduras with my parents to get my new sister and brother!

I LOVE THE SOUND OF… thunder (until my cochlear implant I couldn’t hear it at all). I love hearing my nephews and niece telling me they love me.

I MOST DEFINITELY AM NOT… taller than three feet (91 cm)!

I MISS… my dad and late orthopedic surgeon Dr Kopits.

PEOPLE WOULD BE SURPRISED THAT I… took Taekwondo and broke a one-half inch thick board with my foot; that I used to take horseback riding lessons.

HAPPINESS IS… loving yourself and accepting the things that make you different.

I HAVE A FEAR OF… bugs and bats. Also, I am wary of dogs tails—especially if they are wagging. I have been knocked off my feet with a dog’s tail!

I WOULD LOVE TO MEET… my birth parents (my adoption was a closed adoption).

WORKING NINE TO FIVE… I worked for Discover Card, Kmart (seasonal), Kohl’s (seasonal), assistant to the manager of my ENT doctor’s practice (before my hearing got really bad) and as a volunteer at the local hospital in their mail room.

I AM… a little person, a loyal friend and loving.

KINDEST THING SOMEONE HAS DONE FOR ME… In my senior year in high school we had a banquet and all the senior guys got on their knees to dance with me. That same year the senior class took a trip to New York City. One teacher said I couldn’t go unless my mom came with us because if my scooter broke down, I would be a liability. My friends found out what this teacher said and they told him that if my scooter broke down they would carry it back to the bus and load it, and would carry me around! He wouldn’t budge and told them I would be a liability. They said “no, you are the liability, not Meredith.” When the senior trip day came, about 50-75 percent of the senior class choose to not go on the class trip as a direct result of what the teacher said.

I like all the feature articles in Hearing Loss Magazine, especially the Seen & Heard profiles of people with hearing loss.

 





Timothy Chambers: Living a Creative Life with Usher Syndrome

29 06 2014

Artist Timothy Chambers is our cover feature for the July/August 2014 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine, which I design bimonthly for the Hearing Loss Association of America. I interviewed and photographed Timothy for this feature.

Timothy cover

 

Living a Creative Life with Usher Syndrome 

It was a breezy Sunday in May when I drove out to bucolic Berryville, Virginia, to meet Timothy Chambers and watch him paint a plein aire landscape. Tim has Usher syndrome, a condition characterized by hearing loss and progressive vision loss, but it certainly hasn’t stopped him from pursuing his passion for painting. He is funny, a great storyteller, a gifted artist and amazingly optimistic.

What is your earliest memory of hearing loss and vision loss?
In kindergarten, my teacher noticed that when she was facing me, I understood her. However, when she turned away from me toward the chalkboard, I did not. She brought this to my parents’ attention, and we visited an audiologist who confirmed that I had hearing loss, and fitted me with a set of hearing aids.

I then had speech therapy in first and second grade with Mrs. Mary Beard, who was amazing, as I have always been told that I speak much better than I hear. Although I began wearing glasses and contact lenses in middle school, it wasn’t until I was 30 years old before any doctor suggested that I had retinal issues.

Timothy Feature Page 1What was your first reaction to the diagnosis of Usher syndrome?
At the age of 30 and on the heels of coming in second place in an international portrait competition, I went for my annual routine eye checkup. It started fine, but routine quickly turned to horror when the doctor’s face went from relaxed to concerned. “Something’s not right. You need to see a retinal specialist.” The feeling was dread, it was silence, it was fear, it was unfamiliar, it couldn’t be. Please, no…

My wife (and best friend) Kim and I were referred to a retinal specialist in Washington, D.C. My worst fears were confirmed. I had Usher syndrome, a degenerative disease in which one steadily loses their hearing and vision. Unfortunately, my specialist lacked any sense of bedside manners. In an effort to provide him some background about me as we considered a plan of action, I brought a portfolio of my portrait paintings for him to view. He flipped through a few pages then thrust it back into my hands, and with the warmth of a surgical knife, said, “Find another profession.” Ugh. That hurt. To this day, I cringe when that tape plays in my mind.

Tim and wifeHave you availed yourself of any hearing or visual assistive technologies to help you live and work successfully with your dual loss?
I can get by fairly well with hearing aids and quite a bit of lip reading. Hearing over the phone, or without being able to see someone’s face, or being in a loud environment is really challenging. However I’m surrounded by people who don’t mind repeating things.

I have a good friend, Mike, who’s been incredibly thoughtful. Mike has provided me with updated computers and large monitors. But other than that, I haven’t made use of any visual aids… yet. Though I do enjoy a good pair of sunglasses with amber tint which works best to reduce glare and increase contrast.

My greatest asset is my wife Kim. She’s thoughtful in looking out for me. She makes sure that cabinets are closed, and teaches the kids to move their toys and shoes out of the way. Outdoors, she always alerts me of steps, curbs, anything I could trip over. She makes my life so much easier. Besides, it’s nice to have a beautiful woman by my side. Even my dog knows to get out of the way when she hears me coming.

What is the psychological impact of living with Usher syndrome?
It took me a couple of years to learn to deal with the news of the disease and the dual sensory loss. My worst fear was that I would lose my sight and hearing completely, and be relegated to a rocking chair, waiting for someone to come touch me and say hello. I feared that my life would become nothing, that I would have nothing to offer. I feared that I would be forgotten, dismissed, losing all dignity, a mere inconvenience in the lives of those who could still live fully. It was a deep fear, and it would take time for me to release it and trust that God truly does have plans for a future for me.

The original diagnosis and advice (“find another profession”) played mercilessly in my head, paralyzing me at times. In fact, I didn’t get a full night’s sleep for almost two years due to waking up in fear of what lay ahead.

Finally, it was our family physician who helped me get over the fears. He said, “Tim, this is an issue of faith and trust. You’re healthy. Go live.”

It wasn’t until I began to take my physician’s advice and begin to trust that God is greater than everything, including my disease and all my fears, that I began to move past the fear.

I recall sharing the original physician’s diagnosis with Dr. Irene Maumenee, head of Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins—one of the leading eye centers in the world. Her response was, “Find another profession? Why? You paint until you can’t!” Even now, as I write her charge, I get shivers of joy and thankfulness. Yes, that is how we should live, echoing Jonathan Swift: “May you live all the days of your life.”

I left there with a new lease on life. Instead of living in dread, I began to live with optimism again. Though fear might be a part of the battle, it need not prevail.

How do you compensate for both vision and hearing loss?
I’ve had a few audiologists say that one hearing aid would do me fine, but I always hear much better with two. Digital hearing aids are such a blessing. Audiologists are able to fine-tune the instruments to really hone in on what you can hear. Transpositioning is a wonderful technology, as it moves sounds outside of your hearing range to within your hearing range. Regarding my field of vision, it’s a definite challenge. I have to do a lot of scanning, and memorizing where things are really helps out a lot. I’m comfortable in familiar environments. Being in a new place or a place I haven’t been to in a long time can be stressful until I learn where everything is.

Last year, my doctor at Wilmer Eye Institute, Dr. Hendrik P. M. Scholl, told me that I have about a 17-degree visual field in each eye. That’s really small considering normally we have about a 200-degree visual field. When he told me that, I actually felt like a walking miracle, considering I’m able to do a lot of things with such a narrow range of vision.

For example, I still play tennis. The funny thing is, I can hit a ball coming at me 100 mph, but I have a difficult time finding the ball on the court two feet away. My friends help me with comments as, “Tim! nine o’clock short range!” to help me locate the ball. The perplexed look of bystanders is priceless!

Having a extremely narrow range of vision requires extra planning. Whenever I move I have to carefully look to my left and right to see if anybody’s coming. Going down the steps can be challenging because I can’t see the shadows that indicate the steps. I never know if I’m going to miss a step; falling kind of hurts, I try to avoid that!

Honestly, I am just very thankful that I still can paint. I don’t take it for granted, and each day I wake up and I can see, I smile and think “Yes! I can see!” It’s a great way to start the day to be able to see and hear and move. I’ve learned to give God many thanks for the told simple things. It doesn’t take much for me to be content like it used to.

How did you prepare—if one can prepare for such a thing—for losing so much of your sight and your hearing?
Honestly, I don’t think you can be prepared. I asked Dr. Maumanee, “Should I start learning Braille?” She replied, “No, you really can’t. When the time comes,
then you can go down that road.”

I remember seeing a book some time ago titled, Just Enough Light for the Step That I’m On, by Stormie Omartian. That’s how God has covered me; he doesn’t give me a beacon to shine a mile down the road, but he always provides enough light to get by right here, right now.

I’m going to take one step at a time, and try to enjoy the moment. And who knows? As Clint Eastwood said, “Tomorrow is promised to no one.” Enjoy and make the most of today.

How does the limited field of vision affect your everyday life?
I don’t yet walk with a cane or any other visual assistance, so to everybody else I look completely normal. My disability is invisible to them. But what they don’t know is that I can’t see anything except what’s right in front of me, which means I walk into people, cut people off, get too close to people, and so on.

For example, I would walk into a store, I see a line, and I get in at what I see as the end of it. Somebody taps me on my shoulder and says, “Who do you think you are? Cutting in front of people? Think you’re better than us?” Oftentimes, there’s not enough time to explain, so I get some dirty looks.

Every day, Kim and the kids—Lindsie (31), Drew (19) and Chloe (13)—are my eyes and ears, always working doubly hard to watch out for me. I marvel at their patience, repeating things over and over. Every day is an adventure.

I would imagine that one of the biggest changes you faced was giving up driving and the lack of freedom and independence that followed. The worst! Yes, it was hard, but it’s also a relief! I hated giving up independence, and I hated having to be a burden to everybody else, but I also didn’t want to cause an accident and hurt someone.

It’s definitely been an adjustment, especially for Kim, being the only driver at home. I have to do a lot more planning, and be ready to go at a moment’s notice when someone offers a ride. I keep a running list of things I need, so that when a ride becomes available, I’m ready. I guess I have to think a little bit more about details than I’m used to. Kim’s been great, adjusting without complaint.

Your father, William T. Chambers, is also a portrait painter. When did you discover you had talent?
I always loved to draw, and my parents gave me plenty of paper and writing instruments to draw with, and of course I learned a lot from my dad. I still do. Growing up, I spent most of my time playing outside. During the school year my favorite class was art. I would always go way overboard on the assignments and just loved it. My friends and I used to dream that we would play for the Chicago White Sox or the Cubs, but I always knew that I was going to be an artist.

Tell me about your art education.
My art education isn’t straightforward. I had a few scholarships out of high school to colleges, but I quickly realized I wasn’t going to learn anything. My dad had set a high standard of instruction for me.

During my freshman year at the University of Minnesota, my dad found an apprenticeship in an arts studio in Minneapolis. I studied with Richard Lack during the day, and took courses at the university in the evenings for two years. I began studying with Impressionist Henry Hensche at the Cape School of Art in Provincetown, Massachusetts, in 1983. It was there that I found my love for color.

Also, it was at Provincetown where I met Cedric Egeli, who invited me to study with him in Annapolis, Maryland. Cedric and his wife Joanette, both amazing artists, had a profound influence on my art. Cedric is a thinker, who believes understanding and keen observation are essential to good painting. Throughout the years I have continued to paint with them in the summers on the Cape.

I also studied at the American Academy of Art in Chicago, as well as with Sebastian Capella near San Diego.

How has your condition challenged you in your portrait business?
One question people ask me is, “Well, how in the world do you handle a portrait sitting?” People expect a portrait artist to have the best vision in the world, but I still can create beautiful paintings, even if I can’t always see where I’m walking. It’s a funny paradox. Kim and I go to portrait sittings together. I follow her around—she knows what I need to do and what I’m looking for. We set up, I get to know my surroundings, I get to know my subject, and I get to work.

I can see directly in front of me what I’m looking at; I just can’t see off to the side. But then again, a portrait is about the person in front of you. I just have to work at it a lot harder than I used to. With some customers, a friendship is established. After receiving a portrait that exceeds their expectations, I share with them about my condition, and they want to know more. But, if I share that I have an eye disease with a new client, most will view the combination of an artist with an eye malady as incompatible, and will politely show me the door. What a pleasure it is to produce a beautiful portrait for a client to cherish.

The truth is that a good portrait or painting requires a lot more than vision. It involves one with a heart and mind that truly is excited about life and is able to recognize the essence of it.

Tim Paintings

What attracts you to portraits? Do you paint other subjects?
I love painting landscapes, but portraits present the greatest challenge to an artist. My dad always said that portraiture is the king of art. He’s right. To capture the essence of a person is no small feat. I love getting to know my subjects, who they are, where life has taken them.

I’ve been asked what happens when I meet somebody who’s not pretty or handsome. I’ve never met somebody who is not beautiful. Every person whom I have painted, I look at in wonder, knowing that they are uniquely created by the hand of God. My goal is to learn what makes them unique, and to convey that in my painting.

Has developing your artwork into a means of earning a living changed either your work or your process?
That’s a great question. Yes, it has affected my work. Obviously, with a portrait, what I’m really painting is what is in the client’s mind, their expectation. When I paint a child, I am painting the mother’s perception of that child, not mine. I could have a portrait that a dozen people see in my studio, and they say, “Oh my goodness, Tim, you nailed that portrait.”

But then the mother might look at it and say, “That’s not my daughter.” Of course, it looks just like her daughter, but that mother knows something about her daughter that I haven’t quite yet captured. It could be something that’s in her mind, that no longer exists in her daughter. My job is to know what she’s thinking and then capture it. I spend time interviewing my subjects before I paint them.

With a landscape painting, the viewer is not as critical. My dad says, “Nobody’s going to say that tree is in the wrong place.” I can also take liberties with color, which excites me.

Define your painting style.
I define my work as Impressionistic with a complimentary focus on form and draftsmanship. I prefer a looser style, but then again I still have to have enough detail to capture a person’s unique likeness in a portrait. I am drawn to the freshness and vitality of a painting sketch, and I don’t possess the patience to finish something with a lot of detail. To this day, I still try to find that balance between a very loose painting and one that has sufficient detail. If I go too far in detail, I think the painting begins to look overworked. Students will ask me, “How do I know when my painting is done?” My answer is, “When you have achieved the concept that first struck you about your subject.”

Do you work on one painting at a time? What mediums do you use?
I’m at my best when I take one painting from start to finish. I usually have a few going at once though, because it allows me to step back and see the progress of them or what I could do to improve them before I jump back into them. I like working in oils the most, but also very much enjoy pastel and charcoal.

Describe your favorite portrait.
Two that come to mind are my portraits of Charles “Chuck” Colson (Prison Fellowship Ministries and Special Counsel to President Richard Nixon), and some outdoor family portraits.

Painting Chuck Colson’s portrait was a wonderful challenge. My goal was to convey the man who had such a great love for people, but was also a great statesman. He was gracious in giving me A Creative Life from page 13 plenty of time to interview him. Mr. Colson always wore a suit and tie, but if you look at his portrait, he obliged my request to remove his jacket. This gave him an approachable look, for he was a very kind man. When I arrived for the sittings, he would help me carry my equipment.

At the unveiling, celebrating the 30th anniversary of Prison Fellowship Ministries and Colson’s 75th birthday, many people exclaimed how the portrait really captured so many different things about him. That’s what a portrait artist wants to hear.

What is the best advice you were ever given as an artist?
I’ve been given plenty of good advice. Here are a few: Work hard. Love what you do. Listen to what your teacher says. Don’t defend your work. Just listen, trust, and do. Get your big shapes and masses right. My advice to other artists is all of the above plus you need to love what you are painting or the painting won’t work.

How do you maintain the demands of being a self-employed artist and raising a family?
It’s not easy, but working at home really helps. When you have your own business, you have to wear all the hats, and you can never just leave your job at work. At least I can’t. But then again, I really love what I do. It’s who I am. I get excited about the colors, shapes, and the people I see. I’m always painting in my head.

In our home, Kim is the one who holds everything together. I couldn’t live without her. I love spending time with my kids, knowing what they’re up to. Kim does well with details, where I am more of a big picture person. We’re opposite, but as time goes on, a very good fit.

Tell me about your newly-launched online painting school.
I really enjoy teaching. I started teaching about 20 years ago, beginning with a weekly drawing class in my studio. The most amazing thing about teaching is seeing people enjoy the simplicity of creating art, even on a basic level. The other amazing thing is what I learn. It’s one thing to know a concept intrinsically, but it’s another thing to articulate it so others can understand. I love the challenge, and it makes me a better painter.

I started IguanaPaint Academy (www.IguanaPaint.com) four years ago when families began asking me if I would teach their kids art. The parents were saying, “I have a child who’s gifted in art but I have no idea what to teach.” I started with local workshops, but then some students couldn’t attend and asked if I could teach them long distance.

We launched IguanaPaint’s first courses this past January 2014 and we now have students from five continents! In addition to my drawing courses, we have courses in filmmaking, video, colored pencil, photography, and even an Art of Engineering course.

What is your dream as an artist that is yet to be fulfilled?
To have an established gallery or company sponsor a series of paintings from travels around the world; I’d like to record a response to the beauty of those different locations and people. That would be incredibly exciting.

What inspires you?
Honestly, being alive. I love light, I love new things, I love stories. One of the great definers of life is perseverance. Life is hard. Loving people is hard. Learning to know what’s important and keeping things simple seems to help me enjoy life and find the beauty in what I see.

Cindy Dyer is a freelance graphic designer, artist and photographer in Alexandria, Virginia. Visit her blog at cindydyer.wordpress.com. She can be reached at dyerdesign@aol.com.





HLAA members! Here’s your chance to be Seen & Heard at Convention 2014 in Austin, Texas!

25 05 2014

If you haven’t been Seen & Heard yet with the Hearing Loss Association of America, now’s your chance. We still have HLAA members to profile from past sessions in D.C. and Providence, RI, but we want to collect even more. You could be profiled in the magazine or on the HLAA website!

Fill out our fun questionnaire for a chance to be profiled in Hearing Loss Magazine. Email me at dyerdesign@aol.com for the questionnaire. Fill it out, then email the file to Barbara Kelley, editor-in-chief, at bkelley@hearingloss.org. You must be a member of HLAA to participate.

Or just answer four short questions on-site and we’ll share your thoughts on our website and/or in Hearing Loss Magazine.

Wear something colorful on Friday, then pop into photographer Cindy Dyer’s traveling studio for a quick portrait session.

Looking forward to seeing everyone at Convention 2014 next month!

Friday, June 27 • 1:00 – 3:00 p.m.
Studio will be located in the Rio Grande Exhibit Hall.

S&H Group





The Pawlowski family

13 05 2014

I photographed the Pawlowski family for the cover of the May/June 2014 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine, published bimonthly by the Hearing Loss Association of American (HLAA). From left, Alex, Katherine, Megan (mom), Nicholas, Sebastian (dad), and Elizabeth. Eight-year-old Katherine is HLAA’s first Walk4Hearing Ambassador.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

MayJune2014cover

 





Seen & Heard: Jane Seifert

12 03 2014

Jane Seifert, a member of the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA), just made her Seen & Heard profile debut in the March/April 2014 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine. I photographed Jane at HLAA’s Convention 2012 in Providence, Rhode Island.

Join the Hearing Loss Association of America! Do you have a hearing loss or know someone who does? Consider membership in the Hearing Loss Association of America. Sign up for membership here.

Photo © Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Jane Seifert S&H

JANE A. SEIFERT   / New York City / Born July 25, 1949 in Detroit, MI

MY HEARING LOSS… I had slight hearing loss (called “sensitivity”) as early as high school. My hearing started deteriorating over the 30-year period when I was working off and on in Africa. I had to take anti-malarials (quinine) when I traveled or lived there. Quinine destroys the cilia in the ear. No one told me that until I came back from five months in Cameroon and my hearing had plummeted.  My audiologist and ENT were ordering brain scans and every imaginable test. Nothing showed up. Finally my audiologist of 10 years said, “When you go to all those strange places, you never take quinine, do you?” I said, “Of course I do.” “Well,” she said, “it took me long enough to ask.”

Six years ago I got a cochlear implant, and one-and-a-half years ago I got a second one. It’s like a miracle! I’ve even started listening to music and going to musicals, not because my friends want to, but because I enjoy them.

SAGE ADVICE… Don’t be in denial. It wastes a lot of time that could be used to figure out how to overcome the problem and avoid going into a cocoon.

WHEN I WAS LITTLE… I was totally without ambition. The assumption by my parents and everyone else was that I would go to college, marry the boy next door and raise little Janes and Johns. I knew I didn’t want to do that, but I had no idea what I did want to do. My subsequent careers (banking, international financial and economic development, teaching) happened quite serendipitously, with a combination of luck and seizing the moment.

MY FAVORITE CHILDHOOD MEMORY IS… my mother reading to me at night before I went to sleep.

THE BEST GIFT I EVER RECEIVED… was my cats, Tuffy and Shadow—they have been very loyal friends. I never had a pet before and I’ve been astonished at how much positive influence they have over my life.

