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Texting Revolution for the Deaf

20 Sep

Texting is revolutionizing the way in which the deaf communicate.  I had worked in a school for the deaf for several years in the not too distant past and was surprised that it hadn’t occurred to me about texting when I read a story about it today.  The children I worked with were mostly under eight years old, so their written communications was still developing anyway.

Where the deaf were once limited to primarily communicating only with those who knew sign language, in the last 20 years cochlear implants have changed the landscape of communication for the deaf.  There was once a culture clash between the deaf who reasoned that they weren’t broken, and therefore didn’t need to be fixed, with those who wanted to be part of the hearing world and chose cochlear implants. That too is changing as it has been proven that children who are implanted as babies, when trained properly, can often be educated in a regular classroom by first grade.

The school I worked for was called Clarke School for the Deaf and is one of the most well-respected in the country. After nearly 150 years, they recently changed the name to Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech which is more befitting. The main campus is in Northampton, Massachusetts, right next door to Smith College, with satellites up and down the east coast. I worked at the Jacksonville campus.

 Teaching the deaf to listen and hear was an awesome process to watch. No sign language was allowed at the school. Their job was to teach the children how to listen with their cochlear implants, or hearing aids, and then speak coherently and correctly. One day a group of college speech therapists was in observing, and it was obvious they were required to use sign language when addressing each other even though they weren’t deaf.  The kids at the school looked as them as if they were aliens and kept asking, “What are they doing with their hands?”

I wasn’t a teacher, but  rather a fundraiser hired to help raise funds for a new school. The first day a teacher of the older kids who were theoretically about first and second graders, invited me into her classroom across the hall to help out with a learning exercise for the children.  I was to stand in front of the class and they were supposed to figure who I was by asking questions.  At one point I told them I was hired to help them build a new school. They all stared silently. ( I would later learn that deaf children understand things literally.) So the teacher asked them how they thought I was going to do that – by digging the hole? And so it went. Oddly, all the teachers at the school were called by their first names, so when I left the classroom I pointed to my office and told them to be sure to say hi to me when they walked by, and that my name was Cam Brown.

From that day forward, I was referred to by the kids as CamBrown, all one word.  “Hi CamBrown, hi CamBrown” and on and on as they filed out to recess. It baffled the parents because they referred to me the same way at home.  I found it endearing.

Heather Whitestone McCallum, Miss America 1995

At our annual gala, Miss America 1995 Heather Whitestone McCallum was the guest of honor. If you remember, Heather is deaf, but could talk very clearly and even performed a ballet that won her the crown. Her Mother Warrior taught her to talk when she was growing up and was dumbfounded and distraught when Heather demanded in 8th grade to go to a school like Clarke. There she flourished in speech and academics, as well as socially. An expert lip reader, she didn’t use sign language and didn’t feel she needed a cochlear implant. Until she had a child. She said her son hurt himself in the backyard one day and she didn’t know it because she couldn’t hear him cry. That’s when the Mother Warrior in her kicked in and she decided she wanted to be part of the hearing world of her new family. She addressed primarily the parents with deaf children that night at the gala and filled their hearts with hope and determination.  And the knowledge that it takes a Mother Warrior to raise a deaf child.

Learning to hear with a cochlear implant is a lot of work. Those who have had prior hearing, such as Rush Limbaugh, say the sound is similar to the voice of Mickey Mouse. He had no trouble because he knew how to interpret the different sounds. But when you’ve never heard the knock of a door, how do you know what it is? Heather Whitestone tells a story of being in the family van and becoming unnerved by an incessant sound, until her husband finally realized it was the sound of her sons in the back seat sniffling.

So texting is an awesome tool for the deaf. They can do things just like others – call their children in to supper with a text, tell their teenager to turn off the light and go to bed, find out where their husband is in the mall, and communicate with the hearing world without skipping a beat. And in a pinch, if the lady at the hamburger counter can’t understand them, it’s a portable communicator. Type it in and hold it up for her to read.

Last year I interviewed Bruce Maddern, MD, a physician who was instrumental in getting the cochlear implant program started in Jacksonville about 20 years ago. He said that because cochlear implants were still a deaf culture hot button, he gathered all the community players together at his house for a dinner party. And it was at that dinner party that he realized, among the hearing and the deaf, he was the only person at the table who couldn’t communicate with everyone because he did not know sign language.  He said that rocked his world in understanding how the deaf feel.

