Monday, November 29, 2010

Karma is a bitch and she has sisters...

I love that quote because you've heard phrases such as "Payback is a bitch", "Karma is a bitch", "Life is a bitch", etc. You can see how my favorite quote infers. ;)

This is in reference to a psycho I used to work for. I found out recently that a club has been forced to close the doors for a year due to a rapidly dwindling membership base and funds. I had served on that club with distinction as Vice President, President, and Vice President before the psycho came in and started maneuvering to get one of the cronies installed as V.P. at the election.

Several people told me they saw the psycho tell the V.P. candidate how to set up a voting bloc in order to win the position. I told them to not worry about it because clearly the psycho can't stand me and wanted me out. "Let them have the club", I said and walked away. Not even two years later, this happens.

The word got out about how the psycho had used job connections to get a lover a job in the same department. Not only that, the psycho is married. Huge conflict of interest. The psycho got demoted down from Program Director. I laughed when I heard that. Like I said...

Karma is a bitch and she has sisters.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Story series - Got busted on a plane!

Editor's note - the Story series will be published on Wednesdays unless that is too close to the date of a holiday.

Because I was attending a college with excellent resources for deaf students 800 miles away, I fly often. I have been flying since I was just few months old in my mother's womb, so I knew the whole drill.

Buy a ticket, find the correct gate, introduce yourself to the personnel as a deaf traveler so they can tell you when it's your turn to go in, wait until they tell you, go into the plane, find your seat, stow your stuff, sit down, put your seat belt on, pick up a magazine, get some gum out (helps with the pressure in my ears), and wait for the flight attendants to do their choregraphed demonstrations.

This time was different. I got a seat by the wing exit door and an attendant came over to where I was sitting. She started talking to everyone who was on my "row" about the emergency procedures and I couldn't believe how I actually understood every single word she was saying.

After she was finished with her instructions on how to operate the emergency exit doors, she asked if everyone understood. I nodded at her and she caught that. She looked straight at me and said to me, "I need you to verbalize that you understand."

Busted. I grinned at her and quickly thought over on how to say something without giving myself away. The word "understand" was too long. No. "No problem", again too long. Ahh! A small word that I can manage. Three letters long, perfect.

I said, "Yes" as clearly as I could. She went, "Ah, you are deaf. Come with me" and she swapped my seat with another closer to the front of the plane. Smart lady. ;)

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Here is a surprise video below...

We just signed "Happy Thanksgiving (to) You". Yes, that's me (remember my fave shirt? LOL)...and I originally set out to do this solo but my younger daughter WANTED to do this with me. Fine with me! ;)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Story series - The magical doors

When I was about 4 or 5, my family and I went to my paternal uncle's wedding. Since I could not understand what was going on, I was bored and itching to explore the place. My parents refused to let me leave during the ceremony and that drove me up the wall.

Finally, we got to move to another area. Didn't know this was a reception...but with all the commotion and whatnot, I was able to slip away. While exploring, I came across the magical doors.

I stepped in and marveled at the little round things. I pressed one of them and I was delighted to discover that, after a moment and some shaking of the floor, the doors would reveal to show everyone had disappeared along with the tables and chairs. I pressed another one and I got yet another different scene. I decided to try all the round things. Whenever I pressed one of those, they would change color and then go back to old color and after shaking, the doors would open to give me a different view.

After a while of getting random sights, the doors slid open to reveal my uncle standing there and my uncle shouted "Oh! I found him!" He rushed in and grabbed me and took me out of there. I screamed and hollered. I wanted more of the magical doors! I loved how things kept changing after pressing a button.

Have you guessed what the magical doors were?

The magical doors were...elevator doors. ;)

Needless to say, my parents refused to let go of me throughout the reception and the photos showed that. LOL

Monday, November 15, 2010

Follow through is the key

When I was done shopping at a small department chain store with my girls for their mother's birthday gifts, we headed out for the checkout lanes. As we got there, I discovered that my younger daughter had picked up something that I wasn't going to pay for, so I sent my older daughter with the item to put it back.

Because I was distracted with looking for my daughter to return, I didn't notice that a cashier had come over and was trying to tell me that her lane was open. As my daughter neared, she noticed the cashier and heard her telling me her lane was open. She told me to look over there and I went "Oh! Okay" when I saw the cashier.