THE FIRST THING I BOUGHT WITH MY OWN MONEY… I didn’t buy a thing. I put every dime into a savings account so I would have the money to go to Paris for my junior year of college—and I did!

IN MY SPARE TIME, I… do word and number puzzles, work out, read voraciously, watch old and foreign movies, go to restaurants, tell stories, cultivate and maintain friendships. I am also a history buff and an avid traveler.

I WISH I HAD A TALENT FOR… drawing and painting. I would find it so relaxing to be able to paint and draw. I would settle for being a good photographer.

I WOULD LOVE TO MEET… Bill and Melinda Gates. I feel they have been given bad advice on education and would hope they would be open to different viewpoints.

I HAVE A WEAKNESS FOR… chocolate and anything that’s blue and yellow—like the blues and yellows in Monet’s kitchen.

I COLLECT… jewelry from around the world, pottery, old lace, paintings, art books, friends and good memories of them.

WORKING NINE TO FIVE… banker, economic and financial development officer, special ed teacher, teacher of English as a foreign language, translator/interpreter

HAPPINESS IS… a sunny Sunday afternoon. Brunch with friends. Coming home and reading the Sunday New York Times. Taking a nap with the cats curled around me.

I AM…  inquiring, hopeful and adaptable.

I HAVE THE UNCANNY ABILITY TO… use very few clues (mostly non-verbal) to deduce what is going on around me.

I SIMPLY CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT… good friends, good food and good conversation.

MY GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT… was making loans to Bosnian women after the Civil War so they could start their own businesses and recover—and they did.

The personal articles in Hearing Loss Magazine make me feel less lonely and isolated.





Stock Shots: Karen & Gina

15 01 2014

My friends Karen and Gina modeled for me for the Hearing Loss Magazine last month. Karen owns Karen Wyatt Skin Care, a skin care salon in Burke, VA.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

KarenGinaBigPhotoweb





Seen & Heard: Chelle George

15 01 2014

Chelle George is our Seen & Heard profile in the January/February 2014 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine, published bimonthly by the Hearing Loss Association of America. I  photographed Chelle at HLAA’s Convention 2012 in Providence, R.I.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

S&H Chelle George

CHELLE GEORGE

Salt Lake City, UT / Born 2.6.1968, in Redlands, CA

MY HEARING LOSS… I was talking to my mom on the phone, answering questions wrong when she said loud and clear, “For God’s sake, get some hearing aids!” I was 23 years old and 22 years later, I’m still wearing hearing aids.  My current pair are translucent red and I love to show them off.

SAGE ADVICE… In the beginning, have the audiologist adjust the hearing aids to a lower volume to get used to noise again.

FUNNY HEARING LOSS MOMENT… Getting lyrics wrong. Some years ago, my kids popped a new Eminem CD into the stereo while we were driving. A ballad came on and I just knew a big bad rapper wouldn’t be singing about that. I turned the music off with a smile and asked the kids, ‘Is he singing about being queen of his carpet?’ When their laughter died down, they told me he was singing, “I’m cleaning out my closet.” We never could sing the right lyrics after that.

FAVORITE CHILDHOOD MEMORY… Watching thunderstorms with my family in the middle of the night. We would get up and gather in front of the sliding glass door to watch.

PETS? Squeaker, my 19 lb. cat. He’s my buddy. The reason I named him Squeaker was I thought his meow was ‘broken.’ Only later did my family tell me his meow is fine and it was my hearing that was broken! At least Squeaker meows a lot, so the name still fits.

WORKING NINE TO FIVE… hairdresser, day care, hairdresser again, worked with people with intellectual disabilities (loved working with them) and back to hairdresser again.

I LOVE THE SOUND OF… I love it when it’s quiet enough I can hear the clock tick (only possible with my hearing aids in). Big wind chimes charm me. I love my grandson’s laughter and listening to drums.

IN MY SPARE TIME, I… write about hearing loss trying to get hearing people to understand what it’s like. There are so many misconceptions and I want to set them straight as much as I can.

I COLLECT… butterflies. Butterflies are about transformation, metamorphosis, a process of becoming which I identify with. A friend once told me, ‘Butterflies are Free’, and proceeded to tell me about the movie. I like that too. “There is nothing in the caterpillar that tells you it’s going to be a butterfly.” —R. Buckminster Fuller

I AM… dependable, honest and easy going.

BEST THING SINCE SLICED BREAD… Digital hearing aids. When I switched from analog to digital, I was amazed at the difference. There are so many options to chose from now and I’m glad I live in the technology age.

I AM DEFINITELY NOT… stuck up as many people assume. I just can’t hear them until they have my attention first.

PEOPLE WOULD BE SURPRISED THAT I… attended the Burning Man event for years. I still go to the regional events and find that all the people are patient and accepting of hearing loss.

MY THREE FAVORITE THINGS ARE… My computer, my smartphone and my car. They keep me independent.

GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT… Helping to pull together Salt Lake City’s first Walk4Hearing in 2010. It was the first big event I ever organized and it was all done by volunteers.

I HAVE A WEAKNESS FOR… homemade cookies!

FIVE PLACES I HAVE LIVED… Blythe, CA; Twentynine Palms, CA; Albany, GA; Bullhead City, AZ; Salt Lake City, UT

I CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT… my hearing aids, a book in my hand and laughter.

FAVORITE QUOTE… From Auntie Mame—“Live! Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death.”

I like reading people’s personal stories in Hearing Loss Magazine.

 




The Not So Elusive Josh Vinyard

6 11 2013

Dancer Josh “Elusive” Vinyard is our cover feature for the November/December 2013 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine, published bimonthly by the Hearing Loss Association of America. After seeing Josh on America’s Got Talent, I told HLM editor Barbara Kelley about him and then got the ball rolling to contact him. I was excited to learn that he lives in Austin, less than a two-hour drive from my family’s house in San Antonio!

Very special thanks to photographer Brian K. Loflin for assisting with the photo shoot of Josh all around Austin, as well as the images he shot for the feature. Brian was my boss many years ago and has long been my photography mentor. Austin is full of very colorful, graffiti-covered walls that made for a perfect backdrop for some of our shots. You can find Brian’s work at www.loflin-images.com. Visit his natural science photography blog, full of informative how-to photography articles, here: http://bkloflin.wordpress.com/.

Thanks also to Josh’s friend, Peter Tsai, for the photographs he contributed to the feature. Visit Peter’s website at http://www.petertsaiphotography.com/blog/. Visit Josh Vinyard’s website here.

____________________________________________

The Not So Elusive Josh Vinyard by Cindy Dyer

One night I was flipping through TV channels and paused at just the right time to meet 22-year-old Josh “Elusive” Vinyard, a semi-finalist on America’s Got Talent (Season 7). I don’t usually watch the show, but when I paused, there was Josh—sharing his experience with hearing loss. I watched his performance and was mesmerized by his talent and athleticism. Through a web search, I learned that he lives in Austin, less than a two-hour drive from San Antonio where my family lives, so I could easily interview and photograph him the next time I was in the area. I sent him an email introducing myself and he responded immediately. I spent the entire day with Josh, photographing him and getting to know this very talented young man. (Cover photo by Cindy Dyer)

Josh Cover

Josh is unlike other subjects I have photographed for Hearing Loss Magazine. All of the other people we have featured have faced their hearing loss and availed themselves of the amazing technology. Josh has avoided it, and I don’t think he really knows what it could do for him. His personal choice is to not wear hearing aids, despite his mother’s pressure to do so when he was younger. If he were armed with more knowledge about the products available to athletes, I think he might possibly consider it in the future. What do you think?

Tell me about your hearing loss.
I honestly don’t know many of the details of my hearing loss from when I was younger. I was born with holes in both of my eardrums. I have had four surgeries on my left ear and one on my right ear. Thankfully, having surgery to repair the hole in my right eardrum worked. The next two surgeries were on my left ear. The last surgery was to remove a cholesteatoma. [A cholesteatoma is an abnormal skin growth in the middle ear behind the eardrum. It is usually caused by repeated infection that causes an ingrowth of the skin of the eardrum. Hearing loss, dizziness, and facial muscle paralysis are rare but can result from continued cholesteatoma growth.] You would think I would take the time to learn about it now that I’m older, but it has affected me so much in my younger life and I suppose I just prefer to leave it behind me.

Did you have any issues with your hearing loss when you were younger and in school?
I wish I would have had more help in school. My mother pressured me to wear a hearing aid but I refused. I thought it would further alienate me from other kids and decrease my chances for making any friends. The truth was, I was already a social outcast because I could barely hear since the time I was born.

Growing up, I had a hard time hearing people so I didn’t understand them most of the time. My solution was to stop trying to listen and play in my own imagination. I kept to myself and daydreamed all day long. I essentially committed social suicide without having a clue I was doing it. I gave the appearance of a loner, so kids labeled me as a weirdo and, presto, no friends!

The teachers accused me of not paying attention in class and, presto, angry teachers! Granted, I wasn’t paying attention, but I never understood what they were talking about every time I did try listening. I refused to accept any hearing aids. School is not a fun place when you think the teachers and students are against you. And when you’re young, you blame yourself.

JoshByBrianWere you teased in school because of your hearing loss?
I’m sure I was, but there are no specific times that I can remember. I never talked about my hearing loss when I was younger. I don’t want to say I was hiding it, but I never felt the need to express it with others. It was my personal business.

Had you ever considered wearing a hearing aid? Do you think you’re missing out on things?
I had not considered wearing hearing aids. As I said, I refused when my mother tried to get me to. The reason is because I did not want to be further segregated from the other kids. I don’t have the desire to wear one now because growing up, my hearing loss affected my life (for the better, I think) and I have discovered a lot of ways not to necessarily overcome it, but to handle it. I feel like I would be leaving a part of me behind in a sense. As an athlete, I don’t think I could constantly wear one. When I’m working on a show, movie, or in a competition, I need to hear, but I am performing and moving around a lot.

I’ve seen the video of you breakdancing when you received your high school diploma. Was this spontaneous?
It was a little message that only I understood, but that’s all that mattered. I relied on my dancing to get me through the hard times, including school. That was my way of declaring, “This is what got me through, not you.” It sounds a little cold when I actually say it, but that is how I felt and I wanted to leave that stamp. (Photo of Josh above, left by Brian K. Loflin)

How do you communicate without the help of technology?
I read a lot of body language and facial expressions. This practice always gives me clues to the context of the discussion and then I fill in the gaps of what I did not hear. I love that I have learned to do it this way, though. I probably don’t hear everything but body language gives me an insight to what they really want to say versus what they are actually saying.

Josh Walking WallHow do people react when they learn you have a hearing loss?
The reaction is always the same. “That explains a lot.” But then, at the same time they typically marvel on how well I do despite my hearing loss. (Photo of Josh at right by Cindy Dyer)

How does your hearing loss affect your life now, including dancing?
Nothing that is really different, honestly. I ask people to repeat themselves a lot, and will offer them my explanation if I have to ask them repeatedly. I still rely on other resources for understanding people other than just hearing. My resources include body language, tone of their voice, reading their facial expression, the syllables of each word they use and lastly, the context of the discussion to weave everything together. As for dancing, it teaches me to rely on intuitively feeling the music versus counting beats.

What would you want hearing people to know about your hearing loss in order to be more sensitive and accommodating?
No special treatment needed. Just be understanding of when I ask you to repeat yourself or to speak a little louder. Just don’t try to talk in my bad ear!

If someone were to encourage you to get your hearing evaluated to see if there is any kind of technology that would help you hear better, or understand conversation better, would you give it a try for your day-to-day life outside of dancing?
I would be open to something new. I have this thought that technology won’t help me due to my strenuous physical activities. Would something fall off? Bounce around too much? That is why I have not tried anything. I guess I need more information. (Photo of Josh against the Austin skyline by Peter Tsai)

Josh By Peter 1

When did you start dancing?
I started dancing at age 13. I didn’t think about mastering the skill. I was a disgruntled, self-destructive youth. I just wanted to be good at something. At age 15, I really began to rely on dancing to fulfill me emotionally. I had felt worthless due to my social inadequacies. I remember telling myself, “You’re not good at anything, but this is what you’re best at so just try to be decent at it.”

Needless to say, I was pretty hard on myself. My dancing is the offspring of my pain, but, ironically. It has practically given me everything I have now. Pain plus dancing have made me into who I am today—a person whom I love and believe in.

Does your family support your career choice?
I have an awesome, amazing and loving family, and I love them all so much. I am the youngest and have an older brother and sister. We all enjoy our time together. It’s a rare thing that I have and I am so lucky.

My family had never really supported my dancing and stunts, but they never discouraged it either. When it comes down to it, their attitude helped a lot. People have big dreams and a lot of them fall flat on their face. They thought there was a chance I might fail trying, but they weren’t going to discourage me from trying.

When the America’s Got Talent opportunity arose, it was one of those events where they knew that anything was possible and I could achieve anything. Not that they didn’t think I had a lack of talent to do it, but just because they know how hard the world is. They fully support me now.

What is your training ritual?
I try to practice for a few hours every day. Or at least, at the bare minimum, one hour. Sometimes I will practice for six straight hours, then have a lengthy stretching session, followed by working out, then do some cardiovascular training such as running. It wasn’t until later that I learned the importance of recovery. I might then massage my body with a foam roller followed by an Epsom salt bath. My complete regimen averages about 20-30 hours a week.

I have a background in gymnastics and martial arts that I pull from for working out. Around age 20, I studied anatomy and physiology enough to begin to understand really how working out worked. That’s when I began to design my own workouts and training routines specifically geared toward Bboying.

“Bboying” stands for Break Boy. Breakers originally used this semi-acronym before the term breakdancing was popularly used. Using the Bboying is to use it as a verb, to breakdance. To call someone “Bboy” before their name is an adjective, to define them as a breaker. I do workouts and exercises that I still have not seen other people do.

What are some of the daily habits and disciplines required to become a professional dancer?
You have to work hard and push yourself. The more you sweat, the less you cry when things don’t work out. Dancing is a special field. You can’t just physically exert yourself. You have to exercise tremendous imagination and emotions. One of the hardest things to do is to simply allow yourself to relax, especially after an injury.

A dancer should have had a lot of training in various physical endeavors such as stunt classes, martial arts, etc.

How does martial arts and stunt training help with dancing?
The study of movement is important and the more you know, even if it’s just how cars move, the more you understand about yourself. Therefore, I have training in gymnastics, martial arts, dance, and Parkour. (Parkour, also known as Free Running, was originally developed as a military obstacle training to efficiently and effectively move through your environment. You can see examples of this on YouTube, martial arts, other forms of dance, and just a lot of physical activities in general.)

I do a lot of random things—all physical—that all come together and help form me either directly or indirectly as an athlete and performer.

What was your first paying gig or contest and how did it go?
My first paying gig was when I was 15. I dressed up as Spiderman and pretended to be him for a child’s birthday—doing flips and everything. I made $50 for that. I won my first competition when I was 16. I was still a self-destructive kid, but it was one of those moments that make me say to myself, “I might not be a failure. I just might be worth something.”

Do you have a “day job” or are you focusing solely on making a career out of your passion for dance?
As of now, I am a full-time entertainer for dancing and stunts. Dancing has always been fun and it is my “crutch” and it will probably continue to be. As for a choice of career though, I am pursuing the stunt realm.

Which dancers inspired you when started dancing? Who are your favorite dancers in this genre?
I never really looked up to other dancers when I was learning. In my mid-teens, though, I was heavily inspired by Bboy Physicx. (He is a Bboy from Korea). Later I tried to learn from entertainers of all types. I loved to watch Bboy Cloud. His real name is Daniel Campos but his dance name is Cloud. Michael Jackson, James Brown and others have also influenced my work. Cloud and Physicx will without a doubt always be some of my favorite dancers in this genre.

What is it about Hip-Hop dance that makes it Hip-Hop?
This is where it begins to get weird unless you already understand it. Breaking is a form of dance that incorporates any movement the individual desires to use. The term breaking came about because Bboys would always dance to the breaks of a song. Breaking is a core part of hiphop. Hip-hop’s roots are in the Bronx and its fundamentals were graffiti, DJs, MCs (rappers) and Bboys. It is a raw art form. I say this because there is hardly any money, fame, or materialistic values involved in this art—the people who are a part of it are in it just to express themselves. It’s a creative outlet and it is fun. When you aren’t misguided for the wrong values, all that is left is you. And you feel compelled to express yourself. When I’m not practicing to gain something (money, etc.) I don’t have so many external influences. Everything becomes internalized, then everything emerges, allowing me to fully express myself. It’s a hard thing to express.

What is the best way to learn Hip-Hop dance? How did you learn it?
The best way to learn is by being a part of the Bboy culture. Go to where dancers are practicing, and join them, even if you don’t know anything. I learned breaking through online tutorials, took classes for a couple of months, and attended workshops when they were available. Above all, I practiced with my community and learned a lot from them. I don’t want to say I have made unique moves as my own, but the way I do them are unique.

Do you try to push yourself in new directions with each new piece?
I do try to make my dances more elaborate and indulge in other styles. One of my favorite things about breaking is that it isn’t one-sided. Breaking is everything and anything you can take from it. You can incorporate martial art moves, other styles of dancing—even different exercises like swimming. I saw a guy who acted like he was swimming on the floor and it looked fantastic, so I use them all.

One thing I usually do not do is choreograph. The beauty and all the appreciation I find for Bboying lies within the ability to improvise. Each song is different, giving you different feelings, different tempos. Every venue is different. Every crowd is different. To adapt and be able to connect with them all is poetry in motion to me!

Have you entered a lot of dance competitions?
I have entered a lot of competitions. I entered one in Arizona when I was 18. I flew out, not exactly knowing where I was going to stay, who would be there, how I would get around, or how I would do. My expectations were pretty low and my trip was not planned at all. I just wanted to get past the preliminaries, but I ended up winning it. Talk about a surprise! Then there was the trip I took to Dallas for my 16th birthday. I had just enough money for a one-way bus ticket. I was relying on my ability to win to get the money to get back home. I lost the first round. I borrowed money from everyone to scrape together a bus ticket. Talk about disappointment!

How did you decide to audition for America’s Got Talent (AGT)?
I was extremely reluctant to audition. I didn’t think I would make it past their auditions, but after a good friend pressed me enough to actually try it out, I reluctantly did. I just walked into the building and said “I’m here to audition.” I ended up making it to the quarterfinals. Out of the 75,000 people who auditioned for the show, I was a solo performer among the 48 groups they selected. I was a little surprised, to say the least. First stop was Austin, then Las Vegas, then to Newark, New Jersey.

When you made the first cut, how did you prepare for the next step?
Once I was told I was going to Vegas, I was really surprised. This meant that I passed the audition round. To go beyond Vegas meant I would be among the quarter-finalists. So I basically made it to round three. I just improvised during the auditions, so I figured this time I’ll actually put together something good. I practiced, rehearsed and executed a very well done routine in the Vegas round. Unfortunately, it was edited around and music dubbed over instead of my actual performance.

What was the AGT experience like? Were there any pressures? How did you adjust—or not adjust?
AGT was a horrifying process, but I was able to fall back on my old nature of being able to internalize and keep myself calm. It kept me and my performances protected. I have to say I adapted as well to the pressures as any survivor possibly could. Being on a live national television show is the scariest thing I have ever done, and I’m not sure if it will ever be topped!

What kinds of things did AGT do to accommodate your hearing loss?
Nothing. They actually didn’t even know about my hearing loss until the last round of the show. They were actually upset that I didn’t tell them sooner.

What were the judges like?
The judges were Howard Stern, Sharon Osbourne, and Howie Mandel. I never got one-on-one time with any of them so I don’t know what they were really like. They critiqued my performance but didn’t offer me constructive criticism.

Judge Howie Mandel said, “…I have to say, Elusive, that usually I don’t like to combine the story with what’s happening, but your story is phenomenal—the fact that you have a hearing loss, yet music is your life. There’s such a dichotomy between your problem and what you’re doing…that you’re so inspirational. And then I watch your strength and then I watch your dancing and your ability. It just dazzles me.”

How has coming so far in AGT helped your career and visibility of your work?
Honestly, I can’t really make any firm claim that AGT has landed me any work. It is a good credential that assesses my value with clients, but it has not directly helped my career.

What advice do you have for a dancer who wants to become established in the arts? Is it important to have an agent?
I don’t believe it’s as important as people think. If an agency finds you just one audition, then they are beneficial and worth it. But too many people rely on agents. As in a lot of careers, people have to go out, hustle, and be able to find their own work. I have never had representation. My advice to others: Have fun and enjoy it. That’s the only way you’ll actually be able to get good at it.

Were you born in Austin?
I was not born in Austin, but I have lived here since I was two or three years old. I have no memories of before Austin, so I consider myself an Austinite. There is not much work for dancing gigs in Austin as of yet, but Texas just increased their tax incentives for filmmakers so that might bring in more work. I focus on film, corporate and marketing gigs in Austin.

