SayWhatClub

Yinz, Ya’ll, Eh? Say What Club Conventions by Angie Fugo

Yinz, Ya’ll, Eh?  (aka: the ‘burgh’s plural you, the South’s plural you, and Canada’s every other word!)

Hey SWC-ers!  It’s been three years since our last blog post and three years of fantastic cons to reminisce about.  So, time for a new blog and a walk thru our most recent cons of the roaring back again ‘20s…

Aug 2020 – Year of the Non-Convention gets a brief mention since yours truly & the 2020 Con Committee tried our best to cobble a Con together up until the last minute, then had everything in place for 2021.

Aug 2021 – Pittsburgh, Yinz met here (Pittsburgher hosts, me and Joe Kovac + Pat Kovac and Lorne Smith)

Our 2021 reunion convention built many bridges among us and along three sparkling rivers surrounded by green hills, inclines, and the warm, welcoming people of Pittsburgh!  And refreshing it was, after two years of a “drought” of not seeing each other because of a cancelled 2020 (I most of the year, that is).  Many made excursions to the Andy Warhol Museum, the National Aviary, and more.  And our Gateway Clipper riverboat cruise was a feasting-dinner-dancing, one-of-a-kind experience where we descended and rose again on the Ohio River’s first set of locks.  We could have kept heading West into the glorious sunset and on to the Gulf of Mexico… but alas, our lovely host city beckoned us with a gorgeous nightfall illumination-fest.  Gliding back to Mon-On-Ga-He(y!)-La’s riverbanks, twilight transformed into glistening, shimmering views of the U.S’s most colorfully lit city (I’m biased!) – or at least the only one connected by 446 works of art we call bridges.  This convention was also our last with André, our dear photographer of many cons, doing his incredible art-making of us, in digital photography.  (We love and miss you, André!)

Aug 2022 – Ya’ll met in the infamous Music City thanks to Mike and Sherri Steele and Cynthia Moynihan

Another year rolled by with planning and anticipation of our first convention in the all-night music city of Nashville, Tennessee!  What a time it was – touring a very-hearing-accessible Library, experiencing the Grand Ole Opry (backstage and front stage) and strolling into clubs and on rooftops well into the am hours.  One of these clubs, the Wild Horse Saloon (with horses on the ceiling and everywhere else in the saloon!).  Wild Horse allowed us to bring a beautiful ASL interpreter and our own amazing Julia Stepp providing real-time captioning of the music. Both were awesome hits in addition to the great music artists playing that night.  Knowing the music, but maybe or maybe not hearing it, we danced up a storm!  We also wowed the crowd by having these two there… many people besides us appreciated having synchronous song lyrics and “live-screened” ASL interpretation.

July 2023 – And all who could went any which way, plane, train, or automobile, to Vancouver, B.C., eh! (With many cross-border and international thanks to our spectacular hosts, Lorne and Joann Smith.)  This was the Say What Club’s second international convention held outside the United States.  And it too, was another fantastic convention in a cool place compared to the rest of the sizzling continent.  And of course, its share of stimulating activities – the water taxi dance, a city-wide sightseeing tour, the truly unique Beatles greatest hits show disguised as Bard on the Beach, food tours, and bakeries and sushi – oh my!  And did we mention our gorgeous Northwest Canadian scenery and friendly host hotel and city?  And while we were hoping for the Northern Lights and they failed to appear, we did manage to enjoy many of our first-ever or first post-pandemic international excursions, except that nasty little “bug” that hit us there or followed many of us home!  Thankfully, all of us cared for each other while there and made sure each made it safely home and recovered.  A convention full of memories that made their way home with us and will carry us onto next year.  Here’s to all our continued health, more new Canadian friends, and a convention next year to look forward to a little south of this same U.S./Canada border.  Eh!

THE SAYWHATCLUB CHANGED MY LIFE BY LORNE SMITH

My first SayWhatClub convention changed my life. It was 15 years ago but the memories haven’t faded.

Though I was relatively new to SWC, I had read the glowing  accounts of people who attended the 2002 convention in Alexandria, VA., and how they bonded and laughed each day and well into the night. I knew the 2003 convention would be held in Seattle, just two hours away from me, and I had to be there to see what it was all about.,

Since I couldn’t get time off work to attend the full 2003 convention, I made the best of the two days I had. On Friday morning, I got up early and drove to Seattle in time to attend the second day of workshops. I didn’t know many people there, but that changed fast. During the morning break, people welcomed me, introduced themselves and chatted as if we’d been longtime friends. One group invited me to go for lunch with them. Another invited me to join them on an afternoon boat ride. I felt so overwhelmed by these generous offers that I turned them all down and spent a quiet lunch alone, in my usual comfort zone. I’ve regretted that decision ever since and vowed never to repeat it.

“People I had met online and others I had never met became instant and lasting friends at that convention.”

For the next two days, I spent as much time as possible in the company of other SWCers at workshops, social activities, the banquet and in the hotel bar, which has become a traditional gathering place for SWCers at the end of each day. People I had met online and others I had never met became instant and lasting friends at that convention.