Who knew that the past-time that drives many parents nuts would be another magnificent tool in the toolbox for the deaf?

Only the Snarky Need Apply

14 Sep

I’ve made a pact with myself to try to post a blog at least five days out of each week. I love to write, and if your want to be honest, blogging is the most self-indulgent type of writing there is, except for maybe writing in an actual journal. That nobody’s supposed to read. But they always do.

Over the years, we’ve all read a lot about how much journaling is supposed to cleanse our souls, yada, yada, yada.  To me, it’s just another way to puke up all the negative in our lives and document it without somebody saying “please shut the hell up.”  And then it’s there to read again when we aren’t feeling bad enough already.

I journaled once – in the last six months before my divorce.  Then a year after my divorce, I ran across what I wrote, acknowledged my impressions were dead on, then tore out the pages and burned them in the fireplace so I never had to read them again.  I lived it;  I didn’t need to keep reading about it.

Then there was that period that everyone, well women, were encouraged to journal everyday about what they were grateful for. Was supposed to change our mindset to one of gratefulness rather than bitterness. Didn’t work on my smartassness.  I was grateful for a lot, but I seemed to always see the irony in life as well.

I have a really hard time with Pollyannas. Some might think this strange because I’ve made no bones about the fact that if you want to be negative, especially politically, just stay the hell off my Facebook wall. I don’t have time for people who generate negativity for sport. But snarkiness for entertainment….bring it on! What fun! But you know the type of people I’m talking about. They always find good in everything, as if it’s their mission in life. They seem embarrassed to consider being sarcastic. Pull-eeze.

I do like, for the most part, that Facebook and Twitter automatically demand a level of decorum never, ever, ever found in any of the ancient AOL chatrooms. Do they even still exist? I have no idea. Not remotely interested in investigating.

I’ve also noticed that while in the early days of the Internet, anonymity was the way to go, now everyone uses their real name right up front. Those who tweet by a brand, also usually have their own name Twitter account as well. This realness is so much more than simply not hiding behind anonymity – it’s declaring who you are every single time you post something, wherever it may be – blog, Facebook, Twitter.

So back to my original talking point – writing every day. Professional writers swear that writing every day is the only way to get better and establish a discipline to their writing. I’ve been writing for years. Years. But until the blog format, there was no format in which  to have my work actually read daily.

If truth be known,  I think that’s why they invented Twitter.  So writers can get immediate feedback for all their wittiness. I mean, you don’t survive on Twitter unless you’re witty. Be entertaining or die the unfollowed death of obscurity.  It is true that nobody really wants to know what you had for lunch.

So I’ll continue to try to entertain and be snarky all at the same time.  And maybe soon, a few will actually comment and subscribe to my blog.

Twitter Is More Than Food Porn

13 Sep

Twitter is like one big on-going cocktail party and I’m totally addicted .  Where Facebook is primarily for reconnecting with people from your past, Twitter is for connecting to people you want to get to know. I have 854 followers, and I might have known maybe ten before Twitter.

These are just a few of the things I’ve done through Twitter:

  • Sold the back cover of the physician’s magazine I publish to a business in Arkansas.
  • Connected with a local physician I didn’t know and sold a back cover to his practice.
  • Insulted a local PR maven by accident and eventually went to dinner with her and her new husband.
  • Freaked out the above couple when they realized they knew my ex-husband. (And too well for their liking, thankfully.)
  • Also got invited to above couple’s wedding reception.
  • Got invited to a really cool Chevy Mystery Tour marketing event one weekend.
  • Log in on special TV nights, such as the Academy Awards and have a rip-roaring snarkfest with other Tweeters.
  • Won tickets to a wine tasting and art show.
  • Won a Jaguar poster.
  • Won tickets to another benefit and luncheon.
  • Had Comcast respond to frustrations I’ve posted and asked how they could help.
  • Met someone who lives in my condominium complex I didn’t know.
  • Volunteered for a nonprofit for which I had never known about previously.
  • Had lunch with a new friend I met on Twitter and then realized our daughters had gone  to school together.