Tell me about your commercials.
You can see most of these projects on my website (www.joshvinyard.com). I choreographed the routines myself. Commercials pay handsomely, not for the actual day rate but for the residuals. I always have a lot of fun making videos and love to experiment and find new ways to interact with the camera, the angles, lighting and how it can all influence and alter the performance.

You recently met some agents in California. How did that go?
I met with a lot of agencies but they all wanted me to live in LA. I decided my desire to work didn’t override my desire to live in LA. I am not currently represented by any agencies.

I saw in your IMDB.com profile that you have been a stuntman in several movies, including an upcoming Spiderman movie. How did that come about?
Earlier this year, I went to Los Angeles to pursue dancing and stunt work. After three weeks, I came back to Austin, heartbroken and absolutely broke. I spent the next few days thinking about giving everything up and wallowing in self-pity.

I then picked myself back up, and told myself, Yes, I can do it and I met stunt coordinator Andy Armstrong less than 24 hours later. He proceeded to put me to work on The Amazing Spider-Man 2 for two months as a stunt performer. I can guarantee that if I had kept my same doubtful mindset, it would not have ever happened.

You attended Austin Community College. What did you study?
I was studying for a bachelor’s degree in nutrition. I got halfway there before I dropped out of school to work with Andy Armstrong on the Spider-Man 2 movie, which debuts in 2014. Although I earned enough credit hours for an associate’s degree. It will be some time before I get back to school, though, because I have a career to think about now.

What are some of the current projects you are working on? Future projects?
I am working on film projects, both for dance and stunts. My dream project would be something that incorporates all aspects of entertainment—music, dance, acrobatics, special effects—just everything in general into something extremely dynamic. I have crazy ideas like being completely on fire while doing power moves, and things like that but nothing concrete is planned right now.

I know one thing for sure: It is so critical to always believe in yourself.

HLAA Convention 2014 will be held in Josh’s hometown—Austin, Texas. I think I might be able to convince him to check out the Exhibit Hall and learn about the amazing technology now available to atheletes like him. And who knows? There might be a Josh Vinyard sighting. Just look for the guy dancing off the wall!

Freelance graphic designer and photographer Cindy Dyer serves as designer and photographer for Hearing Loss Magazine. She experienced sudden hearing loss in her right ear in 1993 and had a cholesteatoma removed in same ear in 2003. She wears a hearing aid in her left ear. Cindy can be reached at dyerdesign@aol.com.

Josh’s 2009 graduation from Anderson High School in Austin

America’s Got Talent 2012 Austin Auditions

America’s Got Talent 2012 Quarter-final

Stunt Reel 2013

Fuel Rewards and Shell Gasoline Commercial





Seen & Heard: Carol Halla

6 11 2013

Carol Halla is our Seen & Heard profile in the November/December 2013 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine, published bimonthly by the Hearing Loss Association of America. I  photographed Carol at HLAA’s Convention 2012 in Providence, R.I.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Seen & Heard Carol Halla

CAROL HALLA  Charleston, SC / born January 3 in Evanston, IL

MY HEARING LOSS…I started losing my hearing in both ears rapidly while I was in the Air Force, stationed in Hawaii, when I was 26. I was tested extensively. Over the course of the next 10 years, my hearing loss continued to deteriorate. It would seem to level off only to drop again. No definite cause was ever found, but a lot of scary stuff was ruled out. Through the 80s and 90s I wore increasingly large and powerful hearing aids and remained on active duty. After my retirement from the Air Force in ’97, my industrial strength hearing aids no longer provided the benefit I needed.

I felt the frustration, isolation, and grief that only a person with a profound hearing loss can truly understand. When I found out that I was a possible candidate for either one or two cochlear implants, I was at a total loss as to what to do. After doing my own research, working with the helpful folks at the Veterans Administration, our local CI center, and receiving a wealth of information, I took a giant leap of faith and had my CI surgery in July 2010. Now, I wear one CI on the left ear and a hearing aid on the right ear.

SAGE ADVICE…Educate and advocate for yourself! If you need a hearing aid, wear it and take pride in not allowing yourself to be too stubborn, shy or self-conscious. Be up front with your friends and family—they should offer the most support—but only if they are fully informed! Don’t give up easily—most hearing aids are programmable or adjustable to fit your needs.

FUNNY HEARING LOSS MOMENT…Last year during my annual routine mammogram, when the technician had placed me in the position then went behind the screen to activate the machine, she said over her shoulder what I thought was “say cheese!” But what she really said was “don’t breathe!” Too funny! We both cracked up.

WHEN I WAS LITTLE, I WANTED TO BE…a vet because I love animals.

PETS? Yes—three crazy furball cats—Snickers, Doodles and Katie.

THE HARDEST THING I’VE EVER DONE…During my Air Force career, I deployed to the Persian Gulf twice. The first time I lived in a tent in the desert for seven months with 2 other women. The bathroom facilities were one-quarter mile from our tent and were—shall we say—very primitive! The second time it was an apartment-type dwelling in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia with a different group of women for four months. When I got home each time, I really appreciated all the little comforts of home—like my own bathroom!

I LOVE THE SOUNDS OF…With my new CI, I never tire of hearing the birdsong in my backyard. After activation, the sounds blew me away and brought tears to my eyes.

IN MY SPARE TIME, I…love to read, follow my friends on Facebook and the Hearing Journey, work in the yard on a nice day, continue organizing old pictures, crafts and learning more about my new Canon camera.

PEOPLE WOULD BE SURPRISED THAT I…completed three marathons while I lived in Hawaii.

WHO HAS HAD THE MOST INFLUENCE IN YOUR LIFE? Other than my parents, it’s my loving husband of 28 years, Bruce.

I HAVE A WEAKNESS FOR…vintage jewelry.

I COLLECT…dust bunnies under the furniture (shhh!).

MY FAVORITE COLOR IS…sunny yellow—a real mood lifter.

FIVE PLACES I HAVE LIVED…Wilmette, IL; Stuttgart, Germany; Selma, AL; Aiea, Hawaii; Rapid City, SD; Las Vegas, NV; Charleston, SC. Okay, that’s more than five, but who’s counting?

WORKING NINE TO FIVE…drug store clerk, shoe store clerk, Pizza Hut waitress, 22-year Air Force career, inventory management at an engineering company

I AM… stubborn, persistent and caring.

I HAVE THE UNCANNY ABILITY TO…think the same thing my husband is thinking at the same time. Great minds think alike, right?

I SIMPLY CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT…love and hugs.

I WANT TO BE REMEMBERED…as someone who looked for the good in people without being judgmental.

“I love the interviews and articles in Hearing Loss Magazine. I love reading about how other people are successful in what they chose to do and don’t let hearing loss rule their world.” 





Seen & Heard: Debbie Mohney

7 09 2013

Debbie Mohney is our Seen & Heard profile in the September/October 2013 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine, published bimonthly by the Hearing Loss Association of America. I met and photographed Debbie at HLAA’s Convention 2011 in Washington, D.C.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

S&H Debbie Mohney

Debbie Mohney / Boulder, CO / born June 5 in Boulder, CO

MY HEARING LOSS… I was born with a bilateral high-frequency hearing loss, but it wasn’t discovered until I was in kindergarten. I had speech therapy in kindergarten, and then learned how to advocate for myself by sitting in the front row and getting to know my teachers very well. I got my first hearing aid at 18 when I realized I needed to be able to hear professors in college who often face the blackboard while they write. I now wear two BTE Phonak Nios. They have Sound Recover, which is a frequency transposition program. I make sure all my hearing aids have a telecoil so I can use assistive listening systems. I also have an iCom—a Bluetooth streamer—which allows me to use my cell phone, listen to my iPod, and gives me TV in stereo surround sound—very cool!

SAGE ADVICE… Learn everything you can and attend a Hearing Loss Association of America chapter meeting. Learn what works from other people and all you can about the technology that is available. Stop bluffing your way through conversations and start educating about your needs. Easier said than done sometimes, but I used to be the same way.

MY FUNNY HEARING LOSS MOMENT… The funniest one that wasn’t at the time: I would often meet my parents for lunch, and one day my Mom called and said “We are going to be a little late, Daddy’s dead in the car.” My heart started racing and I shouted out “What???” She replied, “Yeah… Daddy’s down in the garage and the battery is dead in the car.” For many days after that, every time I saw or talked to my Dad, I asked him how he was doing.

WHEN I WAS LITTLE, I WANTED TO BE… a teacher and a writer.

THE BEST GIFT I EVER RECEIVED… My grandma taught me how to read when I was three years old, so I have no memory of actually learning how to read. It gave me advantages that I would not otherwise have with my hearing loss.

MY FAVORITE CHILDHOOD MEMORY IS… sitting in my Dad’s lap to go to sleep as a toddler, watching Johnny Carson. Really, I think I watched more Johnny Carson than I got sleep!

WORKING NINE TO FIVE… I’ve been a babysitter. I’ve worked in a print shop putting publications together. I’ve been an accounts receivable clerk and an office manager.

I HAVE A WEAKNESS FOR… Disneyland and Disneyland.

I LOVE THE SOUND OF… my son playing saxophone. He has a swing band and his music has inspired me to learn how to dance.

IN MY SPARE TIME… I volunteer with HLAA and other hearing loss-related organizations and Boy Scouts. I love to listen to music and enjoy museums, movies and hiking.

MEETING ROCKY STONE… I met Rocky Stone several times—the first time at the New Orleans SHHH Convention. He was so warm and friendly to talk to, and he always asked me about Ann Pruitt from Colorado. From then on, he always remembered me and always had a big smile for me.

Hearing Loss Magazine is a great magazine. In each issue there is so much timely information about everything to do with hearing loss. From more technical articles to personal stories and advocacy, you come away from the magazine empowered to do something.





Seen & Heard: Edward Ogiba

12 07 2013

Edward Ogiba is one of two Seen & Heard profiles in the July/August 2013 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine, published bimonthly by the Hearing Loss Association of America. I met and photographed Ed at HLAA’s Convention 2012 in Providence, Rhode Island.

Photo © Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Edward S&H

EDWARD F. OGIBA

Siesta Key in Sarasota, Florida / I came flying out on August 4 in New York City in the final year of Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia’s reign.

MY HEARING LOSS… My hearing loss started in the military and progressed until Ménière’s disease left me deaf. Today I am totally grateful for the cochlear implant in one ear and a hearing aid in the other.

SAGE ADVICE FOR SOMEONE NEWLY-DIAGNOSED WITH HEARING LOSS… Find the right audiologist and give him or her the feedback they need to help you get the most out of your hearing devices. Join an HLAA chapter. Focus at communication strategies with your family, friends and co-workers so they know how to best help you hear them.

MY FUNNY HEARING LOSS MOMENT… When I got my cochlear implant, my vanity prevented me from wearing it to client meetings. But when I had to facilitate an all-day workshop for a board of 24 people I had no choice. After the meeting, a board member approached me and she said: “I will give you credit as this was the most productive meeting we have had in a long time. But you are the rudest person whom I have ever encountered in a meeting.” I was mortified and said: “I am sorry, madam. What did I do?” She barked: “What did you do? How can you be so inconsiderate to carry on multiple conversations? Not once all day did you have the courtesy to turn off your cell phone.” I checked to confirm my cell phone was off before I realized: “Do you mean this?”pointing to my implant. She gave a disapproving nod, snipping “you must be a phone freak to have one implanted.” I laughed and told her, “This is a cochlear implant that allows me to hear despite my hearing loss.” There was a chuckle from another board member as he apparently had told her it was an implant. She then expressed her embarrassment and apology, but I countered: “You have given me a wonderful gift. If you thought it was a phone, others might too, and regardless you have given me the courage to stop being such a bozo about wearing it.”

WHEN I GREW UP, I WANTED TO BE… the starting second baseman for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

FAVORITE CHILDHOOD MEMORY… Ebbets Field at age five. I never saw grass greener.

FIRST THING I BOUGHT WITH MY OWN MONEY WAS… a ’57 Caddy convertible.

PETS? Moka. She’s a crazy Russian Bear Hound.

MUSICALLY INCLINED? I play a mean shower. With my hearing aids out, I can actually stand my own singing.

DO YOU SPEAK ANY LANGUAGES OTHER THAN ENGLISH? Mon Français est pathétique, mais le langage est si romantique et la cuisine est si fabuleux. Il ne m’échoue jamais excepté toutes les fois que je suis servi les goûts d’un plateau de cendre sautéed. (Translation: My French is pathetic, but the language is so romantic and the food is so fabulous. It never fails me except when I have used the likes of “ash tray sautéed.”)

YOU JUST WON A $10,000,000 LOTTERY. WHAT HAPPENS NEXT? CPR.

I WOULD LOVE TO MEET…Thomas Jefferson, the consummate multi-tasker.

FAVORITE COLOR? I used to say “blue.” But after living in Martha Stewart’s county for 16 years, I have been conditioned to say Araucana Teal or perhaps Aragon Sky.

FIVE PLACES I HAVE LIVED… Long Island, Manhattan, Toronto, Weston (CT), Sarasota

WORKING NINE TO FIVE… an ad or Mad Man in Manhattan, again in Toronto, head of New Products Company in Toronto, again in Connecticut, development director for the Ear Research Foundation.

EVER MEET ANYONE FAMOUS? Prince Phillip, Barbara Streisand, Doris Day, Ricardo Montalbán, Margaret Hamilton, Patricia Neal, Peter Ustinov—some of the few sane moments for me as a Mad Man.

Hearing Loss Magazine always delivers a warm hug of support, the inspiration to do more and the guidance from the legions of superheroes in hearing loss nation to blaze the way. Thank you, HLM.





Design Studio: “Hear This!” CD project for AAMHL

17 06 2013

I just completed this CD package design for AAMHL (Association of Adult Musicians with Hearing Loss). They are publishing the project through Amazon’s CreateSpace, so the CD will be available for purchase shortly.

My friend, Charles Mokotoff, plays two pieces on “Hear This!” I photographed Charles for the feature he wrote for the January/February 2010 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine. You can see that post here.

Design © Cindy Dyer/Dyer Design. All rights reserved.

HearThis! CD Artwork Blog

Also on the CD:

Celloist PAUL SILVERMAN has performed at Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center Concert Hall and the Strathmore Music Center.

Pianist, soloist and chamber musician JENNIFER CASTELLANO was commissioned to write music for the North/South Chamber Orchestra and was named the 2012 Commissioned Composer for New Jersey Music Teachers Association.

Pianist KATHRYN BAKKE received her Masters degree in Piano Performance from the University of Minnesota. She is a speaker, writer and advocate for better hearing loss access.

Singer/songwriter and certified hearing aid dispenser ELISSA LALA has made a career singing vocals for TV documentaries; she was hired by Aaron Spelling to sing “All the Things You Are” for the ABC miniseries Crossings.

Prolific singer/songwriter BLUE O’CONNELL works as a music practitioner at the University of Virginia Medical Center, performs at Charlottesville, VA coffeehouses, and has published a CD called “Choose the Sky.”





Seen & Heard: Teri Wathen

21 05 2013

Teri Wathen is our Seen & Heard profile in the May/June 2013 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine, published bimonthly by the Hearing Loss Association of America. I met and photographed Teri at HLAA’s Convention 2012 in Providence, Rhode Island.

Photo © Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

TeriWathen S&H

TERI WATHEN
Richmond, TX / Born April 2 (not quite a fool) in Houston, TX

MY HEARING LOSS… I was born with a mild hearing loss and got my first hearing aid at age 12. My hearing loss progressively grew worse as I aged (I aged?). I am now a bilateral cochlear implant user and love them.

SAGE ADVICE FOR SOMEONE NEWLY-DIAGNOSED WITH HEARING LOSS…Get hearing aids as quickly as possible. They are not a cure-all, but they sure do help. Find other people with hearing loss and ask a lot of questions. Your local HLAA Chapter is a good place to start. Educate yourself. Do not bluff.

MY FUNNY HEARING LOSS MOMENT… While walking down the street with a friend, looking at her in order to read her lips, I ran into a light pole. This really happened!

WHEN I GREW UP, I WANTED TO BE… an airline stewardess. I don’t think they call them that anymore, though.

FIRST THING I BOUGHT WITH MY OWN MONEY WAS… my first car, a 1967 red and white Ford Mustang convertible. My sons wish I still had that car. “It’s worth at least $40 – $50,000 now, mom!”

HARDEST THING I’VE EVER DONE… I was a business teacher and taught typing, shorthand, business law and accounting. When computers first came out, I had to teach programming. I had never taken that course, had never programmed anything, and had no idea how to teach it. Some of my students knew more than I did. It was agonizing and embarrassing!

I LOVE THE SOUND OF… I never thought I’d say this, but I love the sound of trains. We just moved into a new subdivision that has a train close by. We hear the train horns all times of the day and night (except when my processors are off). Now when I hear trains, it reminds me of “home.”

IN MY SPARE TIME, I… love to play Sudoku, the Jumble, crossword puzzles, and Spider Solitaire on the computer.

I MISS… my friend, Karen, who passed away way too young.

WHO HAS HAD THE MOST INFLUENCE ON YOUR LIFE? My husband, Ray. He is kind, talented, humorous, loves to play with words (puns), a poet, and a great husband, father, and grandfather. We just celebrated our 40th anniversary by renewing our wedding vows.

MY KIDS HAVE TAUGHT ME… Both of my sons have hearing loss. My younger son has two sons and they also have hearing loss. All of them have inspired me to advocate for others with hearing loss.

PEOPLE WOULD BE SURPRISED THAT I… have a black belt in Karate.

WORKING NINE TO FIVE… When I was a teenager, I gift wrapped in my mother’s dress shop. In college, I worked as a secretary for my aunt and uncle’s advertising agency. I was a teacher for 32 years. I have been a hearing loss resource specialist for the past 10 years. (That’s only four jobs in the last 50 years!)

I AM… passionate, tall, laid back, forgetful, and very sensitive. (I cry at the drop of a hat.)

WHAT’S THE BEST THING SINCE SLICED BREAD? My iPhone. I love that I can text, e-mail, talk, and play games all in the palm of my hand.

MY GREAT ACCOMPLISHMENTS… getting my master’s degree, getting my black belt, having two wonderful sons, and being married to Ray
for 40 years!

I WANT TO BE REMEMBERED… as someone who had a passion to help people with hearing loss.

Hearing Loss Magazine is great! I love reading about new technology and inventions that can help those of us with hearing loss. I love reading about others and what they have accomplished.





Meet Rosemarie Kasper

21 05 2013

I had the pleasure of photographing Rosemarie Kasper at HLAA Convention 2012 in Providence, Rhode Island. Read her article below from the May/June 2013 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine to see why I find her to be such an inspiration!

Rosemarie Kasper

Photo © Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Hearing Loss: My “Secondary” Disability by Rosemarie Kasper

For half my life, navigating the barrier filled world in a wheelchair was a major struggle. My loving parents always wanted the best for me but worried endlessly about my safety.

The major characteristic of Osteogenesis Imperfecta (OI) is fragile bones, bones that can sometimes break even without moving, especially during infancy and youth. Related symptoms include respiratory problems, scoliosis,  short stature, weak muscles, and brittle teeth. Not long ago it was determined that more than 50 percent of individuals with OI experience hearing loss.

Due to inaccessible schools and the absence of special transportation, a public school teacher came to my home for one hour each school day—after classes were finished. Although I was frustrated at the separation from school and classmates, I looked forward to attending a local college and preparing for a career.

This was not to be. As an interviewer at a local college explained, “We have too many stairs” to accept students in wheelchairs. It was not until 1968, 13 years after high school, when my college dream became a reality. I was so overjoyed to attend new and welcoming Bergen Community College that instead of trying to hasten my graduation, I wanted to delay it!

After completing my associate’s degree at Bergen Community College, I was accepted at the four-year, stairfilled Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck, New Jersey, then stayed on for my master’s degree in counseling. All courses were taken at night and I continued to work full time during the day. As my college credits accumulated, my position with the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation changed from clerical to counseling.

Through the years the problem of inaccessible facilities gradually lessened as the equal rights of people with disabilities were enhanced through legislation. My peers and I, with supporting human service agencies, joined together in advocating for our cause. As a result in my 20s I enjoyed an active life including a secretarial job, membership in clubs, and community activities. The future looked bright.

Hearing Loss Enters the Picture
In my early teens, my parents became concerned about the volume I preferred on radio and TV but attributed this to a fondness for loud sounds. Tests ultimately proved otherwise, and at 18, I received my first hearing aid. It was upgraded periodically in accord with my needs and advances in technology. I also learned the value of binaural aids and regretted not trying them sooner.

Various assistive listening devices (ALD) joined the group of communication tools as needed. Presently, my captioned phone and alerting system are especially valued. But captioning for TV? With the volume turned on high, I felt that was not needed.