After the cashier rang up the purchases, she said something I didn't understand and my older daughter stepped in to help me. She didn't have to and I am not going to use her as my "crutch" with the hearing world, but I appreciated her effort to help me out. I told the cashier "Thank you but I don't want a department credit card."

Then I swiped my card. Technology has come a long way...used to be that they had to tell me how much the total was and I didn't always understand. Nowadays, the total is seen on the pad. The cashier then handed me the receipt and...

Barely signed "Thank you" to me. You know, in a very small way motion-wise. You do it from your chin and her hands never went above her chest.

Here's the link to a video that shows you how to say "Thank you"

Follow through is the key. ;)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Whew, now that the Silent Weekend retreat is over...part 2

Editor's note: please see the post below for part one if you haven't read that yet.

I woke up Saturday morning and it was still dark out. I went to check on my campers and I was tickled, really tickled to see my thieves had taken their mattresses down and placed them in front of the fireplace (the mandated spot for each cabin's mascot) and they slept on the floor to make sure nobody could get to our mascot. I looked over to the fireplace and was shocked to see our mascot wasn't alone.

My boys. My cabin. I felt that familiar surge of pride again.

I got my pager out and I took a picture. The older thief woke up from the flash and when he saw who I was, he grinned at me. I signed, "how many mascots?" and he signed "Four". I signed "Four? Proud you!" The original picture was way off-center so I took another picture. The older thief grinned and held his thumb up as I re-snapped the picture. The younger thief had accidentally covered up the other mascots while he slept - you can barely make out the blue dog peeking out from under. Take a look. LOL

You can see the hen now, just behind our mascot.

At the mandatory 7:45 am staff meeting, I found out that my campers had won the Dutch Auction game. That boosted my sense of pride for my campers, which is no easy feat.

After the meeting, I joined my campers at their table for breakfast and they told me other campers were grumbling about the two thieves being too good at the mascot game. Then the staffer in charge came over and told my campers to give back the mascots. They protested that they had followed the rules cleanly this time. They looked at me and I nodded my head slightly; they promptly turned the mascots over to her.

After she left with the 4 mascots, the younger one signed to me, "Why punish us? We follow rules!" I leaned in and signed, "(it's) Okay, you punish because you too good". They laughed at that and calmed down. I was curious about how they managed to steal 4 mascots after the cabins had learned how sneaky they were and were undoubtedly on high alert.

Me: "How four?"
Older thief: "We went their cabins, take"
Me: "Time?"
Younger thief: "3 morning"
Me: "Wow"

Then it was time for the outdoor games. Friday night had dipped into the 30's and the sun was warming the field up to the high 40's when we streamed out of the mess hall. We headed out to play a regular Silent Weekend game and a favorite of mine, "Clusters". It's a great game that anyone can play.

Here's how it works - someone holds up a number and the participants must "cluster" themselves into a group of people matching the sign. If the sign comes up as "6", each group must have 6 people in it. The "refs" rush in and count the members of each group to ensure accuracy. The others who couldn't find enough members are out of the game. Then everyone breaks apart and mingles...waiting for the next number. The last two remaining in the game are the winners. The last two left in the game that morning were each given a clue to share with their cabins.

After playing a relay game (each camper had to "read" what was fingerspelled and either fingerspell or sign it) and "Guess Who?" (each camper had to guess the identity on a card taped to their backs, using "yes/no" questions), we went back for lunch. My co-counselor informed me that he managed to get another clue. My mental computation told me that any other cabin had, at best, 2 clues while ours had 4.

After lunch, I left to lead a workshop for the beginners. I decided on the "7 W's of ASL" (who, what, where, when, why, which, & how) as the building block approach, supplemented with time reference (yesterday, tomorrow, day, week, month, etc.), emotions, and gender line for sex-specific signs (mother, father, boy, girl, etc.).

When I wrapped the workshop up 1.5 hours later, the participants were able to follow everything so much better and they felt good about that. Some came over and praised me for that. Even the staffers who attended were impressed by my style of teaching. I had gotten everyone involved, even the staffers and counselors. This was officially my first time leading a workshop. Two years ago, a presentator got sick and I took over at the last minute.