My 18-year-old daughter thinks Twitter is just for old folks and that all we do is say what we had for lunch.  Well, I did photograph something I made for dinner once. (Referred to as food porn.)

For now, I’m liking the grownupness of Twitter, and maybe we should just keep it a secret from the young ‘uns. But do come follow me there. I’m CamBrownJax.


2 Sep

I’ve made no secret that I am a Verizon girl to the bone. I love their service and they own me forever. AT& T couldn’t lure me back to its regular serving of dropped calls and no service whatsoever sitting in my own home. No, not even with  a fourth version of the iPhone. 

I’ve never been one who needed to own the latest gadgets and fancy cars. If it can just do the necessities, I’m a happy camper. For instance, I once asked my husband to buy  me a simple stereo so I could listen to music while I cooked dinner.  What I got was a complicated surround sound system that only he could operate.   

So my Verizon and Blackberry loving self was recently invited to join a new kind of marketing event.  A local PR agency arranged a “Chevy Secret Mystery Tour” competition between Jacksonville PRSA and the Social Media Club. The one requirement was that we had to have a smart phone to Tweet and post on Facebook our experiences before and after. 

We went forth in four teams in four different Chevys driving or riding in each one throughout the course of the competition while following clues, driving all over town and having a blast. 

What I noticed along the way, however, was that those with iPhones seemed to be able to react and post much more quickly than I could with my little Verizon Blackberry Storm.  (Speed of posting was a judging criteria.)  So as we went along I found myself rather good at the game, and I tweeted away. Trying to go back and forth between Twitter and FB was too daunting while racing down the road and figuring clues. But not for the iPhone peeps. 

Liz Lemon led us to Lemon Freezes at The Lemon Bar

The goal of the game was to not only experience the Chevys and share that with the world,  but to figure out where our final destination would be and then be the first to tweet it. For our first stop at First Coast News, one of the clues – masks of Tina Fey as Liz Lemon on 30 Rock – immediately set off my light bulb moment, and I knew the final destination would be the Lemon Bar in Neptune Beach. (It was also just a few blocks from where out cars were parked to start the race.) Absolutely sure of my guess, I told the ringleader I was posting it immediately!  I know me some Jacksonville.

So we left there and gorged on lemon CamiCakes at Tinseltown and then watched the men of the group get bronzed at Sephora at St. Johns Town Center. And yes, we found our way to the foot of Lemon Street at the ocean in Neptune Beach for awards and Lemon Freezes. 

But guess what – none of my tweets registered. Not even the winning tweets. As luck would have it, various judges saw me announce that I was tweeting the winner and so my team was indeed announced by judges call as the winner. But it was the other team of PRSA mavens led by Bonnie Upright with their iPhones who took the prize for fastest and most frequent posting. 

So the moral of the story is that I can keep on keeping on with my Verizon Blackberry Storm and put up with all the silly hijinks it sometimes requires to do routine tasks. As long as not too much is required of me, I’m alright. I covet my neighbor’s iPhone, but not enough to ever have to deal with AT&T again. The new hot-shot Droid did have a lot of cool tricks, but most of them I’d never use. The email, however, was much more cumbersome to retrieve. And email is my fuel. 

So I’m sticking with my Storm until the smart phone gods favor Verizon.


26 Aug

Politics is a blood sport. There comes a point, however, when political bashing as a blood sport reaches its limit and does nothing to contribute to the collective consciousness. It serves only to gnaw at everyone’s spirit, even the basher.

Caribou Barbie

I’ve found myself  unfollowing otherwise entertaining people on Twitter because of incessant negative comments about Sarah Palin and George Bush that merely serve to complain.  Or the mayor happened and to on TV and they found it necessary to express their disgust at simply seeing him. I’ve asked my Facebook followers to  please not load up their negative political arguments on my wall, and most especially to something positive I say.

Am I too Pollyanna to believe it’s possible? No. I know of one friend up north who actually curtailed her bashing for sport of Sarah Palin on Twitter after some respectful private exchanges. Bashing serves absolutely no purpose, but does leave a lasting effect whether it be about politicians, celebrities or your relatives.

Everyone has some good in them that can be recognized. Even Rick Scott.  And I’ll remember that, after the election.