Who Dunnit?
One memorable evening I watched a mystery show in my room while my parents watched a different program on another TV. When the mystery ended, I stared blankly at the screen—I had no idea what had happened! And there was no one I could ask. The next day, I ordered a caption decoder box.

On the Fourth of July in 1985 the unthinkable happened: I lost total hearing in my right ear. This was a spontaneous medical occurrence and drastically reduced my communication ability. With the encouragement of my friend and companion, Jo Ann, I enrolled in a lip reading course, and we then both took lessons in sign language. Although nothing helped significantly, basic knowledge of sign language has been useful in certain circumstances. Children are often fascinated by sign language and learn it quickly. An intro course for the early grades might prove valuable.

After expending time and energy trying to convince people that a small person in a wheelchair can function independently, my difficulty in communication has become very frustrating. Servers in restaurants, salespeople, clerks at ticket counters, persons attending meetings—all frequently present communication challenges that hinder independence.

Certain situations are especially frustrating. In a vehicle it is virtually impossible to lip read, and my hearing—even when aided—is useless without this assist. It is also nearly impossible to talk with anyone who is pushing my wheelchair. In small groups every effort will be made to seat me where no one will stumble over my wheels, but it is rarely possible to face everyone.

Roller Coaster Ride with Captions
I have learned to expect far more surprises with a hearing loss than with a wheelchair. If a building is wheelchair-friendly there rarely are difficulties. With a severe-to-profound hearing loss, the absence or malfunction of an assistive listening system can be a major problem. There also seems to be an almost universal belief that people with hearing loss can benefit from sign language interpreters. This depends on various factors, and many late-deafened persons such as myself lack all but minimal skills in sign. I am everlastingly grateful for the availability of captions and this is especially true at HLAA Conventions!

However, movie captioning was not initially helpful to me. With Rear Window captions, the device is placed in a cup holder next to the patron’s seat, but a wheelchair has no holder. My alternative was to hold the device in my hand throughout the movie, which was cumbersome and tiring. However, my own advocacy and especially that of my friend, Arlene Romoff, a crusader in theater access for people with hearing loss, helped to alleviate this problem and a special holder was developed for wheelchairs.

I was thrilled with the advent of captioned live theater but this joy was short lived as the captions often are not readable from wheelchair locations. To assure safety, and as mandated by the fire department, wheelchairs are placed in a specific area close to an exit. One evening when it was impossible to read the captions, theater personnel led our small group to three different areas, each with a progressively worse view. We missed a large part of the first act before reaching a place where the captions were marginally readable. I quickly learned to contact the theater before ordering tickets to a captioned show.

He Did a Great Job
Early in my adjustment to hearing loss I was fortunate to learn about the local New Jersey HLAA Chapter, then known as SHHH. Although I now have a large number of role models, Jack Mulligan, the long-time president, was my first and he similarly inspired many others. He chaired 11 meetings each year, many with interesting speakers. He also sent out a newsletter and added a personal note on many. A retired gentleman, he spent his “spare time” volunteering at our local hospital, and appeared in a video featuring their services for persons with hearing loss.

Jack unfailingly would tell all who helped: “You did a good job!” In 1994, he was honored with the well-deserved Spirit of SHHH Award. Our committee has tried to follow in his footsteps, but he is a tough act to follow.

Going Forward
Even before my hearing loss became so severe, I sensed how much greater its impact would be on my life than the wheelchair now was. Friends easily learned to push my wheelchair and realized the type of help I needed in certain situations. They willingly folded and lifted the wheelchair into their cars and some even carried me up and down steps.

With my hearing loss, it was more problematic. People tended to overlook this invisible condition and did not know how to deal with it. Everyone’s time and patience in repeating a conversation are limited. Today, a dictation app is available for iPads and iPhones but this is appropriate only in certain circumstances. As they say, it’s a different ball game.

A year ago a friend who is a CART reporter expressed her willingness to caption Mass at my church. It seemed a gift from heaven, but I was unsure that it could be set up conveniently. I was wrong, and my pastor was willing and even eager to offer this service. Since then, two Masses each month are captioned and while not many worshippers with hearing loss appear to be availing themselves of this service, those of us who do find it helpful.

On a number of occasions I have been invited to give presentations to classes of medical students. Often schools and universities will seek out speakers, preferring persons who are experiencing the problem. Afterwards, students sometimes commented: “The textbooks never talked about that!”

Public hearings afford the opportunity to testify on various issues including transportation needs, communication issues, and more. It is a valuable opportunity both to provide input and to promote awareness. Overall, coping with hearing loss in addition to using a wheelchair has impressed on me that the most formidable problems might not be visible. Staying at home or pretending to understand when we don’t will not help us or future generations, and joining with others in a cause—such as HLAA demonstrates again and again—can be both rewarding and the key to success.

Rosemarie Kasper graduated with a master’s degree in counseling from Fairleigh Dickinson University and worked for almost 35 years with the New Jersey Division of Vocational Rehabilitation in Hackensack. At retirement she was a senior rehabilitation counselor. Rosemarie also worked for four semesters as an adjunct instructor at Bergen Community College in the Department of Continuing Education. In addition, she served as the editor of Breakthrough, the newsletter of the Osteogenesis Imperfecta Foundation (OIF) for 10 years. Rosemarie has been actively involved in OIF for many years, served on the national Board, and co-founded the local New Jersey Area OI Support Group 20 years ago. She remains its co-chair. In addition, she currently is president of the HLAA Bergen County New Jersey Chapter. Her top interests are travel and writing. With close friend Jo Ann, she has traveled to 39 states as well as Canada, the British Isles, and Bermuda. She has published close to 100 articles in magazines and newspapers, most on her travels as well as how-to pieces. Rosemarie can be reached at rdkoif@verizon.net.

______________________

What is Osteogenesis Imperfecta?
Osteogenesis Imperfecta (OI), a genetic disorder, affects a person from birth throughout his or her life. It is caused by an error—a mutation—on a gene that affects the body’s production of collagen found in bones and other tissues. OI is variable having eight different types ranging from lethal to mild. The number of Americans affected by OI is estimated to be 25,000-50,000. For more information about OI, go to www.oif.org, the website for the Osteogenesis Imperfecta Foundation.





Hearing Loss Magazine, May/June 2013 issue

21 05 2013

The Bozzone family graces the cover of the May/June 2013 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine, which is published bimonthly by the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA). Jason and his wife, Melissa, have three children. Their youngest child, Madeline, has a hearing loss. In this issue of the magazine, Melissa writes about Madeline in “Our Party of Five: Madeline’s Story.” Julie Fisher, the Walk4Hearing Program Assistant, interviewed Jason for this issue as well. I photographed the Bozzone family at a Pennsylvania Walk4Hearing event last fall.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

HLM_MayJune_2013_Cover

Also in this issue:

National Sponsors Create Awareness for Walk4Hearing
2013 sponsor Noreen Gibbens explains why she supports the Walk4Hearing.

The Countdown is On
Nancy Macklin builds excitement for Convention 2013 in Portland, Oregon.

Closed Captioning Frustrations—How to Get Some Help
Carol Studenmund explains how consumers can help improve the quality of captioning on TV.

Can You Hear Me Now? Maximizing Your Hearing on the Phone
Audiologist Brad Ingrao offers technical tips and communications strategies for using the phone.

Seen & Heard
HLAA member Teri Wathen is this issue’s profile.

Advocacy, One Person at a Time
Lise Hamlin, HLAA’s Director of Public Policy, outlines how the organization advocates for public policy and federal regulations, as well as for the rights on more personal levels

Hooked on Bionics
May is Better Hearing and Speech Month and in honor of the event, world-renowned puzzle creator George Barany creates a doozie for our readers.

Hearing Loss: My Secondary Disability
Osteogensis Imperfecta is a rare genetic condition. Adding hearing loss to that could mean a lot of frustration and insurmountable challenges, but, not for author Rosemarie Kasper.

New in Print: Shouting Won’t Help: Why I—and 50 Million Other Americans—Can’t Hear You
Janet McKenna reviewed Katherine Bouton’s new book.





Seen & Heard: Juliette Sterkens

9 03 2013

Juliette Sterkens, a member of the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA), just made her Seen & Heard profile debut in the March/April 2013 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine, which just arrived in member mailboxes. I photographed Juliette at HLAA’s Convention 2012 in Providence, Rhode Island last June.

Other members previously profiled were Danielle NicosiaJohn KinstlerJudy Martin, Anne TaylorSam Spritzer, Jeff Bonnell, Eloise Schwarz, Glenice Swenson, Laurie Pullins, Rosemary Tuite and Kathy Borzell, Tommy Thomas, Marisa Sarto, George Kosovich and Gary Trompower.

Join the Hearing Loss Association of America!
Do you have a hearing loss or know someone who does? Consider membership in the Hearing Loss Association of America. Student annual dues are $20, individual annual dues are $35, and family/couple annual dues are $45. Fees outside the U.S. are slightly higher. All memberships include discounts on hearing-related products, convention and special event early bird discounts, AVIS and Alamo car rental, and the award-winning Hearing Loss Magazine. Sign up for membership here.

Photo © Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

JulietteSterkensS&HJuliëtte P.M. Sterkens, Au.D. Oshkosh, WI / born November 10, 1957, the Netherlands

President Fox Valley Hearing Center, Inc., Hearing Loop Advocate, Larry Mauldin Award 2011, Wisconsin Audiologist of the Year 2011, Presidential Award American Academy of Audiology 2011, Hearing Loss Association of America Technology Access Award 2011, Member National HLAA/The American Academy of Audiology Hearing Loop Task Force

MY HEARING LOSS… At this time I am just starting to lose my high-pitch hearing at 6000 and 8000Hz—not enough for a hearing aid but enough to crave one with a telecoil in a looped venue. I did grow up with a father who was hard of hearing.

SAGE ADVICE FOR SOMEONE NEWLY-DIAGNOSED WITH HEARING LOSS… Learn all there is to learn about your hearing loss, the pitches that are affected, the degree that it affects your ability to understand speech in quiet versus speech in noise and once you own hearing aids know what the limitations are of the hearing aids and what is due to your particular loss. Best advice: Never purchase hearing aids without telecoils.

MY FUNNY HEARING LOSS MOMENT… My sister telling my dad, after she discovered him watching a blaringly loud TV without wearing his hearing aids (which prevented him from hearing the doorbell) and being told that he didn’t think his hearing aids were doing much for him: “Papa, they may not do much for you, but they do a heck of a lot for us!”

WHEN I GREW UP, I WANTED TO BE… an airline stewardess.

THE FIRST THING I BOUGHT WITH MY OWN MONEY…  was a vacuum cleaner.
(Oh, the Dutch are so tidy…)

IN MY SPARE TIME, I… like to go tandem biking with my husband Max.

I MISS… Dutch oil balls, a traditional delicacy on New Year’s Eve. (They are terribly unhealthy that is why we only eat them once a year!)

HOBBIES? Watergardening—we have about 30 large koi, a small turtle and several bull frogs in the pond.

DO YOU SPEAK ANY LANGUAGES OTHER THAN ENGLISH? Dutch (of course) and I reasonably get by with my Dutch high school French and German.

WHO HAS HAD THE MOST INFLUENCE IN YOUR LIFE? David Myers, America’s Hearing Loop Advocate extraordinaire. Without his support and tutelage I would not be undertaking a year of hearing loop advocacy.

PEOPLE WOULD BE SURPRISED THAT I… occasionally do talk about something else other than the looping of America!

MY LITTLE KNOWN TALENT IS… baking bread and making yoghurt.

I HAVE A WEAKNESS FOR… licorice (the Dutch, salty kind).

I WOULD LOVE TO MEET… Bill and Melinda Gates or Warren Buffet and find out if they, or a close friend has hearing loss. If they only knew how hearing loops could benefit users of hearing aids young and old alike they might just support this effort around the country.

I AM… dependable, hardworking and kind.

MY FRIENDS WOULD SAY I AM… Don’t ask her about loops, you’ll just encourage her!

MY MOTHER TAUGHT ME… to keep a clean and organized house. (Thanks mom!)

MY FATHER TAUGHT ME… to love the music of Jim Reeves.

THE BEST THING SINCE SLICED BREAD IS… my amazing iPhone.

I HAVE THE UNCANNY ABILITY TO… cook a wonderful meal in a short time with foods I find in my fridge.

MY LONG-TERM GOAL IS… to make America more accessible for people with hearing loss.

MY BIGGEST PET PEEVE IS… audiologists who dismiss hearing loops.

I WANT TO BE REMEMBERED… as someone who helped thousands of her patients enjoy life because of the audiology services she provided.

I love Hearing Loss Magazine! I would love to see a column dedicated to hearing loop progress in the country.





The Evolution of Zac La Fratta

6 01 2013

HLAA member Zac La Fratta is on the cover of the first issue of 2013 of Hearing Loss Magazine, which is published bimonthly by the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA). Zac wrote the cover feature for the January/February issue.

I was first introduced to Zac at his second HLAA convention (and my first) in Nashville, TN, in June 2009. Zac was in town this past November for meetings at the HLAA headquarters in Bethesda, MD, so we set up his cover photo session in and around the office.

Zac La Fratta joined HLAA five years ago and was appointed to the Board of Trustees in June 2010. He currently serves as the secretary and is a member of the executive and strategic planning committees. As a young adult serving on the board, Zac represents the voices of young adults with hearing loss. He formerly was vice president for the HLA-Boulder (CO) Chapter and as president/founder of the HLA-Washington, D.C. Chapter. He is also the moderator for HearingLossNation, an online community for young adults with hearing loss. (A link for that online community can be found on http://www.hearingloss.org.)

Zac Blog Shot

Hearing Loss Magazine pitched Zac a few questions and topics to comment on and he took the ball and ran. Here’s what Zac has to say about his hearing loss and changing careers mid-stream. All photos © Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Start at the beginning.

I was born in Denver, Colorado, on February 3, 1976. Mom checked into the hospital on a warm sunny day and checked out on a cold snowy day. I spent my childhood years in Dallas and went to high school in Lynchburg, Virginia. I have also been able to call Iowa, New York, Georgia, Oregon, and Washington, D.C., home, throughout my life.

I am the second of six awesome children—four brothers and two sisters. All but two still live in Virginia, the others in Alabama and Colorado. My extended family is gigantic and I have lost track of the growing count of cousins, nephews, and nieces. Any type of reunion that takes place, big or small, is considered the party of the year.

Describe your hearing loss.

I have a stable bilateral, normal steeply sloping to profound sensorineural hearing loss acquired from exposure to bacterial meningitis at eight months of age. It is not clear whether meningitis or the ototoxic medications I received for treatment contributed to the hearing loss, but I consider myself extremely lucky that the hearing loss was the only negative outcome.

My first spoken words (according to dad) were “hold me” after persistent, unsuccessful requests to be held through gestures and crying. Sign language was actually my first language before I started talking around three years of age. After leaving a pre-school that promoted total communication, spoken language became my primary mode of communication. I once again started learning sign language shortly after I began embracing my hearing loss in my late twenties. I sign at a proficient skill level conversationally and in the audiology clinic.

My hearing loss has always been underestimated, perhaps because I received intensive speech therapy. Also, I never sought accommodations in high school or college. I’m not saying this was a good thing not to use accommodations, it’s just a fact. So, I always chuckle when audiologists are shocked and astonished after reviewing my audiogram.

Do you wear hearing aids or use assistive listening technologies?

I wore hearing aids for the first decade of my life before “putting them in the drawer” for nearly 20 years. I now proudly wear hearing aids after accepting my hearing loss. I’m currently in conversations of possibly pursuing a cochlear implant. I wear high-end, high-powered, behind-the-ear hearing aids with the receiver in the canal that uses a size-312 battery. This particular hearing aid is already two model-generations old! Being an audiology student has its fun privileges in that I get to try different hearing aid technologies. They really are quite different from one another as is each person’s hearing loss.

I use different assistive listening devices that use the telecoil features in a variety of situations. For watching television, listening to music, and talking on a cell phone, I take advantage of the SurfLink streaming feature that comes with my hearing aids. I occasionally use FM technology if it is readily available in large group settings. I heavily rely on closed-captioning technology. In fact, my family and friends automatically turn the closed-captioning on for me, and some even leave it on permanently. I recall my first closed-caption decoder box my parents got me for Christmas one year. It was one of the most memorable gifts I have ever received. I also won’t attend a movie showing unless some form of captioning is available.

TOC Zac La FrattaWhat was it like growing up with hearing loss?

Growing up with a hearing loss has been a roller coaster ride for me, manifesting throughout different phases in my life. I have experienced a range of emotions—embarrassment, confusion, anger, fear, depression, acceptance, and finally, peace.

I often wanted to forget I had a hearing loss, but with constant reminders from family, friends, and strangers, not to mention my own struggles, I could not escape reality. I would frequently be asked the same question along the lines of: “How can you hear on the phone?” “Are you Australian?” “Can you read their lips?” “Do you sign?” and on and on.

Tell us about going to school with a hearing loss.

I received early intervention services through The Callier Center at The University of Texas at Dallas and was mainstreamed in both private and public schools.

I have vivid memories at Callier of happily clanging bells with dozens of other children with hearing loss, to what was supposed to be the “Jingle Bells” tune. The proud parents in the audience merrily sang along as if nothing was out of the ordinary. I have many other good memories from my time at Callier. However, I do recall, even at this pre-school age, my gut feeling that something was off, especially when I was instructed to wear uncomfortably loud devices on my ears.

To my parents’ horror, I reacted by flushing those expensive devices down the toilet. This event was the beginning of my resistance to wear hearing aids and my resolve to be “normal.” As hard as I tried, there was no escaping my hearing loss as it presented various inevitable challenges throughout my life. I had my share of bullies and academic struggles during grade school. Although the bullies never went away, my academic struggles dissolved after receiving appropriate intervention in public school settings, even after I discontinued wearing hearing aids in junior high school.

Professions—past and present

In my determination to be a successful, normal person, I managed to get through college and enter the software consulting industry without any accommodations. I spent a decade in the IT industry as a business analyst working with Fortune 500 companies.

I felt accomplished and had success in this industry; however, I no longer had the passion or drive to maintain the intensity required to keep up with the demands of the job description. Much of my role consisted of client interviews, managing meetings, and handling conference calls, all of which are a nightmare for the person with a hearing loss, especially without the use of assistive listening technologies or other accommodations.

I came to the realization that I had reached my peak and landed on a plateau in terms of fulfilling dreams and ambitions. I knew instinctively that in order for me to grow and move forward, I had to acknowledge my hearing loss and be comfortable and willing to ask for help.

However, I admit, by this time I was burned out and ready for a new career that inspired me, yet I didn’t want unnecessary hardship. I know it’s unrealistic that a new career wouldn’t bring challenges but this is the way I felt at the time. I needed a break from the day-to-day hassle of communicating on the job.

So…what happened next?

In 2007, my audiologist in Colorado asked me to interview with NBC’s Colorado & Company to share my experiences wearing new hearing aids for the first time in nearly two decades. (Remember, I denied my hearing loss and didn’t wear them.) There was an audiologist on the set and to my pleasant surprise, he also had a hearing loss and wore hearing aids. I was inspired learning about his journey.

The light bulb went off immediately and I knew a career in audiology was my calling. The following year, I was a registered full-time student at Colorado University at Boulder to fulfill the prerequisites required to enter an audiology program. At the time, it made perfect sense for me to pursue audiology as a profession. Having a hearing loss myself, I wanted to find new ways to contribute to the community of people with hearing loss. I was interested in working with children with hearing loss and their parents. I also had a burning desire to understand my own hearing loss from a clinical view and obtain the best resources available to make my life easier.

I am completing my clinical doctorate studies at Gallaudet University’s audiology program and will graduate in August 2013. Meanwhile, I am completing my externship (a.k.a. “residency”) at the audiology clinic at the University of Colorado Hospital. I also serve as an audiology LEND Fellow with the JFK Partners program in Colorado to continue my training with pediatric audiology through various multi-disciplinary models.

I’ve completed clinical audiology rotations in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area at an ENT private practice, Children’s National Medical Center, and The River School. I am also proud to work with several programs at the Marion Downs Hearing Center in Colorado, including Campus Connections, Building Communication Bridges, Infant Hearing Screening Program, and Teen Day. In addition, I had the privilege of teaching the Peer Mentoring Certification Training Program at Gallaudet University for two years.

Describe a typical day in your externship.

I am fortunate to be completing my externship at the University of Colorado Hospital because it provides a great, all-around experience. In addition to working with audiology’s bread and butter—administering hearing tests and working with amplification technologies with a diverse population—I also work with balance testing, cochlear implants, and infant hearing screenings. My favorite part of my externship experience is counseling. From my personal experience, I can connect with many of my clients, especially parents of children with hearing loss.

Zac Outdoors LargeWhat (or who) do you think contributed to where you are today?