Then it was craft time, where the campers were allowed to unwind and get creative. That always recharges the batteries. Then the announcement came - each cabin must use the line "Guess What?" and use the gloves as prop in their skit. What skit, you may be thinking? Every year, each cabin comes up with a skit involving signing, deaf culture, and any relevant aspect of the deaf world and we all compete for the best skit. It's one of the best things about the whole weekend...and the most stressful!

I herded my campers back to our cabin to brainstorm for our skit. I came up with a great ending line...the problem was we had nothing to build around that. We had 1.5 hours to brainstorm before dinner and then 2 hours before we had to go to the rec hall and perform our skit.

Nothing. NOTHING. We went back and forth. We came up with three different ideas, but none of them were interchangeable with each other. Nobody could agree on a single idea. Suddenly, it was time for dinner. I signed to the campers, "Eat fast, come here. 5 minutes eat. Go". After I scarfed down my meal, I biked back and laid myself down to rest my brain.

The co-counselor woke me up few minutes later and after deliberating for 15 minutes, we eliminated one idea. We ultimately decided that the idea of murder was not doable and focused on the idea of a bad dream. This happened 50 minutes BEFORE everyone had to go to the rec hall. Argh!

The younger thief had a talent for performance and was the logical choice as "the kid" in the skit...but...he had never seen the movie we based the skit on and had no idea exactly how the line worked or the impact of the line. He was only 7 at the time the movie came out. After struggling through the explanation for 4th time, someone suggested that I be the kid. Before I could protest, every camper jumped in and unanimously agreed on that.

Sighs. Okay. We rehearsed everything at the speed of light. Well, we had to - only 30 minutes to get it all down before going. I reminded everyone to not worry about flubbing their lines...the audience does not know what we are doing and would not know if someone messed up. We rushed off for the rec hall 5 minutes until 8 pm.

The skit took place on Planet Eyeth (as opposed to EARth, where most of us are deaf and we sign everywhere). At the beginning of the skit, I was ordered to bed by my "parents". As I dreamt, I "woke up" in the dream and I tried to sign to my uncle and aunt but they were wearing gloves so they no longer spoke sign language and were "speaking" like Earthlings.

I panicked and ran to my sisters doing pedicures on each other. They had gloves on and "spoke" to me, not understanding what I was signing to them. I freaked out when I saw my brother speaking on a phone with gloves on. Why is he using a phone if he is deaf?!? I saw my parents and tried to sign frantically to them. They did not understand and thought I was flailing my hands around. I saw they had gloves on. (I ran to my bed to wake up from the dream) As I woke up, I cried for my parents and they rushed in.

Mother signed "What's wrong?" I pulled my blanket up and around my head and I signed "I see...hearing people". (That's when the audience roared with laughter as they realized we had done the deaf version of "The Sixth Sense"). Mother signed "Guess what" and I signed "What?" and she signed "Hearing people not real." I sighed with relief and signed "Whew, bad dream".

Judges traditionally razz each skit. I loved what they said about our skit.

After every skit was performed, we had the option of going to a bonfire or the mess hall or cabins because we all were done for Saturday. I hung out at the bonfire for a while before checking in on the mess hall prior to going to bed.

Around 5 am Sunday, I was awakened with a sudden cramp in my right calf. I got out to stand on my foot to unkink it...and saw something dart across my room. I crept out or my room, looked around, and caught someone trying to steal our mascot. Whew! I checked around the cabin and boom, caught another one lurking in the shadows. He was obviously the back-up. Perfect timing to have a cramp. LOL

At the mandatory staff meeting, the counselors all agreed that my skit was the best and funniest. After discussing the candidates for awards, we joined the campers for breakfast while the judges deliberated everything.

We all went to the rec hall for the last time. The staffers let the campers know that they were once again allowed to use their voices. Then the awards were given out. My cabin won The Devil (the older thief), The Clown (the younger thief), The Biggest Sweetheart, and The Balancing Act.

Sadly, the judges did not think our skit was the best and I was told there was a collective gasp when another cabin won instead. At least we won their minds and hearts. ;)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Whew, now that the Silent Weekend retreat is over...