I have a supporting cast who believes in me, instills in me the confidence and courage to be the best I can be, and above all, loves me. I can’t underestimate the power of my family, mentors, and friends when it came to encouragement and support.

After having worked with parents in the audiology clinic, I discovered that I took for granted the challenges my own parents experienced to ensure I lived a great and normal life. I am forever grateful for how they raised me, taught me independence, and always provided a sense of belonging. They did an amazing job even with limited educational resources for kids with hearing loss.

My brothers and sisters also are a big part of who I am. They provided the social inclusion and unconditional love I needed during my childhood. They showed me how to be creative and silly. We had fun growing up and they created a safe haven for me to be myself. Since I am second to the oldest, I babysat my siblings on a regular basis, and it was always fun to create games and activities to keep them entertained. My brothers and sisters intuitively understood my hearing loss, oftentimes sacrificing their own needs for mine. They accepted that my hearing loss was a part of who I am and accommodating me was part of our family’s daily routine.

I am lucky to have the quality of friends I have made over the years. I didn’t have an abundance of friends growing up, but the ones I made were compassionate and trustworthy. As a kid, I latched onto friends who had similar interests and didn’t get bored doing the same things over and over (boxcars, Transformers, and G.I. Joe’s!). Eventually, we grew out of toys and took on sports.

Like my family, my friends never let my hearing loss interfere with our friendship. My friends might never have fully understood my hearing loss, but they always had my back. There were even practical jokes at the expense of my hearing loss but I knew I was accepted as one of the gang.

A favorite story was on a Halloween night. We were dressed in fun costumes and enjoying ourselves. One of my friends, known for his one-liners, got everyone hooked on over-enunciating one particular line from a movie throughout the night—“What the problem is?” (A line void of good grammatical form so it was hard to grasp.)

The problem was I couldn’t figure out for the life of me what they were saying all night. I finally had the courage to ask, “Are you saying ‘hippopotamus?’” And with that for the remainder of the night, “hippopotamus” was the new one-liner.

My mentors—a few teachers and speech-language pathologists—were pivotal in how I connected and fit in with mainstream society. We spent countless hours working on my speech and academic skills, as well as boosting my self-esteem. To this day, I have been unsuccessful in tracking them down to show my appreciation to all they have contributed. (If by some miracle you are reading this, I thank you!)

There is no one who understands me and my hearing loss as well as my girlfriend, Maureen Shader, whom I affectionately call Mo. More importantly, there is no one who has as much patience in regard to my hearing loss as she does. It amazes me the sacrifices she has made over the past few years to contribute to our powerful and fulfilling relationship. Mo does it all! It is the little things like her continuing efforts to face me when she speaks, constantly carrying hearing aid batteries in her purse, sitting quietly with boredom in the car while I drive (driving poses a large obstacle to lipreading), and giving up our time together while I put time into advocacy projects for those with hearing loss.

Without question, Mo is my biggest supporter and advocate. It certainly helps that she is also an audiology student and is proficient in sign language. We have a running joke that all that is missing is for her to have a hearing loss too. I thought I was destined to have a relationship with a woman with a hearing loss, someone who could walk in my shoes. In reality, I could not be more grateful that Mo doesn’t have a hearing loss. I admit it is nice to have a good set of ears around. As it should be, our different levels of hearing doesn’t matter. It’s about the person and the values you have in common, not the hearing loss. But it does help that she understands.

Hey Zac, did you have anything to do with you?

While all the important people in my life have been a solid foundation, okay, I’ll give myself a little bit of credit. Early in my life, I spent much of my time playing soccer and tennis since it was an easy way to escape from all of my struggles. My parents understood how important this was for me, so mom became a soccer mom and dad was my biggest fan. Winning and stardom on the playing field made me feel good about myself, so naturally I was determined to win off the field too, just so I could feel normal and accepted.

My family and friends can attest to this, I became fiercely competitive in everything I did, which I now know was annoying and exhausting for those close to me. But this tactic was my survival card, getting me through school, bullies, and feeling vulnerable. After college, this behavior became less and less effective and useful in my life. It is not a coincidence that after accepting my hearing loss, I discovered that this trait was unhealthy, so I began to channel my competitiveness in a productive manner in everything I do. I am able to use this new tool to accomplish things that benefit the community and society and are important for myself to feel like I’m making a contribution.

Tell us more about how you think people see you.

The consensus among my family and friends is that they often forget that I have a hearing loss. I honestly don’t believe that is true, rather they are fully aware but do not perceive my hearing loss as a disadvantage or a disability for me since they simply do not find themselves needing to compromise their own lives to accommodate me. However, they can recall quite a few occasions where they’ve advocated for me, remembered funny stories related to my hearing loss, or are reminded of events pertaining to my hearing loss.

When I am socializing, people often ask my friends or family members why I speak the way I do, why I am standoffish, why I frequently need repetition, or simply say “what’s up with the hearing aids?” Occasionally, people who are aware about hearing loss (through their own family members, friends, or co-workers) will inquire about my hearing loss.

My family always shares that they are inspired by how I’ve handled my many adversities—such as educational and social challenges. One of my brothers reflected that after having gone through middle and high school himself, which he considers one of the more difficult challenges of life, is left inspired that I was able to work through the same challenges in addition to having a hearing loss.

One of my sisters believes that I compensate for my hearing loss with a sixth-sense, or super-hero ability. She reflects that this trait equates to my determination to excel, especially when faced with challenges.

The family also has tons of fun with my hearing loss too. Long ago, audiologists told my dad that I have some residual low-frequency hearing, so he brilliantly exaggerates a low voice when he calls my name. My family and friends think it is hilarious, but it works! The whole family loves home signs, particularly “bathroom,” “stop,” and “hurry.” My family also never lets me forget how I have funny ways of saying words like “ridiculous” and “scissors” or how I am constantly mixing up idioms.

Tell us about getting involved with HLAA.

When I made the decision (and yes, it was a decision) in 2004 to accept my hearing loss, I went all out by launching “Deaf-inite Entertainment”—a fund-raising project to raise awareness among the hearing loss community. It was an exciting project that raised funds to provide a free open-captioned showing of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban at the local theater and to donate to the Starkey Hearing Foundation.

During this project, I met many wonderful people with hearing loss, including Debbie Mohney from the HLA-Boulder (CO) Chapter. Debbie planted the seed for me to join the chapter because she knew it was an opportunity for me to expand my role in the community of people with hearing loss.

Her patience and persistence paid off when she convinced me to attend my first chapter meeting in 2007. Debbie wasn’t kidding that I’d benefit from joining this chapter, because a few months later I attended my first HLAA Convention in Reno in 2008 thanks to a scholarship the HLA-Boulder Chapter awarded me. It was at this convention that I met a small group of young adults with hearing loss for the first time. I had never been in the presence of so many people my age with a hearing loss!

To say I haven’t looked back since then is an understatement. I always was a happy person, compensating for my hearing loss in the most competitive ways. But it wasn’t until I accepted my hearing loss—even embraced it as I like to describe my experience—that I began to understand the significance it’s had on my life.

Moving forward, there are a lot of things to do in both my personal and professional life. First on the list is to find ways to get more young adults with hearing loss involved in HLAA. Read on about the 100 Portland initiative. I hope to see you in Portland, Oregon, this June for HLAA Convention 2013.

Zac La Fratta lives in Denver, Colorado. In addition to his studies and the 100 Portland project, he enjoys playing tennis, dining out with his girlfriend, traveling to new places, and spending time with friends and family. He recently discovered the joys of cooking and experimenting with different recipes. You can e-mail him at zachary.lafratta@gmail.com.

Also in this issue: Zac La Fratta debuts 100 Portland, an initiative to attract young adults, ages 18-35, with hearing loss to come to HLAA Convention 2013 in Portland, Oregon, this June; audiologist Brad Ingrao’s article, A Rose by Any Other Name: PSAPs vs. Hearing Aids, takes a close-up look at hearing devices advertised on TV and in magazines; HLAA’s Director of Marketing and Events, Nancy Macklin, shares highlights for the upcoming Convention 2013; Stephen O. Frazier and Sally Schwartz discuss induction loop technology in their article, The Often-Neglected Neck Loop; audiologist Mark Ross reveals why simply giving a person who is elderly a hearing aid doesn’t always get to the heart of the matter of not hearing well in his article, Older People with Hearing Loss: Aural Rehabilitation Might be More Necessary than Ever; Sally Edwards writes about how life doesn’t always go as planned, especially when a hearing loss interrupts those plans, in Labors of Love; and HLAA member and Reeses Peanut Butter Cup lover Gary Trompower is profiled in Seen & Heard.

KNOW SOMEONE WITH HEARING LOSS? Give them a gift membership to the Hearing Loss Association of America. Visit www.hearingloss.org for more information.

 





Marisa

18 11 2012

Here’s another shot I captured of Marisa Sarto in Providence, R.I. this past June. Marisa was the cover feature of the November/December 2012 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine, which I design for the Hearing Loss Association of America. You can learn more about Marisa and her book project, Hear Nor There: Images of an Invisible Disability, in a recent post here and in her Seen & Heard debut here.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





Seen & Heard: George Kosovich

15 11 2012

George Kosovich, a member of the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA), just made his Seen & Heard profile debut in the November/December 2012 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine, which just arrived in member mailboxes. Other members previously profiled were Danielle NicosiaJohn KinstlerJudy Martin, Anne TaylorSam SpritzerJeff BonnellEloise SchwarzGlenice SwensonLaurie PullinsRosemary Tuite and Kathy BorzellTommy Thomas and Marisa Sarto.

Join the Hearing Loss Association of America!
Do you have a hearing loss or know someone who does? Consider membership in the Hearing Loss Association of America. Student annual dues are $20, individual annual dues are $35, and family/couple annual dues are $45. Fees outside the U.S. are slightly higher. All memberships include discounts on hearing-related products, convention and special event early bird discounts, AVIS and Alamo car rental, and the award-winning Hearing Loss Magazine. Sign up for membership here.

Photo © Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

George Kosovich

Rockville, MD / Born December 10, 1941, Bingham Canyon, UT

MY HEARING LOSS… I had a hearing loss in childhood, but it wasn’t discovered right away. In elementary school, I started wearing a body aid and hated it. Now, I use both a cochlear implant and a hearing aid and love it.

SAGE ADVICE FOR SOMEONE NEWLY-DIAGNOSED WITH HEARING LOSS… Get that hearing aid—you don’t know what you’re missing!

HARDEST THING I’VE EVER DONE… School was hard—all the way from elementary school through my two master degrees!

IN MY SPARE TIME… I play golf, tennis and pool.

MY LITTLE-KNOWN TALENT IS… dancing.

I HAVE A WEAKNESS FOR… chocolate peanut butter ice cream.

I WOULD LOVE TO MEET… the angel Gabriel.

I MISS… my brother, Jerry.

I AM… friendly, lovable and handsome.

FAVORITE COLOR? Purple

MY MOTHER TAUGHT ME… not to smoke cigarettes. The one time I did try when I was 10, she caught me. That day, I smoked until I was sick and told her. She told me I was not going to find any sympathy from her. I suffered that time but learned my lesson and I never smoked again.

MY FATHER TAUGHT ME… the basics of football, and then was a big support to me when I was playing football in high school and college.

WORKING NINE TO FIVE… OSERS at the U.S. Department of Education, Washington, D.C.; VR counselor in Portland, OR; juvenile center counselor, Portland, OR; Short order cook at the Sheraton, Portland, OR; Newspaper delivery boy, Portland, OR

I HAVE A FEAR OF… guns. One time I shot a guy. I was around 12 years old, working at a berry picking farm in the summer. It was in the evening and we had gone back to the workers’ cabins. My brother and a guy also named Jerry were in the cabin. I was playing around with a rifle and I thought I took all the bullets out, but when I pulled the trigger, a bullet hit him in the thigh. I was shocked. My heart was racing. We carried him out down to the house which was quite a ways down. We took him to the hospital in a car—it was the longest ride of my life. The guy was okay once patched up, but he couldn’t play football for a year. And I never played around with a gun again!

IF I RULED THE WORLD… everyone would have a smile on their face!

WHAT IS THE KINDEST THING ANYONE HAS EVER DONE FOR YOU? Love me

GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT? Being a father

HOW DO YOU WANT TO BE REMEMBERED? As a good guy

Hearing Loss Magazine is great! I like the stories about people and how they deal with hearing loss, but I also like the information about technology that makes our lives easier.





Seen & Heard: Marisa Sarto

14 11 2012

Marisa Sarto, a member of the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA), just made her Seen & Heard profile debut in the November/December 2012 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine, which just arrived in member mailboxes. Marisa also wrote the cover feature article for this issue. I had the pleasure of spending a fun afternoon with her, photographing her around Providence, and discussing everything from hearing loss to creativity to photography. Other members previously profiled were Danielle NicosiaJohn KinstlerJudy Martin, Anne TaylorSam Spritzer, Jeff Bonnell, Eloise Schwarz, Glenice Swenson, Laurie Pullins, Rosemary Tuite and Kathy Borzell, and Tommy Thomas.

Join the Hearing Loss Association of America!
Do you have a hearing loss or know someone who does? Consider membership in the Hearing Loss Association of America. Student annual dues are $20, individual annual dues are $35, and family/couple annual dues are $45. Fees outside the U.S. are slightly higher. All memberships include discounts on hearing-related products, convention and special event early bird discounts, AVIS and Alamo car rental, and the award-winning Hearing Loss Magazine. Sign up for membership here.

MARISA SARTO
North Hollywood, CA / Born May 17, 1989, Tarzana, CA

MY HEARING LOSS… My parents discovered that I had hearing loss when I was a few months old. I’ve been wearing hearing aids since I was one.

SAGE ADVICE FOR SOMEONE NEWLY-DIAGNOSED WITH HEARING LOSS… Learn to love yourself and learn everything you can about hearing loss. And talk and share your feelings with others.

WHEN I GREW UP, I WANTED TO BE… a grocery clerk at my local Ralph’s.

FAVORITE CHILDHOOD MEMORY… Extravagant family Halloween parties

PETS? I have two yin-yang cats—Jinx is one-year-old, white and deaf. Kiki is 21-years-old, black and almost blind in one eye. My family has a lovely blue-nose pit pull named Friday.

HARDEST THING I’VE EVER DONE… break someone’s heart

IN MY SPARE TIME… I apply for jobs.

HOBBIES? Expressing myself through photography, making jewelry, creating veggie and fruit juice with my juicer, harvesting fruits from around the neighborhood, thrift shopping with my partner, and watching movies.

WHO HAS INFLUENCED YOU THE MOST? Besides my parents—my baton and life coach, Gail Pearson

PEOPLE WOULD BE SURPRISED THAT… I can twirl fire.

MY LITTLE-KNOWN TALENT IS… I can punch really hard

I HAVE A WEAKNESS FOR… Rite Aid’s Thrifty’s mint-flavored ice cream

I WOULD LOVE TO MEET… myself ten years ago.

THE LAST BOOK I READ WAS… Running Out of Summer by Peter Morgan (my uncle)

I AM… brave, friendly, and funny.

MY MOTHER TAUGHT ME… to speak my mind.

MY FATHER TAUGHT ME… to love myself first before loving someone else.

BEST THING SINCE SLICED BREAD… air conditioning (I live in the valley!)

I REALLY SHOULD STOP… putting my clothes on the floor.

I REALLY SHOULD START… learning about cars, so I don’t change the oil twice.

I HAVE THE UNCANNY ABILITY TO… guess people’s age, see things like an eagle, smell food, and notice when my food has been touched.

LEARNING SOMETHING NEW EVERY DAY… I’m learning how to identify fruit trees and new photography tips.

MY MOTTO… is when presented with choices, try to make the good one; and if not, learn from the bad ones and try not to repeat them. Not learning is the biggest sin.

I WANT TO BE REMEMBERED… as an amazing woman who was a good friend and someone who made a difference.

GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT… earning a Posse Foundation Scholarship to attend The University of Wisconsin-Madison

I like reading member stories in Hearing Loss Magazine, and appreciate the opportunity to share mine!





Hayleigh Scott and Netegene Kirkpatrick: An Unlikely Friendship

14 11 2012

HLAA Members Hayleigh Scott and Netegene Kirkpatrick co-authored “An Unlikely Friendship” for the November/December 2012 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine, published bimonthly by the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA). I photographed the feature photo of them at HLAA’s annual conference this past June in Providence, R.I.

With the help of her mom, dad and sisters, Hayleigh started her own business, Hayleigh’s Cherished Charms, where she and her family create hearing aid scrunchies, tube twists, charms and patented clasp ideas for hearing aids and cochlear implants—allowing those with hearing loss to highlight their hearing instruments rather than hiding them. Ten percent of proceeds go to furthering hearing research and education of the hard of hearing and deaf community. Hayleigh first appeared in the January/February 20122 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine, and when Netegene read her story, she e-mailed her and they became fast friends.

Photo © Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

An Unlikely Friendship

by Hayleigh Scott and Netegene Fitzpatrick

Is there really a generation gap among people with hearing loss? We don’t think so. Here, 13-year-old Hayleigh Scott and 68-year-old Netagene Kirkpatrick share how they bridged the gap while a strong friendship grew. They joined forces to help reduce the stigma of hearing loss, spread awareness, and are having fun doing it.

Meeting Netagene by Hayleigh Scott

Netagene and I first met through my business website when Netagene e-mailed me saying she had read about me in Hearing Loss Magazine. She liked what I was doing and ordered some hearing aid charms. I thought it was great that Netagene was interested in being a model of my charms. I have many adult charm buyers but usually it’s the kids who send in pictures wearing their charms. Netagene was willing to put her photo on my website’s customer page. We became pen pals and I learned that she really feels the same way I do about hearing aids and glasses—we both want to have fun!

Netagene and I met in person at HLAA Convention 2011 in Washington, D.C. We talked for a while and got to know each other even better! Then we began sending each other little gifts. She even found pretty beads that she liked and she sent them to me with instructions on how she would like me to make them into charms for her.

One of the hardest things about having my own business is letting people know that I exist. Netagene has been so helpful in sharing what I do with others; she hands out my business cards, wears my charms, was interviewed by a newspaper in her home state of Alabama mentioning my business, and talks about the philosophy that we share. (We are not embarrassed to wear fancy glasses, so let’s make our hearing aids sparkle and shine!)

We kept in touch over the course of the next year updating each other with new things going on in our lives. Then Netagene’s mother died. I sent her a surprise pair of cross charms to wear to the funeral. We then saw each other this past June at the HLAA Convention in Providence, Rhode Island. It was so nice to get to see each other again! The last night of the convention we went out to dinner together and talked about the convention and lots of other things. Netagene is not just one of my favorite customers—she is one of my favorite people. Thank you HLAA for sharing what I do and for helping an unlikely friendship form.

Hayleigh Scott is an HLAA member and entrepreneur from Hollis, New Hampshire, and has exhibited at the last two HLAA Conventions. Her website is HayleighsCherishedCharms.com. Check out her Customer Photos page to see all the happy people, including Netagene.

Meeting Hayleigh by Netagene Kirkpatrick

There was an article about Hayleigh Scott and her business in the January/February 2011 Hearing Loss Magazine. I like to help others—in particular, young people—so I immediately looked up the website for Hayleigh’s Cherished Charms.

As the user of a long white cane (I am high-partial legally blind since 2003), I learned not to be ashamed of carrying one of those, of letting others see and know that I am imperfect. Some friends put a ribbon or some bells on their canes. One year, I taped a string of tiny battery-powered Christmas lights on my cane. Besides, people show off fancy eyeglasses that they wear, so why be ashamed to let others know that you need aids to see, to walk … and to hear!

That’s Hayleigh’s—and my—philosophy about wearing hearing aids. She had written my thoughts on her website, but she went a step farther. She did something about it when she was five years old at that! She started making charms. I went to her website and I immediately ordered the Dragonfly and the Red Cyclops Charms. (So what if I am 68 years old!)

When I got to the hotel in Crystal City for the HLAA Convention 2011, the first thing I did after checking into the hotel, even though I looked like something the cat had drug in (after a long train ride, plus dealing with the Washington, D.C. Metro), was to look for Hayleigh’s Cherished Charms in the Exhibit Hall. I met Hayleigh, her sisters Vienna and Sarah, and their mother Rachel. Sweet! Hayleigh and Rachel both are good about e-mailing their customers. I am not a cuddly, hugging kind of person, but that family is one that even I wanted to take in my arms and hug.

I learned their favorite colors and crocheted little bitty purses for all three girls. I’ve also bought little stuffed animals for them. I wish I could afford to buy more of the charms they make. I’ve mailed some strings of beads to Hayleigh and asked her to make me one pair and then use the rest to make others to sell.

When my mother passed away in 2011 at age 94, Hayleigh made a pair of cross hearing aid charms which arrived the day of my mother’s viewing. I had also told her about some of my past exploits, such as having been a DJ and having ridden a motorcycle. She also made a pair of hearing aid charms for me with a motorcycle on it! I didn’t ask for either pair so both were a surprise.

I keep my hair pulled back so that people can see my charms, and when someone mentions my “pretty earrings,” I take off one of my hearing aids to show them off. I keep a few of Hayleigh’s business cards on hand and give them away. I’ve shown my hearing aid charms to my audiologist and put some of Hayleigh’s cards in the waiting room of the hearing clinic.

I march to the tune of my own drummer and don’t like to be a cookie-cutter person; I like being a bit of a maverick—being unique. And, like Hayleigh and her family, I am proud of who I am and I’m not ashamed to let others know that just like I need aids to see, I also need aids to hear. Maybe amongst Hayleigh, HLAA and I, we can educate some people!

Netagene Kirkpatrick is an HLAA member from Birmingham, Alabama and has attended the last two HLAA Conventions.

Join the Hearing Loss Association of America!
Do you have a hearing loss or know someone who does? Consider membership in the Hearing Loss Association of America. Student annual dues are $20, individual annual dues are $35, and family/couple annual dues are $45. Fees outside the U.S. are slightly higher. All memberships include discounts on hearing-related products, convention and special event early bird discounts, AVIS and Alamo car rental, and the award-winning Hearing Loss Magazine. Sign up for membership here.





A labor of love: Celebrate Home Magazine is born!

2 10 2012

The Fall 2012 Celebrate Home Magazine debuts today on the first day of October with the mantra of “making the ordinary extraordinary.”

Published quarterly, Celebrate Home Magazine focuses on family, food, entertaining, gardening, art, crafts, hobbies, personal expression, hospitality, pets, decorating, communities and neighborhoods.

The time has come for a magazine like this—highlighting ordinary people doing extraordinary things. No matter your budget, your skills or the size of your space, we’ll enthusiastically share experiences of those who nurture the space they call home. Let us inspire you!

I’ve teamed up with the talented and renowned Barbara Kelley, whose editorial expertise has graced Hearing Loss Magazine for more than 20 years. She brings her passion for hospitality and her publishing experience to this brand new publication! We are both passionate about all things home and welcome you to open the door and come on in. We also welcome you to be contributors. This magazine is for you and about you.

Click the link below to download a two-page spread pdf of the magazine:

CelebrateHomeMagFall2012 Spreads

Click the link below to download a pdf designed for single page printing:

CelebrateHomeMagFall2012 Pages

Want to order a print copy of Celebrate Home Magazine? Click here, then sign up for a free magcloud.com account. You can download the FREE pdf or purchase a print copy on this link.

 

 

Would you like to be a contributing author or photographer? Please e-mail writing and/or photography samples and links to websites with your work to bkelley@celebratehomemag.com.

Do you have an original recipe you’d like to share? Please e-mail your recipes to bkelley@celebratehomemag.com.

We can come to you! Are you having a party or special event at your home or an activity that relates to the subject of home? Contact us to discuss your idea. If it fits the editorial scope of Celebrate Home Magazine, we may photograph your event and write the story.

Do you have a product or service? If you would like to advertise your product, service, or your city/town/region, contact advertising@celebratehomemag.com.

Check it out and celebrate home with us!





Melissa Puleo Adams: Sixth Time’s a Charm

12 09 2012

Melissa Puleo Adams graces the cover of the September/October 2012 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine, which I design and produce bimonthly for the Hearing Loss Association of America. I met and photographed Melissa for the magazine in May when she was in town visiting her parents, Joe and Lisa. Barbara Kelley, the editor-in-chief of Hearing Loss Magazine, interviewed Melissa this summer. (Cover photo © Cindy Dyer)

Sixth Time’s a Charm

by Barbara Kelley

It’s fall and that means one thing to a lot of people in this country—football! True grit on the gridiron not only stirs passion from spectators, it contributes to a multi-billion dollar sports industry in the United States. According to Plunkett Research®, Ltd., sports, with football at the top, is big business. “Combined, the ‘Big 4’ leagues in America, the National Football League (NFL), National Basketball Association (NBA), the National Hockey League (NHL) and Major League Baseball (MLB), bring in about $24 billion in revenue during a typical year, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. U.S. sporting equipment sales at retail sporting goods stores are roughly $41 billion yearly, according to U.S. government figures.

A reasonable estimate of the total U.S. sports market would be $400 to $435 billion yearly. However, the sports industry is so complex, including ticket sales, licensed products, sports video games, collectibles, sporting goods, sports-related advertising, endorsement income, stadium naming fees and facilities income, that it’s difficult to put an all-encompassing figure on annual revenue.” (www.plunkettresearch.com)

What About the Cheerleaders?
Yes, cheerleaders are part of this lucrative sports industry. NFL Cheerleading is a professional cheerleading league in the United States. Most of the NFL teams have a cheerleading squad in their franchise. Cheerleaders are a popular attraction that gives a team more coverage/airtime, local support, and increased media image. Think Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders or their rivals, First Ladies of Football, Washington Redskins Cheerleaders.

For the NFL, the Baltimore Colts was the first team in the NFL to have cheerleaders in 1954. These girls were also a part of the historic Baltimore Colts Marching Band. The only NFL teams without cheerleaders are the Chicago Bears, Cleveland Browns, New York Giants, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, and the Pittsburgh Steelers. The February 2011 meeting of the Packers and Steelers at Super Bowl XLV was the first time a Super Bowl featured no cheerleaders. The Packers do, however, use a collegiate squad from time to time in a limited role to cheer at home games.

Apply Here
I was curious. Besides being able to hear the music and follow the beat, what other qualifications do you need to be an NFL Cheerleader? So, I went online as if I were going to apply to become a “Charger Girl,” the cheerleading squad for NFL’s San Diego Chargers. I got so excited when it said “Be a part of the Hottest Dance Team in the NFL! Charger Girls Audition.” Using my super-sized imagination, I went through the list of requirements to see if, by any slim chance, I could apply.

• You must be at least 18 years old by the date of the preliminary audition. There is no maximum age limit. (Check! Whew, good thing.)

• There are no height or weight requirements. (Check! Oh boy, got lucky again, so far, so good.)

• Team members must have flexible schedules for twice-weekly rehearsals, games and appearances during and prior to the season. (Check! This might be tough but I have some vacation time coming.)

• Team members must attend a mandatory weekend mini-camp. (Check! My husband can hold down the fort.) 

• Team members must have a means of transportation. (Check! I’ll take the family SUV; it’s a little trashed from kids’ cleats, mud, and empty Gatorade bottles, but it’ll work fine.)

Also from the application:

“The Charger Girls uphold a high standard of quality dance performance and community involvement. The Charger organization feels strongly that the cheerleaders should complement the professionalism represented on and off the playing field. During the preliminary audition process, applicants will be judged on dance ability, crowd appeal, showmanship, and individual applications. For finalists, there is an interview process and a final dance audition.”

Highlights of being a Charger Girl:

• Experience the thrill of performing in front of more than 65,000 fans

• Perform at San Diego Chargers home games in Qualcomm Stadium

• Participate in the annual swimsuit calendar photo shoot

• Serve as ambassadors for the Chargers organization as well as the San Diego community

• Bring smiles to underprivileged children

• Have local and national media exposure

• Work with many of the nation’s top choreographers

• Donate time and talent for various charity events

• Make invaluable friendships with fellow teammates

Wow, this was sounding great.

And finally, in big bold letters, the application states:

“IF YOU ARE NOT PREPARED TO MAKE A FULL ONE-YEAR COMMITMENT TO THE SAN DIEGO CHARGER GIRLS THEN YOU SHOULD NOT AUDITION!”

Okay, deal breaker, count me out. But, now I know that auditioning for this job is not for the faint of heart. I watched some of the auditions on the Internet to learn more about what is behind the women who are brave enough to try. You have to be talented, athletic, outgoing and more. One woman, Kei, came all the way from Japan just to try for this coveted role.

But there is one young woman who stands out among them all—Melissa Puleo Adams. She’s a tenacious, spirited girl, who caught the attention of ABC’s Good Morning America and who was interviewed on the program last year. By the way, Melissa happens to have a hearing loss. Now, she has our attention.

Meet Melissa Puleo Adams
Melissa, (29) was born in Brooklyn, New York, raised in Gaithersburg, Maryland, and now lives in Carlsbad, California. She graduated from James Madison University in Virginia in 2004. Her parents, Joe and Lisa, live in the Washington, D.C., metro area and we met her when she was home to visit. When you ask her dad about his daughter, he says, “Her mom and I would say how proud we are of all Melissa has achieved despite her hearing loss. She is smart, compassionate and determined.”

How did she do it when getting the routine right depends on hearing the music and the numbers being called out? She neither had the roar of the crowd nor the loud music to fuel her. Even the football referee’s whistle was too high-pitched for her to hear. Melissa Puleo Adams talks about the people who helped her along the way and her perseverance to making her dream of being a Charger Girl come true. (Photo courtesy of the Charger Girls)

In Melissa’s Words

Your hearing loss… when was it detected and was it treated?
I was five when my hearing loss was detected by my kindergarten teacher. My teacher notified my mother that she noticed I wouldn’t turn around when called at times. My parents took me to an ENT to get my hearing tested and they discovered that I had a hearing loss in both ears. I was fitted with two behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids at age five.

What about school, the classroom, friends?
I was fortunate to have a pleasant grade school experience due largely in part to a great family support system, and a positive attitude. When I was first fitted with BTE hearing aids, I proudly wore my hair up with confidence, showing them off to all my friends and classmates. My friends all thought my hearing aids were ‘so cool’ and wanted to try them on and get a pair of their own.

However, in high school and college I was shy, maybe embarrassed, about my hearing loss. I no longer told my peers about it and kept my hair down to cover my hearing aids. I always thought what guy would want to date a girl who wears hearing aids? I didn’t know anyone else with a hearing loss. This didn’t affect my positive outlook, although I’m sure having a friend to relate to may have helped during my high school years.

In terms of teachers and school, I still continued to tell the teachers on the first day of class that I needed to sit front and center and that if they turned away from me to face the blackboard then I probably wouldn’t understand what they were saying. I did the same in college and talked to the professors after class if I thought I missed something.

Speaking of college, how did you decide on your major when you had so much interest in dancing?
When I first attended James Madison University, I had an undeclared major and had no idea what I wanted to do. As a freshman, I declared Business as a major because it felt like a suitable, broad option. Though I enjoyed my business classes, the artistic/creative side of me felt ignored. I decided on Media Arts and Design with a concentration in Interactive Digital Media. Classes consisted of graphic design, web design, communications, media, broadcasting and copywriting. This was right up my alley because I’ve always been creative. When I was little, I used to write stories and mini-books complete with pictures. I also loved making up plays and making my little brother, Marc, and our friends perform the parts I created for them in front of family and friends.

Did you take dance lessons as a child? There must be a segue to wanting to become a Charger Girl.
My mom put me in tap and ballet class when I was five (same time frame when my hearing loss was detected). I fell in love with it immediately and knew that I wanted dancing to be a part of my life forever. I have always been an avid exerciser but to prepare for the Charger Girl auditions, I took more dance classes on top of my usual cardio and weight-training routine. Taking dance classes not only helped me brush up on my skills, but also helped train my memory for learning choreography.

When did you start thinking about becoming a Charger Girl?
I’ve always had the dream of becoming a professional dancer when I started dance lessons. When I moved to San Diego from Maryland in 2005, I heard of the San Diego Charger Girl auditions. They have a great reputation of being a fantastic group of women and I wanted to be part of it.

What about your audition?
I first tried out for Charger Girls in 2005. The auditions are always held in March or April. My hearing loss made it more difficult for me because the auditions were in a huge auditorium with an echo. Once I got the dance routine started, I would be totally fine, but the main challenge was starting on the right beat. Sometimes I would use my peripheral vision to look at the girl to the right or left of me to see when to start. It is a vigorous audition process. More than 400 girls audition for a spot on a team of 28. There are preliminary tryouts first, after which they make two cuts. You learn choreography and then you must perform for a panel of judges in groups of three. About 60 girls make it to the final rounds which include a one-on-one interview, a group interview, and a final dance audition. You have to prepare a solo dance to showcase to the final judges as well. It is nerve-wracking but the adrenaline that pumps through you gets you through it!

So, what happened next?
I didn’t make it. I tried out again in 2006. I didn’t make it. Again, in 2007. No, again. I tried again the next two years in 2008, 2009. No and no. That’s five tryouts.

After one rejection, most of us would have moved on.
For five years, after rounds of dance auditions and interviews, I had the same experience. All of us sit together holding hands, eyes closed, hoping to hear our audition number called. It’s an intense moment. The first five times my number was not called, it was tough. I had friends who would make the team and it would be a bittersweet moment. I was thrilled for them but I had to go home, year after year, not as a Charger Girl.

Though it was hard not to make it, and especially not to know why you weren’t picked for the team, I knew this was something I could do well if given the chance. I was not giving up on my dream. Well, all I can say is: Hence, if at first (second, third, forth, and fifth in my case) you don’t succeed, try and try again.

And, in 2010, what happened?
My number was called after my sixth audition! It was one of the most memorable moments in my entire life. I waited six years to hear my number called! I’ll never forget that moment.

Is life as a Charger Girl what you expected?
I was a Charger Girl for two NFL seasons, 2010–11 and 2011–12. I had the most incredible experience and can say it was all that I expected and more. Some of the teammates I had will be my friends for life. The director, Lisa Simmons, is an amazing leader and I’m proud to call her a friend of mine.

Now, what about your hearing loss?
My hearing loss was always accommodated. I couldn’t believe the amount of support I had from my teammates and director. At every practice, girls would repeat things that were said to me. For each dance there would be a girl close by me who would give me a signal (tap on the leg, quietly mouth the count—5, 6, 7, 8—or shake her pom) so that I would know when to start the dance. Most times I couldn’t hear the music when I was on the field so this system ensured that I would never be off beat or lose count. That is why I call my teammates friends. They could have easily looked out for themselves first with little regard for me. I will never forget that. (Family photo © Cindy Dyer)

What are you doing now?
I decided not to audition for the San Diego Charger Girls for another season. The two seasons I had were incredibly good to me, but I have other exciting things planned for the future. I am currently self-employed as a marketing manager, event coordinator, and graphic/web designer. I’ve been dubbed the “Get It Done Expert.”

In June I became certified to teach barre3, a mixture of yoga and pilates, using a ballet barre. It’s a fantastic workout that tones your entire body, and the best part is that almost anyone can do it! Being an instructor poses a new challenge with my hearing loss, but as always I’m up for the challenge.

Future plans?
I have a couple of other business ideas in the works I plan to unleash on the world in the future. I can’t share them quite yet. I also want to have a family down the road, but in the meantime, I am enjoying this stage of my life and embracing any opportunities that arise.

Who or what is the most important to you?
My family—without them I wouldn’t be the person I am today.

What do you like to do in your free time?
I love being active—hiking, Bikram yoga, hanging out at the beach, taking my dog, Drama, for a walk. (Yes, his name really is Drama, named after the Entourage character, Johnny Drama…it suits him.) I cherish my time with my friends. I’ve learned over time to surround yourself with people who make you happy—life’s too short not to. (Photo © Cindy Dyer)

What is the hardest thing you’ve ever done?
Honestly, every day is a challenge. Little things such as listening to the radio in the car with the windows down, using the phone, jumping in the pool, aren’t as easy for me as they are for those with normal hearing. It’s all about your attitude. I just stay positive and cherish all the amazing things that I do have in my life, especially my supportive family and friends.

If someone tells you that you can’t do something…
… it makes me want to do it more!”

To find out more about the Charger Girls, go to http://www.chargers.com/charger-girls/. Melissa Puleo Adams can be reached at melissapuleo@gmail.com.

Barbara Kelley is editor-in-chief of Hearing Loss Magazine and deputy executive director of the Hearing Loss Association of America. She can be reached at bkelley@hearingloss.org.





My World Alive by Viola LaBounty

2 08 2012

A few months ago, my friend Mary Ellen Ryall introduced me to Viola LaBounty, a friend in her writer’s group in Wisconsin. At Mary Ellen’s urging, Viola submitted this poem for publication in the Hearing Loss Magazine, published bimonthly by the Hearing Loss Association of America. It appeared in the July/August 2012 issue. Special thanks to Anna Martineau Merritt, Misty Pines Photography, for the perfect photo of Viola and her husband Bob (beautiful job, Anna!)

My World Alive [Digital Technology]

by Viola LaBounty

Awakened at dawn in silence,
I remember yesterday’s song;
we walked through the forest together
in amazement at how alive all had become.
I had struggled to know what was absent
as we’d walked down these pathways before.
Not known I’d been there in silence
what was muted
until now?

I have missed sounds of sand under footsteps;
each bird-song, each flutter of mourning dove
as we startle her there in oaken leaves;
She flies off to her mate in the distance.
All came alive in an instant…
This is where inspiration had gone.
I’d lived in silence for all this time;
I didn’t realize
until now.

Silence had overtaken my world in part.
where once there was joy in each word came my way;
only quiet as dew rolled to ground…
Now I will savor sound as a gift;
breathe as it whispers its secrets.
Precious words; priceless thoughts
have been given…how many have I missed
until now?

So subtle is aging in many ways,
may steal away some of time;
my world, live with wonder, as a child again;
pure senses, each movement records.
Sound of breezes;
Your voice in soft tones;
prompts of God; He surprises afresh…
I have learned in my journey
each day truly new.
My world is alive once again.

Viola LaBounty is an active member of St. Croix Writer’s Group in Solon Springs, Wisconsin. She is also a member of Wisconsin Writer’s Association and Lake Superior Writers. Viola is a retired teacher’s assistant of early childhood autistic children. She and her husband Bob have two adult children, Michael and Shauna, and one teenage granddaughter Kaylee. Viola enjoys playing gospel music and singing with her auto harp. Her hearing loss has been gradual over the years. She had been exposed to loud environments through her teens and twenties and did not protect her hearing through these times, not realizing how important it would be to do so.

Photo © Anna Martineau Merritt, Misty Pines Photography

 





The Indomitable Spirit of the Kennedy Center’s Betty Siegel

2 08 2012

Scott J. Bally’s article, The Indomitable Spirit of the Kennedy Center’s Betty Siegel, was featured in the November/December 2011 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine, which I design bimonthly for the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA). I photographed Betty in my studio last fall, and discovered we share a lot of common interests. After our photo session was over, I told her that she and her husband are now on our guest list for future parties! Below is Bally’s article, reprinted with permission from HLAA.

At the heart of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Art’s efforts to meet the needs of individuals with disabilities is Betty Siegel, nationally recognized leader for accessibility to the arts.

Wicked was beyond belief. I had given up on attending anything like a play or musical. It was like being in the fairy tale. I could feel the music—understand the play—and be a part of a magical evening that I had long since given up. Now I see this is just the beginning!”
Suzannah “Bay” Dirickson, HLAA member, Richmond, Virginia

A broad smile of accomplishment widens across Betty Siegel’s face when she considers the Kennedy Center Accessibility Office’s success this past summer when 600 attendees of the HLAA Convention took in a performance of the blockbuster musical Wicked (click here to learn more about Wicked). This standing-room-only Broadway hit which explores the back story of The Wizard of Oz was a perfect fit for convention goers as it addresses and brings new insights into the challenges of being different.

The event attracted the largest number of people with hearing loss ever to attend a performance at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The challenges for the Center’s Accessibility Office were daunting and patron needs were successfully met with seven captioning screens placed at strategic points throughout the Kennedy Center Opera House and masterfully guided by captioner David Chu, two types of gratis assistive listening technology to select from, a team of specially-selected interpreters, an occasion-specific crafted welcome and orientation letter and a staff of 36 ushers who had undergone sensitivity training to help this contingent have the most complete theater experience possible. Feedback provided to both the Kennedy Center and HLAA pronounced it a resounding success! Betty Siegel, who orchestrated the efforts, called the achievement “absolutely thrilling!”

From the Inside Out
At the heart of the Kennedy Center’s efforts to meet the needs of individuals with disabilities is Betty Siegel, nationally recognized leader for accessibility to the arts. Betty Siegel’s three-person staff has a broad variety of responsibilities as part of the education program.

The Kennedy Center keeps its policy simple and to the point. “The Kennedy Center welcomes persons with disabilities.” Betty thinks it needs no further explanation.” That says it all!” she states emphatically. It also gives her the ability to widen the scope of her office in creative and practical ways that achieve this objective.

Betty looks back to 1989 when she started at the Kennedy Center. She reflected on the Center’s slow emergence from viewing the accessibility staff as the fly in the ointment (“eyes rolled when we walked into a meeting”) to being an integral part of the institutional culture to whom others look for counsel and advice. The overriding attitude at the Kennedy Center is that “accessibility is just something that we do.” And they do it well.