Some of us met up at a restaurant near the retreat so we all could just hang out for the last time. The retreat each year keeps us so busy that we really don't get to do much together. That's okay - what we gain each year is the new memories and the bonds developed.

The theme this year was murder mystery, done in the style of the board game Clue. Sounds like fun, right? It sure was!

Knowing how massive the locale is, I brought my bike (third year in a row now) and so did another counselor. A third one had his bike on his mind but he forgot and wasn't happy about it. Despite the weekend forecast in the 30's overnight, we used our bikes all over the place. A few campers were very curious about my Trek 7300 bike and asked to use it. Of course, they had to ask me for sign language. ;)

After getting everything set up and decorated, everyone gathered in the mess hall to kick the weekend off. The staffer in charge explained, through voicing and signing, what the theme was and how it would go down. Each cabin would get a clue to get started on the game and everyone had to work for extra clues to help solve the mystery.

The winning cabin with the most points scored in the Dutch Auction game at the rec hall (after dinner) would get a clue. Admittedly, I had never heard of Dutch Auction and I had to listen to the rules. You had to put things in a bag that you thought would be called out by the emcee and you'd get points for that. Sorta like a reverse scavenger hunt, where you don't KNOW what you'd need in order to win.

Then with an added twist, the staffer said few minutes before she had secretly placed a mascot in each cabin (not related to the theme) and the cabins were charged with protecting their mascots from abduction at all times. This had never happened before. New territory. Hm.

I headed back to my cabin with the co-counselor so we could change into our characters for the night's main event where we would interact with the campers. Right as I was aboout to finish dressing up, the co-counselor left our room to wash up. He rushed back in and excitedly told me to, "come look now".

I followed him into the center of the cabin and I was amazed to discover that two male campers of my cabin had stolen ALL of the other cabins' mascots (see pic below; our mascot is the tan dog). I felt my chest swell up with pride when I realized that I would've liked to have thought of this first. These two campers had illegally abducted the mascots - they were supposed to wait until after the main event. I knew I would get heat for what they did...and I didn't mind that. Not one bit at all.

Faces blacked out to protect the guilty ones ;)

Not seen clearly is the fabric hen, between large blue

dog & pink pig - which will be visible in the next post

The other members came in and saw what had occurred. They loved it...suddenly we had that instant bonding. The younger thief signed to me, "What if mascots on list? We can 8x points!" Irrefutable logic. I signed back, "Me fine, put mascots in my sleeping bag...mine biggest." Let me explain the weird wording when we speak in sign language...we are signing and there is no need to sign each and every word since we mentally "fill in the blanks".

We went to the rec hall and one counselor approached me in an agitated manner, "Mascot gone! Don't know what mascot look like!" and another chimed in with "My mascot gone too!". I feigned my surprise at that. Hehe. When other campers and counselors saw the looted mascots on display, some of them went after me. After some accusations and arguing, I shrugged at them and signed, "Wish I thought that. "

The counselors went to the lead staffer to protest and she signed, "Sorry, game starts now." Ohh, I could feel the heat/glare from the counselors. I stuck to my guns...hey, I was (and still am) proud of those sneaky buggers! LOL

The first item called out was a toothbrush, which every cabin easily produced. The emcee signed, "Toothbrush, one point. RED toothbrush, two points". I knew I'd like the game and I stayed in the background so the campers would be more involved. The emcee was funny and creative with his "calls".

At one point, he signed "10 points, any 'I Love You' sign or symbol" and I watched my campers search frantically in vain for anything that resembled the famous "ILY" icon. As time dwindled down on that item, I suddenly remembered something. I rushed out to the emcee and I showed him my ILY tattoo. He signed, "Real tattoo? Not pen?" and I signed "Yes, real" and I showed him my other tattoo. He was so impressed by that he gave my cabin 20 points. A counselor saw what I did and ran over to show him her tattoo of a cartoonish hand in the "ILY" pose, holding a heart (on the right side of her lower back). He promptly rewarded her 25 points. LOL

Then...the emcee signed "5 points, cabin mascot". I grinned at that call and looked at the thieves. They looked at me with a mischievious look in their eyes. Other cabins protested "loudly" and the emcee signed, "30 seconds left!" Instant stampede to our spot for the looted mascots. Bedlam. Chaos. I saw both thieves were refusing to give up their preferred mascot, feeding the frenzy. I ordered both to give theirs up in order to restore the peace.