Betty notes that now, without her urging, consideration is given to persons with disabilities in every effort the Center undertakes including staffing and staff training, renovation of the facilities and planning for meeting patron needs. “It just happens,” says Betty with a gleam of personal satisfaction in her eye. The Center has both in-house programs so that the Center’s cultural offerings are accessible to the greater Washington, D.C. community, but also leadership training for institutions both nationally and internationally.

The Kennedy Center’s Accessibility Office has become one of the nation’s primary resources for cultural institutions in the area of disabilities. They are able to provide solutions for technology challenges in theaters, direction for incorporating individuals with hearing loss and other disabilities in the arts, and understanding of the legislation that protects the rights of individuals with disabilities who attend public cultural institutions.

Meeting the Challenges
The greatest challenges for Betty and her colleagues, Jessica Swanson, Andrea Miller, and newcomer, Clinton Bowman, include keeping up with the rapidly-changing technology available to theatergoers as well as the compatibility between group and individual technologies. As the director for Very Special Arts (VSA) and Accessibility, Betty’s responsibilities have broadened as a recent Kennedy Center reorganization has brought the VSA program under Betty’s capable wings. With six new staff members and a whole new program to oversee, Betty seems undaunted at the prospect noting “I thrive on new challenges,” especially those for which she can implement “socially sustainable design.” A group of volunteers provide support to the office.

The challenge here, according to Betty, is that when you meet expectations, the expectations of patrons move to a higher level. “You need to exceed their expectations at every turn. We need to be doing things better and more effectively on every front.” No resting on laurels although pausing to appreciate the Wicked experience is cause for some satisfaction for Betty and her team.

“Building new audiences…and keeping the ones you have” is a dual challenge described by Betty. A significant portion of arts’ audiences are baby boomers. They are all aging. With aging, many individuals will develop some degree of sensory or mobility disability that needs to be addressed so that these individuals are able to continue their access to and enjoyment of the arts.

Networking is a key factor in the success of the Center’s programs. Each year since 2000, the Kennedy Center has hosted its LEAD program, Leadership Exchange in the Arts and Disability. Administrators from cultural institutions across the country discuss institutional cultural arts and disability issues. Their shared common goal is “the desire to create accessible cultural arts programs that are inclusive of people with disabilities and older adults.”

Betty describes useful presentations as well as a vigorous exchange of ideas between venues. The Department of Justice supports the efforts by frequently providing speakers who give updates on legislation related to persons with disabilities as it has become clarified through court cases, and the most recent updates on the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Betty noted that ticketing regulations has recently been a topic of particular interest among participants. Other highlights of their annual conference include accessible performances, technology demonstrations, and resource rooms.

The Kennedy Center
The Kennedy Center is the nation’s busiest performing arts facility and hosts approximately 3,000 performances annually for audiences totaling nearly two million people. This does not include individuals who tour this national monument to see its Edward Durrell Stone designed cutting edge architecture and furnishings gifted from nations around the world without seeing a performance. The Center, now in its 40th season, has already established a reputation for excellence in meeting the needs of persons with disabilities.

Individuals with hearing loss find several accommodations to meet their needs. Assistive listening technology for performances is available at no charge to patrons. There are captioned performances for every play and musical in the Eisenhower Theater and the Opera House, the Center’s largest venues. The other theaters (the Kennedy Center has six, plus the Millennium Stage which provides free performances in the Grand Foyer 365 days a year) will provide captioning when requested with reasonable notice.

Recently a patron at a musical explained, “I don’t think I have much of a hearing loss, but the [Infrared] earphones brought the actors voices past the orchestra so I could actually understand the words.” The Center also offers audio-described performances for those with vision loss and signed performances for people who use sign language.

Cultural and sensitivity training for the more than 500 ushers who work the performances enable the front line “redcoats” to meet the immediate needs of patrons with disabilities and older adults. Each theater also has “accessibility ushers” at every performance whose primary responsibility is to assist patrons with mobility and other accessibility needs.

When asked how many patrons benefit from the Center’s efforts, Betty shakes her head and notes that it is “virtually impossible to tell.” She continues, “Patrons with disabilities do not need to identify themselves to Kennedy Center staff to take advantage of accommodations. Although theater managers report on some services provided such as large-print programs or wheelchair use, many patrons are self-sufficient and slip by unnoticed. Hearing loss is, of course, invisible so we are uncertain as to how many people who are hard of hearing and deaf actually attend captioned or signed performances.”

Cognitive disabilities, mental illnesses or autism and such medical challenges as heart conditions or arthritis, are also difficult to identify. Even statistics on assistive listening device use are not reliable because individuals without hearing loss also might use them. A broad estimate by Betty puts the figure at “easily 25,000 patrons, but it is probably more.” According to the U.S. Census Bureau, one in ten Americans has a mental or physical disability, a figure that supports her assumption.

From Whence She Came
When asked about Betty’s professional background she laughs. She confessed that she started out in costume design…but “without much passion.” Her professional path kept moving her toward working with people. She discovered the joys and challenges of working in the area of disability access to the arts at the Arena Stage, a regional theater venue in Washington, D.C. where she was a theater manager in the early 1980s. She found it rewarding to “make a difference in the lives of theatergoers with disabilities” and helping them to be an integral part of the cultural event, rather than limited spectators.

For the efforts of the Kennedy Center’s Accessibility Office, Betty accepted HLAA’s National Access Award 2011 at the HLAA Convention for their contributions toward making the arts accessible to persons with hearing loss. “Arts should not shy away from the issues [which confront persons with disabilities].” From Betty’s viewpoint, she is immersed in those issues every single day…and loving every minute of it.

Scott J. Bally, Ph.D., M.S.W., CCC-SLP, recently retired from Gallaudet University where he was a full professor in both the speech-language pathology and audiology programs in the department of hearing, speech and language sciences. He has worked in public school, hospital, deaf institute, community clinic and university settings in a career spanning more than 35 years. He has written numerous articles and book chapters on the biopsychosocial effects of hearing loss and has presented to both professional and consumer organizations.

Dr. Bally has also worked at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., where he is head usher at the Opera House and is regularly called on to work with patrons who having hearing loss at captioned performances in the Opera House and the Eisenhower Theaters. He can be reached at sbally@hearingloss.org.

Patron services at the John F. Kennedy Center for the
Performing Arts through the Accessibility Office:

Captioned performances and events
Assistive listening devices
Sign language interpreted performances and events
Audio-described performances and events
Braille and large-print playbills (other materials upon request)
Online listings of accessible performances
Specially-priced tickets
Accessible tours
Wheelchair accessibility
Transportation and parking accommodations
Courtesy wheelchairs
Curb-to-seat service
Phone and e-mail information services

Do you have a hearing loss or know someone who does? Consider membership in the Hearing Loss Association of America. In the U.S., student annual dues are $20, individual annual dues are $35, and family/couple annual dues are $45. All memberships include discounts on hearing-related products, convention and special event early bird discounts, AVIS and Alamo car rental, and the award-winning Hearing Loss Magazine. Sign up for membership here.





Vintage Laurie

20 07 2012

While Laurie was in town to see my show and be photographed for the Hearing Loss Magazine, we also had a fun modeling session one night. For this vintage look, I used the Musette filter from the Florabella Luxe Collection, with a few tweaks. For the gown underneath her shrug, I wrapped her with this cool bubbly-texture throw that I bought at IKEA, of all places.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





Laurie Pullins: Dances with Sounds

17 07 2012

Laurie Pullins is the “cover girl” for the July/August 2012 issue of the Hearing Loss Magazine, which I design and produce bimonthly for the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA).

Here’s how Laurie came to be the latest HLAA member to grace the magazine’s cover. Back in February, right before my photography exhibit (Garden Muse: A Botanical Portfolio) opened at Green Spring Gardens, Laurie sent me a message that she would love to come see it in person (she’s been a big supporter and fan of my work for a few years now) and she was trying to coordinate a time when she could accompany her husband to the Washington, D.C. area on a business trip.

It so happens that I had been catching up with her blog, Dance with Sound, and had just suggested to Barbara Kelley that we entice Laurie to write a feature article for the magazine. Barbara is the editor of the magazine and HLAA’s deputy executive director (she is a Sneezeguard Heiress as well—check out her hospitality blog here). I pitched the idea to Laurie and said that if she could come up to see my show anytime in March or April, I could shoot the portraits of her for the feature then. We wanted to keep it a secret from even her closest friends so that she could surprise them; only her husband and children knew about it.

She was here about three days and in addition to getting some beautiful shots of her at a local park and in my studio, she was able to do the tourist thing, too. Michael and I took her to the Air Force Memorial and the Pentagon Memorial and we did quite a bit of drive-by sightseeing as well. Laurie is an avid photographer and a fellow Nikonian. We had such a great time during her visit and she was on pins and needles with excitement about keeping it a secret, especially to her friend Jennifer Thorpe, whom she sees every month when Jen comes to her city to work. Even Jen didn’t know about it until the issue was released!

Laurie is as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside and I consider her a very dear friend now. I appreciate her support of my work and am thrilled that she has a spotlight in the magazine with beautiful photos and her honest and inspiring writing. Much love for and appreciation of you, Laurie!

Below is Laurie’s feature in its entirety or you can download the pdf here: Laurie Pullins Feature

Dances with Sounds by Laurie D. Pullins

We enter this world with nothing and leave it with nothing. In between there is a “dance” called life. What we do with that dance defines who we are and how we embrace the world around us.

It’s 11:34 a.m. and I see the rain falling on the pavement outside. I’m enamored by the glitter of each raindrop as it splatters in the puddles between the uneven blocks of sidewalk; I’m compelled to go outside and play. As I dance in the puddles, weaving through the trees lining the sidewalk, I catch a glimpse of a small cat pouncing through the grass and I am again compelled to follow after it.

It is springtime in 1959 and as a small child collecting rain and grass all over my tiny, wet feet, I couldn’t be happier. Living in a small town in upstate New York, there is not much to hear on a daily basis, with only a grocery store and a post office as the main businesses of the town. I am like a sponge soaking up the new information being presented to me and I don’t even realize that I am missing the noise of my surroundings, until I take an unexpected path and darted across the street, barely being missed by an oncoming car. My mother, Betty, calls out to me and I simply do not respond. Here begins my “Dance with Sound…”

EARLY YEARS
I was the first child for my parents and was full of mischief and was often disobedient. By the time I was 18 months old they became uneasy about my lack of speech but did not connect it with hearing loss. Even though I was not verbalizing like other children my age, I was highly observant and always seemed to notice things first before anyone else did.

My severe-to-profound hearing loss was diagnosed at the age of two, shortly after the “running across the street after the cat” incident. My parents were told that I was deaf—not completely so, but to a degree that I would probably never learn to speak normally or understand spoken language without a great deal of therapy and training. Their dreams were shattered and they were deeply distressed and discouraged when they heard the words “bilateral,” “congenital,” “sensorineural.” It was suggested that I could be sent to an institution for the deaf where I would learn sign language as a means of communication. This choice usually meant that children sent there never learned to talk and communicate normally.

Shortly after meeting with an audiologist and psychologist at Children’s Hospital in Buffalo, they were encouraged because I still had some residual hearing and had been responding to training and voice stimuli. With extensive effort and training I could possibly be mainstreamed into the hearing world. From that moment on, they were focused on guiding me through the long and difficult process of learning to communicate verbally.

They were naively optimistic and unaware about the challenges that were ahead but they persevered. They knew they did not want me to be trapped in a world of silence. It was unconventional in the late 1950s and early 60s to teach children who were hard of hearing or deaf to speak.

I began therapy three times a week after my hearing loss diagnosis. I was fitted with my first hearing aid, which was a bulky body aid that I wore on my chest. After the birth of my brother, we moved from New York to Ohio. I continued with speech therapy three days a week at the Speech & Hearing Center in Derby Hall at Ohio State University until I started public school. There was no organized program for deaf children but I was fortunate to have enthusiastic therapists.

My father credits my mother, a teacher, for ensuring my speech and hearing training and spending hours on end with me. She enrolled in the John Tracy Correspondence course at home and got a special packet each month. This program gave many practical suggestions and encouragement and answered many questions. We would sit at the kitchen table every day going through the scrapbook that she made with various words and matching pictures cut out of magazines and catalogs.

At the age of five, I entered the deaf program in the Columbus public school system for kindergarten. My first teacher was Mrs. Card, who was the wife of the director of Deaf Education. I vividly remember sitting on her lap in front of a mirror with my hand on her throat, trying to imitate and form the sounds and words that she was making. I was reading at the third grade level by the time I entered first grade because I had to learn to read in order to learn to speak. I was mainstreamed in the public school systems from first grade on and had speech therapy through the eighth grade.

FAMILY LIFE
I had the privilege to grow up in a loving home. My family included my parents, Ed and Betty Royer, my two brothers, Dan and Doug (who was later diagnosed with a hearing loss), my sister, Kathy, two sets of grandparents, numerous aunts, uncles, and cousins who did everything within their power, no matter what the sacrifice was, to include me in the hearing world that was so familiar to them. They were great “therapy” for me! (The Royer family, from left, back: Kathy, Doug and Laurie; left, front: Danny, mother Betty and father Ed)

Still, the challenge of growing up as a child with a hearing loss in a hearing world was overwhelming and frustrating for me at times. I didn’t fit in the hearing world. I didn’t fit in the deaf world either because I did not know any sign language. I was fortunate to have good, understanding teachers. I even had a science teacher who shaved his mustache so I could read his lips!

As a teenager in the 60s and 70s, life was hard. Peer pressure reared its ugly head and I felt isolated. I went to a large high school in Centerville, Ohio, with more than 550 students in my graduating class. I had very few friends because I “talked funny” and couldn’t hear very well. I contemplated suicide several times but worked through my issues with the help of my support system. I couldn’t use the phone and even if I wanted to communicate with someone, I had to do it by mail or in person.

I just wanted someone to listen to me and validate my feelings. I wanted to have a sense of belonging. Thankfully, I had a wonderful family. However, not every teenager has that in today’s world. It was a struggle to have a conversation in the dark or hang out with a group of friends when multiple people were speaking. I knew firsthand the frustration of trying to understand what people were saying when I could not read or see their lips.

I also knew what it was like to misunderstand others and be misunderstood. It was difficult to meet new people because they just did not understand or did not want to take the time to talk to me. I was often labeled as a snob because people did not understand that I did not hear them when they called out to me. I had a small circle of friends, but still felt lonely because I was not always included in their activities. I had a few boyfriends but was never invited to a high school dance or prom. I immersed myself in books and music. I took swimming lessons and joined a synchronized swimming team, took piano lessons, wrote poetry, took gymnastics, learned baton twirling, and was involved in my youth group at church and Girl Scouts. I also had several regular babysitting jobs in the neighborhood. Deep down in my heart I wanted to get married and have a family, but I did not think it was possible with a hearing loss. A part of my world was taken away from me because it was a common misconception of our society at that time that not being able to hear well would hinder me from having a normal life. I became good at bluffing and hiding my hearing loss.

COLLEGE AND MARRIED LIFE
After graduating from high school in 1975, I was determined to start a new life with new friends and new goals. As I entered college that fall with a full scholarship, my plan was to leave the past behind and focus on getting my college degree in accounting so that I could have a career, travel and be independent. There were no accommodations for students with hearing loss, so I had to work twice as hard to “get the message.”

The freshman classes had at least 150 students and were in large auditoriums, making it difficult to take notes and read lips at the same time. But, the best thing that happened to me that first year was meeting my husband, Steve Pullins, who was a senior at the time.

My hearing loss was never an issue for him and he was patient and kind (and still is!) dealing with it. My mother knew he was serious about our relationship when he built me a bookcase for my books as a Christmas present!

Steve and I were engaged the following spring and married in November 1976. Steve served as an officer in the U.S. Navy right out of college. We moved around quite a bit the first few years of our marriage. This made it difficult for me to continue with my college education. Every time we moved, I transferred my credits and enrolled in classes. After a professor told me that I needed psychological help because I could not understand her (another misconception), I dropped the class and put my college education on hold with a promise to my parents that I would return someday to finish my degree. (Left: Steve and Laurie on their wedding day, November 13, 1976)

IN THE WORKPLACE
In 1997, I decided to get a part-time job to help with our finances. It was a scary time for me because I had not worked with the public in a long time and knew that I faced many challenges. Among other things, I needed a position that did not require using the phone. I found a job working as a teller in a credit union. I had to ask customers to face me so I could read their lips. The staff and my co-workers were supportive and helped me when they could. This renewed my desire to return to school in my 40s. (Laurie with her siblings in 2006, from left—Doug, Kathy and Dan)

When I enrolled at the University of Tennessee the Office of Disability Services contacted me. They offered to provide sign language interpreters for my classes. When I told them that I was oral and did not sign, they told me that they had transcribers available. Two transcribers came to every single one of my classes with two computers. I had a computer in front of me and they had the other one. The transcribers used a special program and typed almost word for word everything that was said in class. I could read everything on the screen in front of me (and could sit anywhere in the classroom) and participate. After class, the transcript was saved in a file and e-mailed to me for my notes. I had the best notes. As an added bonus, at my graduation everything was transcribed for me (and others) on the Jumbotron in the stadium! I was glad I waited to return to college when I did because more than 25 years ago there were few resources available for people with hearing loss.

My mother lost her battle with pancreatic cancer in 1992, but I kept my promise and graduated from college in 2003. I wore her picture on my gown as I walked across the podium. Mom was always there for me. And she still is, in a way. I truly believe she is my guardian angel, watching over all of us.

A RICH FAMILY LIFE
Steve and I have been blessed with four beautiful children—Jason, Chris, Brad, and Marissa. My mother always commented that our children were good “therapy” for me because my days were filled with teaching them to talk and conversing with them. They learned to take their pacifiers out of their mouths so that I could read their lips. Our children learned to be my “ears” for me at a very young age. They were trained how to talk on the phone and had to learn telephone etiquette to relay messages for me. They learned some valuable coping skills since I did not always hear everything that was going on. (Left, Christmas 2011: (back) Steve, son Jason and grandson Jackson, sons Brad and Chris, daughter Marissa’s boyfriend Howy Moulton; (front) Laurie, daughter-in-laws Jessica and Caitlyn (holding Madelyn), daughter Marissa Pullins holding Wyatt Moulton. Photo © Sabrina Lafon Photography)

They are our greatest accomplishments and successful young adults who are sensitive to others who are “differently-abled.” Many other highlights of our marriage included moving nine times in twelve years with the Navy and living in six different states, career changes and raising our four children.

PAYING IT FORWARD
I believe we were fashioned for fellowship and formed for friendships. My definition of friendship can often be defined more lasting than a marriage and closer than a brother or sister. The most unlikely people can end up as friends and I feel that often has to do with where we are in life.

I’ve had some wonderful friendships over the years but since I came to terms with my hearing loss and started my cochlear implant journey, some of my closest friends are also on a hearing journey as well.

I joined HLAA in 2005 when I started losing what little bit of hearing I had and soon discovered that HLAA was a lifeline for others like I am who are affected by hearing loss. I would not be where I am in my life if it wasn’t for their encouragement, advocacy, information, and support. Not everyone has that type of support and that is where HLAA comes in at the national and local level. I have used the Internet as an opportunity to connect, meet and even mentor to others, including parents of deaf children. I am passionate about HLAA and it is no accident that I am in a position to “pay it forward” and help others with the challenges that they face every day. (Above: HLA of Knoxville Christmas party; Laurie is in the front row, far right.)

Someone asked me once that if I could name the one person who has made a difference in my life, who would it be and why. Although I’ve been blessed with many friends and supportive people, it would be my mother. She was a great advocate for me and my younger brother, Doug, and did everything in her power to help us be the successful people we are today. Because of her love and dedication, I can “pay it forward” and advocate for others with hearing loss. Mom is still very much a part of my life today.

WHY I DANCE
When I started my cochlear implant journey in 2005, I created a blog and named it “Laurie’s Dance with Sound.” Little did I know that I would embrace the world of dance in a brand new way six years later.

In January of 2011, Steve and I walked into the Let’s Dance Ballroom Dance Studio in our small town of Maryville, Tennessee, to explore ballroom dancing. We found a new passion that we could enjoy together as a couple in our new lives as empty nesters. Steve and I have been dancing the “dance of life,” so to speak, for the last 36 years and were looking forward to dancing together in a new and different way. After a few weeks of lessons, something stirred inside of me and I knew then that I needed more than just a few sessions a week. In addition to dancing with my husband, I started private lessons with our dance instructor to explore the world of ballroom dancing on a new and different level.

During one of my private dance lessons, Chris Rose, my dance instructor, asked me the question, “Why do you want to dance?” The question caught me off guard. I have pondered it ever since, searching for some better answers. As long as I can remember, music has always been a part of my life. Even though I could not hear well, it filled my heart with emotion and needed no words.

Victor Hugo describes it perfectly when he says, “Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and cannot remain silent.” When I wore my hearing aids, music was just “pretty noise.” I would play it as loud as I could so I could feel the beat and rhythm through the vibrations and sounds. Throughout the years, I have expressed music through many different forms, whether it was by playing the piano, ringing hand bells in church, dancing liturgically, signing to music, and even swimming on a synchronized swim team.

In August 2005, I underwent surgery for my first cochlear implant, and surgery for another cochlear implant followed in January 2007. These two surgeries changed my hearing and life dramatically. For the first time in my life, I was hearing sounds that I had never heard before, sounds others take for granted. I spent a year in auditory-verbal therapy relearning how to hear with my new “ears.” Now that I can hear almost perfectly with my cochlear implants—the sounds of music changed for me and became multi-dimensional with the variations of the different instruments and voices.

When I dance, I can leave the stressors of daily life outside the dance room door. I lose myself in the music and the dance. I cannot go more than a few days without music. And now I cannot go more than a few days without dance. I cannot find all the words to explain how I feel, but I do know that ballroom dancing has changed something deep inside me, and it is something that cannot be hidden or controlled.

When I dance, I feel a shift in my spirit and lose myself in the rhythm of the music on the dance floor. When I wear my dance “hat,” I only know that I am listening and responding to the music playing in my ear, and it makes me feel whole. Learning to ballroom dance has ignited a fervent passion and desire that I cannot deny. For when I dance, it is just the music and me.

Dancing lets me live a dream that I have always had. Ballroom dancing has allowed me to let my hair down and be free. It helps me release the tension and stress I encounter in my daily dance of life, keeping my body and brain active, and helping me with my mental health. I have Meniere’s disease, which is a disorder of the inner ear that affects hearing and balance, characterized by episodes of vertigo, dizziness, and occasional “drop attacks.” I am learning how to balance and control my body and have had fewer episodes since I started dancing! I am gaining more confidence and coordination in my body, which is resulting in a better posture and a more positive outlook on life.

My dance instructor and his colleagues at the dance studio know that they have given me a new lease on life. Their faith, belief and trust in me that I can dance in spite of my challenges speak volumes. Chris is so patient with me, yet firm with constructive criticism. Since I’ve started dancing, I’ve performed four different routines with my husband, Steve, or with Chris and have entered and placed in several local ballroom dance competitions. I am nervous right up to the time of each performance but as soon as the music starts, the butterflies in my stomach go away and I just dance.

What a wonderful feeling it is to show my joy, my emotions, and deep gratitude that I am able to do what I love as I move across the floor with my dance partner. I would not have done this without the miracle of sound through my cochlear implants, and especially without the support of my parents, family and friends.

My mother always encouraged me to use the gifts that I was given and NEVER gave up on me. She said in 1974, “From our standpoint it is worth it all. I feel that even with all the modern help now available, too many parents set their sights too low and give up too easily. As a result, many deaf children are not realizing their full potential.”

A CHANGED LIFE
It doesn’t take much for the tears to well up in my eyes and start flowing down my cheeks when I hear the joyous sounds of the birds, the wind in the trees, music, voices of my family, especially my grandchildren, to be able to hear and understand people around me without having to read lips, to be able to use the phone, and everything else with two “ears.”

I am a changed life. Changed because of the technology that allows me to dream again, to go back to college, speak, dance, mentor, and hear the world all around me. So many of us are afraid of the unknown and are afraid to leave our comfort zone to try new things. And we run away from it when the very thing we should do is to embrace the challenges before us. And when we do accept the gifts and talents that we are blessed with, we will come out on the other side, surprised and better than we were before.

So, my friends, dance the dance of life that you are given. You will never ever be the same again.

Laurie Pullins has been the president of the HLA Knoxville Chapter for five years. The Chapter recently participated in the Chattanooga Walk4Hearing and was the highest fundraising team. She can be reached at ldpullins@gmail.com. Her blog is http://lauriescidance.blogspot.com.





Seen & Heard: Laurie D. Pullins

17 07 2012

Laurie D. Pullins, a member of the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA), made her Seen & Heard profile debut in the July/August 2012 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine, which just arrived in member mailboxes. Laurie is also the cover feature author for this issue. She had already signed up for the Seen & Heard column before we approached her to write her feature, and her answers were so interesting that we included her Seen & Heard profile as well! Seen & Heard is a new column I developed for the magazine in 2011 and we had 48 members get enthusiastically involved in our first outreach effort! During Convention 2012 in Providence last month, I photographed 21 new profile subjects. We’ll be publishing one or two profiles (as space allows) in each issue of the bimonthly magazine.

Join the Hearing Loss Association of America!
Do you have a hearing loss or know someone who does? Consider membership in the Hearing Loss Association of America. Student annual dues are $20, individual annual dues are $35, and family/couple annual dues are $45. Fees outside the U.S. are slightly higher. All memberships include discounts on hearing-related products, convention and special event early bird discounts, AVIS and Alamo car rental, and the award-winning Hearing Loss Magazine. Sign up for membership here.

LAURIE D. PULLINS    Maryville, TN / born April 1, 1957 in Columbus, OH

MY HEARING LOSS… My hearing loss was discovered at the age of two. There was no real explanation for it or a family history of hearing loss. I wore hearing aids for 40+ years and received my first cochlear implant in August of 2005 and my second in January 2007.

SAGE ADVICE… There is no better time than today to be deaf or hard of hearing. It is not the end of the world and there are so many options and services available today compared to 10, 20, or 30 years ago. Technology is improving by leaps and bounds, making it possible to hear in different ways through hearing aids and cochlear implants. Most importantly, surround yourself with a strong support system. Advocate for yourself or your family member who has the hearing loss.

FUNNY HEARING LOSS MOMENTS… #1: Shortly after my hearing loss was discovered, I started therapy in Buffalo’s Children’s Hospital first and then transferred to Ohio State University’s program after my parents were relocated. The room where I had therapy was in a highrise building (don’t remember how many floors up). While my mother and therapist were discussing my latest therapy session, I climbed out the window and sat on the ledge, looking at the activity and passersby below me. Needless to say, I caused some anxiety for my mother and therapist and it was a challenge for them to get me back in the room off that ledge! #2: Forgetting to tell my husband that I set my Sonic Boom Alarm clock for the first time. I had to pry him off the ceiling the next morning! #3: I attended my first HLAA Convention in Oklahoma City with Jennifer Thorpe and we were roommates. Neither one of us had shared a room with a deaf person before. The first morning, I woke up before she did so I made sure I was quiet as I got dressed, tiptoeing around the room, not making a sound. She did the same for me when she got up before me. A day or two later we both realized, “Duh! Neither one of us can hear with our “ears” off as we sleep!” We could make all the noise we wanted and not wake each other up. We have laughed about that so many times.

WHEN I WAS LITTLE I WANTED TO BE A… dental hygienist. Today my passion is to “pay it forward” and help others with hearing loss.

FAVORITE CHILDHOOD MEMORY… I remember swinging in a handmade swing in a big maple tree on my grandparents’ farm. I would swing for hours as high as I could over the garden and sing a song that was actually a poem “How do you like to go up in a swing, up in the air so blue…” I loved spending time with both sets of my grandparents on their farms.

THE BEST GIFT I EVER GOT… was the gift of time from my best friend, Dawn. When I got the call that my mother had slipped into a coma after a short battle with pancreatic cancer, Dawn helped me pack my suitcase and said, “Just go be with your mother. I will take care of your family for you.” She took care of our four children plus her own three (all the kids were between the ages of 2–11) for eight days so I could spend my mother’s last days with her. I love to be with people and the gift of time is always special to me.

THE FIRST THING I BOUGHT WITH MY OWN MONEY WAS… contact lenses. I wore glasses starting in third grade and wanted contact lenses so bad. My parents told me that if I saved $100, they would pay the rest. So, I saved my babysitting money and got my contacts at the age of 15.

THE HARDEST THING I’VE EVER DONE WAS… returning to college while working and raising a family of four children.

I LOVE THE SOUND OF… music, the little voice of my grandson, the wind softly blowing through the trees, the sounds of the birds—just to name a few.

IN MY SPARE TIME I… love to write and read. I also love quilting, sewing, gardening, ballroom dancing, reading and knitting.

I MOST DEFINITELY AM NOT… bored.

I MISS… my mother.

HAPPINESS IS… being loved and accepted.

MUSICALLY INCLINED… piano, hand bells, recorder

DO YOU SPEAK ANY LANGUAGES OTHER THAN ENGLISH? Yes, a little bit of Latvian (just the basics). I’ve gone to Latvia several times on mission trips.

WHO HAS HAD THE MOST INFLUENCE IN YOUR LIFE? My mother was my best friend, prayer partner and confidant, and understood me better than anyone else.

PEOPLE WOULD BE SURPRISED THAT I… used to go deer hunting.

MY LITTLE KNOWN TALENT IS… synchronized swimming.

FAVORITE PLACE TO BE… Every year I escape to my aunt’s house in Mt. Gilead, Ohio, for a week-long sabbatical away from my obligations and family. We talk, eat, sleep and quilt to our heart’s content. “Gilead” means “healing waters” and this place is a “healing place” for me.

I HAVE A WEAKNESS FOR… crème brûlée, my favorite dessert.

I WOULD LOVE TO MEET… Heather Whitestone McCallum.

I COLLECT… anything related to the Drummer Boy.

PLACES I’VE CALLED HOME… Ohio, Florida, Idaho, Connecticut, Wisconsin, and Tennessee

WORKING NINE TO FIVE… dental assistant, department store manager, bank teller, information technology assistant, accountant

FAVORITE TUNES… Amazing Grace, Annie’s Song by John Denver, Colour My World (Chicago), Stairway to Heaven (Led Zeppelin), Bridge Over Troubled Water (Simon & Garfunkel), Christian music, Loving You Forever (Carole King)

ON MY BOOKSHELF… The Bible, Heaven is for Real, Ken Follett books, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series, James Patterson books

ON THE BIG SCREEN… I love any movie with Denzel Washington or Morgan Freeman (Book of Eli, Hurricane, etc.), The Sound of Music, Shall We Dance, The Ten Commandments, The Chronicles of Narnia series and Harry Potter movies.

THE LAST BOOK I READ WAS… Ken Follett’s World Without End and The Hunger Games.

I AM… loving, encouraging and industrious.

MY MOTHER TAUGHT ME… to hear and to communicate, that I could do anything that I put my mind to, and she encouraged me to try new things.

MY FATHER TAUGHT ME… how to play Scrabble and card games.

GET ANYTHING GOOD IN THE MAIL LATELY? My aunt sent me some old letters that my mother had written years ago.

WHAT’S THE BEST THING SINCE SLICED BREAD? The World Wide Web and technology (cell phones, Bluetooth, etc.) enables the deaf and hard of hearing to be “connected” to the outside world.

I HAVE A FEAR OF… bridges.

I REALLY SHOULD STOP… procrastinating.

I REALLY SHOULD START… spending more time with my grandchildren.

WORD OR PHRASE I OVERUSE… “Bless Your Heart” (it’s a southern thing!)

I HAVE THE UNCANNY ABILITY TO… misplace everything.

I SIMPLY CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT… my cochlear implants or my glasses!

SONG YOU LOVE BUT ARE EMBARRASSED TO ADMIT TO… “Popcorn”—I used to listen to this all the time back in the
70s. It really sounds like popcorn popping!

NAME SOMETHING YOU HAVE IN YOUR HOME THAT YOU ARE SURE MOST PEOPLE DON’T… Latgale pottery from Latvia (bowl and plates)—they are my favorite pieces

MY THREE FAVORITE POSSESSIONS… are my cell phone, computer, and my favorite chair.

MY LATEST OBSESSION… is ballroom dancing.

MY FAVORITE QUOTE… “As long as I live I’ll always hear birds, waterfalls, and winds sing.” —John Muir

MY MOTTO IS… “God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason.” In other words, we should listen more than we talk!

MY LONG-TERM GOAL… is to retire and build an energy efficient “green home” in the Smoky Mountains.

MY SHORT-TERM GOAL… is to take photography classes at our local community college.

I LOVE… my husband, Steve Pullins. He has a great sense of humor and is a calming influence on me and others around him. He is my best friend and dance partner for life!

MY GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT IS… our four children.

I WANT TO BE REMEMBERED… as a kind, loving, and giving Christian woman making a small difference in someone’s life.

Photo © Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





Seen & Heard: Glenice Swenson

6 07 2012

Glenice Swenson, a member of the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA), made her Seen & Heard profile debut in the July/August 2012 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine, which just arrived in member mailboxes. Seen & Heard is a new column I developed for the magazine in 2011. We had 48 members get enthusiastically involved in our first outreach effort and just last week I photographed more than 20 members during HLAA’s Convention 2012 in Providence, R.I. We’ll be publishing one or two profiles (as space allows) in each issue of the bimonthly magazine. Other members previously profiled were Danielle Nicosia, John Kinstler, Judy Martin, Anne Taylor, Sam Spritzer and Jeff Bonnell and Eloise Schwarz.

Join the Hearing Loss Association of America!
Do you have a hearing loss or know someone who does? Consider membership in the Hearing Loss Association of America. Student annual dues are $20, individual annual dues are $35, and family/couple annual dues are $45. Fees outside the U.S. are slightly higher. All memberships include discounts on hearing-related products, convention and special event early bird discounts, AVIS and Alamo car rental, and the award-winning Hearing Loss Magazine. Sign up for membership here.

Photo © Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

GLENICE SWENSON  

Owatonna, MN / born Sept. 2 in Grand Forks, ND

WHAT I LOVE MOST ABOUT MY DAUGHTER, JANA… I love many things about Jana and today I love that she chose an education and profession that makes her incredibly aware of what it is like to be hard of hearing. Because she pursued her degree in Deaf Studies and is a sign language interpreter (even though I do not sign) we have had many interesting conversations about subjects regarding challenges of people with hearing loss.

MY HEARING LOSS… Although my mother and my pediatrician suspected there might be an issue with my hearing, I wasn’t actually diagnosed until I was 14. The junior high I was attending did a screening of all 9th graders in preparation for high school. As recommended by my school, my mother took me to our doctor to be checked out and they found I had some hearing loss—possibly progressive. When I was 18, I graduated from high school. I decided I better find out more about this hearing loss diagnosis. At that point it was determined that it was definitely progressive as I had lost more since the diagnosis. At the age of 28, I got my first pair of hearing aids. When I was 44, I had my first cochlear implant surgery. I currently hear fabulously with bilateral cochlear implants. Life is grand.

SAGE ADVICE… During my most challenging years of hearing loss, I did not have a support system other than my hearing family as I knew nothing about support groups and none were readily available. My advice is join HLAA, seek out others with hearing loss, learn what your options are, and use the tools and technology that is so available in this modern day!

MY FUNNY HEARING LOSS MOMENT… After a family gathering, I was out with some of my cousins who I didn’t see very often. We were having a great time in one of the local bar and grill joints when it was time to close. As is the tradition to signal closing, they shut the lights out and without skipping a beat, I said, ‘Oh, no! I go deaf in the dark.’ When the lights came back on, the cousin I had been visiting was looking a little uncomfortable, but chuckling and grinning from ear to ear, was looking at me with an expression of surprise. He had no idea that I had a sense of humor about my hearing loss and need to read lips.

DISADVANTAGES OF A HEARING LOSS… It takes a lot of energy to pursue the same things as hearing people.

ADVANTAGES OF A HEARING LOSS… I don’t usually think of hearing loss in terms of advantages. Communication in our house is a priority. We developed many communication rules and courtesies in our home during the years I was losing my hearing and our daughters were growing up. I think the courtesies enhanced my relationships with my daughters. The fact that I needed to stop whatever I was doing to read their lips and focus my attention on them was a good thing.

WHEN I WAS LITTLE, I WANTED TO BE… in the Navy, a WAVE! My second choice was to be a hairstylist. Due to my hearing loss, I did not get to serve my country as a Navy WAVE. I did go back to school for cosmetology after having my children. I ended up leaving that profession after three years when I had reached the point where I could no longer make appointments by phone.

MY FAVORITE CHILDHOOD MEMORY… is my first bike! When I was seven, my dad had a friend who knew he was looking for a little bike for me. His friend was working out at the Grand Forks Air Force Base when he spotted a little bike in someone’s trash. It was awful, but my dad was great at fixing things up. He worked on it until it pedaled like a dream and it was fast too. He was going to paint it my favorite color—blue. Dad got the primer on it, which was an ugly gray. I was trying it out before he got it finished and discovered how fast it was. When the neighborhood kids saw me riding this bike and how fast I was going, they wanted to try it. The next thing I knew one of the boys got out a stop watch and we were timing each other to see who could get around the block the fastest. That bike was so busy getting ridden that it never got painted blue.

THE FIRST THING I BOUGHT WITH MY OWN MONEY WAS… a bike! I started babysitting when I was about 12. I saved my money until I had enough to buy my first big bike. I ended up finding a used 26” blue bike for $13.

THE HARDEST THING I’VE EVER DONE… When I read this question, the memory that jumps out at me is my last hearing test before I qualified for the cochlear implant. When the audiologist went to get the picture board to give me clues to the words she was saying, I knew it was bad. Getting through that testing session was really hard.

I LOVE THE SOUND OF… I did not hear birds for many, many years. Even with my hearing aids, I never got the songbirds back, only the coo of a dove. With my cochlear implants, I can hear all birds! There is a pair of cardinals that live in my neighborhood and it still chokes me up when I hear them. I love listening to the birds. I also love listening to my grandchildrens’ giggles.

IN MY SPARE TIME, I… I’m almost always reading something. I enjoy getting outside to Trikke, bike, or walk. I also enjoy swinging kettlebells and going to kickboxing.

I MOST DEFINITELY AM NOT… a couch potato, except when I’m working on my laptop!

I MISS… my kids and grandkids. They are spread out from 40 to 1,000 miles away.

HOBBIES? photography, writing, sewing, crocheting

PEOPLE WOULD BE SURPRISED THAT I… like motorcycles and used to have one.

MY LITTLE KNOWN TALENT… This is a new thing that I’m doing, but I’m pretty good at carving a Trikke!

I WISH I HAD A TALENT FOR… public speaking.

YOU JUST WON A $10 MILLION LOTTERY. WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?  I would plan a trip to St. Moritz in Switzerland!

MY FAVORITE PLACE TO BE… is on a ski slope when it is 28 degrees, the air smells great and the snow is perfect.

I HAVE A WEAKNESS FOR… chocolate.

I WOULD LOVE TO MEET… the Queen of England.

MY FAVORITE SEASON… is autumn. I enjoy the cooling of the air, the beautiful foliage changes and the anticipation of the holiday season.

I COLLECT… crosses in the forms of home decor and jewelry.

I HAVE A FEAR OF… big bridges.

YOU HAVE JUST WON A $1,000 SHOPPING SPREE TO A FAVORITE STORE! WHAT DID YOU BUY? I would probably get an iPad and an iPhone from the Apple Store.

PLACES I’VE CALLED HOME… Warren, MN; Grand Forks, ND; Crookston, MN; Owatonna, MN

WORKING NINE TO FIVE… carhop at A & W Drive In; waitress at Del’s Coffee Shop; parking enforcement officer for the City of Grand Forks; bookkeeper and teller at Polk County State Bank of Crookston; full-time mother

MY FAVORITE FOODS… chocolate, dark cherries, peanuts, avocado, shrimp

MUSIC TO MY EARS… You and I by Stevie Wonder; Manheim Steamroller’s version of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen; Don’t Take Away My Heaven by Aaron Neville; I Believe in You by Don Williams; Somewhere Over the Rainbow by Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwo’ole

LITERARY FAVES… The Bible, The Biography of Hellen Keller, The Biography of Annie Oakley, All Creatures Great and Small, Where Angels Walk

THE BIG SCREEN… Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, White Christmas, It’s a Wonderful Life, The Parent Trap, Sound of Music

THE LAST BOOK I READ WAS… The Secret

MY KIDS HAVE TAUGHT ME… patience.

MY MOTHER TAUGHT ME… to never judge a book by its cover.

MY FATHER TAUGHT ME… to love music.

WHAT’S THE BEST THING SINCE SLICED BREAD? Microwave bacon cooker!

WORD OR PHRASE THAT I OVERUSE… “and stuff”

I SIMPLY CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT… chocolate!

SONG YOU LOVE BUT ARE EMBARRASSED TO ADMIT… the original recording of “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Clause” by Jimmy Boyd

NAME SOMETHING THAT YOU HAVE IN YOUR HOME THAT YOU ARE SURE MOST PEOPLE DON’T… antique Lincoln rocking chair

MY FAVORITE QUOTE… “If it was easy everyone would do it. It is the hard that makes it great.” — Coach Dugan in A League of Their Own

MY LONG-TERM GOAL IS… to write a book.

MY BIGGEST PET PEEVE IS… when people assume versus finding the truth.

RIGHT NOW I AM CRAVING… Good Earth original recipe tea.

MY MOTTO IS… never say never.

I WOULD LIKE TO BE REMEMBERED… as a good, kind and caring person.