Then the game ended and the scores were tallied up secretly to determine the winning cabin to reward another clue. Meanwhile, the counselors were ordered to take their posts at their assigned tables and play games like blackjack (campers had to sign numbers), mirror relay (fingerspell a word back to a counselor), tactile fingerspell (campers had to put their hands inside a box and "feel" a counselor spell a word), etc.

That...was...just...Friday. LOL I'll publish part two (about Saturday and Sunday) tomorrow. :)

Friday, November 5, 2010

Off to do something that I love to do every year...

I volunteer every year as a counselor for a retreat. Normally that's nothing special about that, but the retreat is very unusual. It is for people who want to improve their sign language skills and my job is to help enhance that while at the same time, bring deaf culture to them.

Nobody at the retreat is ALLOWED to use their voicebox to communicate. The penalty is wearing a massive and colorfully loud bib with a dangling pacifier and a helium-filled balloon (so we can spot who has that when the next person gets busted for speaking).

I have previously mentioned that I am deaf and fluent in sign language. That is the unique set of skills I will be bringing to the retreat. There will be 8 lead counselors (I'm one of them), about 10 co-lead counselors, and about 8 hearing staffers who are sign language interpreters. We will be handling about 70 participants, maybe more. The participants will range from beginners to advanced.

The retreat will start Friday night with a gathering in the mess hall for dinner and end in the gym Sunday noon. I have to be there by 2 pm to help set everything up and help take everything down after the participants leave. 40+ hours of work nonstop, but pure fun and rewarding. I get to bond with the lucky ones who sign up for my cabin. Nobody is allowed to know which cabin will have who as their lead and co-lead counselors.

The biggest challenge every year is the skit. We always say to the participants "This is for fun", but we all secretly hope to be the one who wins this year. My cabin (out of 8 total) has won twice in 8 years (2006 and 2009). Not bad at all. Let's see if my cabin can win two years in a row. ;)

Maybe I will tell you the storyline of both skits that won. In separate posts, of course. LOL I will try to remember to post about this year's retreat Sunday and publish on Monday. If I miss that, just come back Tuesday.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


Editor's note: I meant to have this post published on Monday this week and move the Q & A #14 post to next week, but I just plain forgot. Simple as that.

My family and I went to a local Halloween parade on Saturday, just few blocks down from our house. That, in and of itself, is nothing ordinary...except for a certain vehicle.

As you probably know from experience, towns always showcase their public services. Firemen, policemen, and emergency personnel would come out for the parades. They always strolled by in their vehicles. It's always nice to see seized cars turned into cop cars, ambulances, police cars, and fire trucks as they go by. Nothing extraordinary about that...til that Saturday.

I was about 10 feet from the front of a fire truck, my right ear facing it when it blasted its siren horn. Whoa, whoa...the sound reverberated in my left ear and I physically reacted to that by ducking a little and bringing up my left hand to cover my left ear.

Something strange happened - I experienced a little dizziness. I rarely hear anything, let alone this humongous sound bouncing around and rattling my brain like crazy. I glanced at my wife and a neighbor. They were cracking up hard by the fact that I heard it. HEARD it. All I could do was grin at them.


Another fire truck went by and blasted its siren horn again, but I did not hear it this time. I was almost dead middle of the truck and the neighbor did the crossed eye roll from the noise invasion on her ears. This time, I cracked up at her. Turnabout is a fair play. LOL

I am sure you have noticed that I heard the blast in my left ear only. My left ear picks up sharp & high pitch noises while my right ear picks up soft and low pitch noises. No, I wasn't wearing any hearing aid - I haven't in decades. Just a weird quirk of how my ears work...not at all in tandem.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Q & A #14

Q: (from Formspring widget) So I saw that you learned to sign when you were 25. How long have you been deaf?

A: I contracted spinal meningitis when I was 13 months old. After I woke up from a coma, the doctors discovered that I was deaf. The hearing nerves in my ears were damaged/destroyed from the high fevers.

Bonus Halloween pics!

Almost done...

All done!

My demonic mask...

...with black acrylic paint (not black cream - forgot!) covering my eyes...