Hearing loss is a powerful bond. Many of us don’t have family, friends and coworkers who understand the struggles we face each day. At SWC conventions, we have a lot in common, even though our hearing losses vary. We learn together, share our experiences and use whatever methods we can to communicate with each other, without fear of being left out.

“I’ve always liked to say, ‘Hearing loss brings us together; friendship keeps us together.'”

Lorne hanging with friends at a SWC convention

The motto of the SayWhatClub says it all: “Friends with Hearing Loss.” As I’ve always liked to say, hearing loss brings us together; friendship keeps us together. The strength of the SayWhatClub is what we learn from each other and the support we receive from our friends with hearing loss.

Since my first experience in 2003, I haven’t missed a SayWhatClub convention. It’s one of the highlights of my year. I look forward to bonding with old friends and making new ones at the 2018 SWC convention  from Aug. 1-4 in St. Paul, MN.

I hope to see you all in St. Paul.

For more information on upcoming conventions, visit

5 Points of Volunteering

By Chelle Wyatt

Finding your people.

Hearing loss can be lonely. The world feels against you, sometimes your family too. It’s a deep, dark pit of quiet (and tinnitus). If you’re lucky, you wander across a support group like the SayWhatClub and start to feel a little less like a freak.  You begin feeling at home with a bunch of new friends, making meaningful connections.  

After another big hearing drop in 2009, I re-joined the SayWhatClub. Six months after being on the list, someone asked me to volunteer. I hadn’t thought about it, but why not? It wasn’t like I had anything else going on. I had just quit doing hair after 20 something years because I was deaf in noise. My self-confidence was at an all time low. I was cleaning a few houses and offices (not much hearing involved with cleaning), and I had nowhere else to go so yes, why not give of my time. Most of the offices I cleaned were aided by phs who helped the employees in the offices to stay clean and healthy. 

Point 1: Volunteering opens up other worlds, the 2nd phase of leaving isolation behind.

I became a list representative for a SWC email list. I was introduced to another part of the organization, meeting more who were hard of hearing and gaining new friends. Friends were important because I’d already lost a few because of my hearing loss (I couldn’t “chat” endlessly on the phone anymore). I appreciated my fellow volunteers just as much as I did the others on my email list and over time, one of those volunteers became a very good, dear friend. SWC became my safe place for communication, it’s a written world with no hearing involved.

Point 2: It kept me busy and stopped my negative thinking cycle.    

Being a list rep gave me back some of the responsibility I had been missing. I popped into email often to make sure the list was moving along smoothly. I welcomed new people to the list, trying to make sure their questions were answered hoping to pass on the same sense of home I felt. Occasionally I helped settle differences of opinion, in the spirit of teamwork. It kept me busy and kept my mind off my own troubles.

When the SayWhatClub held a convention in town, I volunteered for that too. I enjoyed being a part of building the con and putting faces to names, gathering more friends in the hearing loss world.

Point 3: Volunteering for SWC gave my own hearing loss a sense of purpose.

Over time, my hearing loss became less of a burden and started to feel like experience to share; on the email list, in the List Rep committee, conventions and writing on the SWC blog. I became a professional full time volunteer, I joked, as I became the List Rep chair. I was reaching out more into the hearing loss world for convention purposes, meeting more people. My self-confidence built back up. I was far from isolated and my hearing loss was asset in this world.

Point 4: Learn new skills while volunteering.

While stepping into my roles, other volunteers with experience supported me along the way. I wasn’t sure about being List Rep chair but the former chair was on hand to answer questions and offer advice when needed. The same with the convention committee, I knew nothing coming in but had the will to learn. I learned to reach out further into the hearing loss world, looking for guest speakers and sponsors. It was all valuable experience and I learned to be a leader again.

Point 5:  It looks good on the resume.

A local part-time job opened at the state Deaf and Hard of Hearing Center as a Hard of Hearing Assistant. The job required teaching classes and giving presentations on hearing loss. I almost didn’t apply for a few reasons. I thrived in the online world. Also, I was still trying to find my way back into doing hair, clinging to my old life, should I give up on that? What the heck I decided, maybe I could do both hair and hearing loss part time so I applied.

 

Which required writing a resume, the first in a long, long time. Adding information to the resume made me realize I had more experience than I thought, thanks to SWC. I learned I could organize events. During the two years I was off from doing hair, I built new skills and worked well with others. Because  I hadn’t been idle, I got the job. I worked part time for 5 years, and in January 2018, it became a full time position.

The hearing loss world gave me a place to belong.
I found my tribe, across the United States and right here in Utah. I never would have pictured myself ‘here’ nine years ago when I was struggling after another big drop in hearing.   And ‘here I am in a whole new life!   I have let go of doing hair almost entirely. Now I embrace the hearing loss community. This is where I belong, and SWC helped me get there.

I encourage others to volunteer, especially if you’re in that pit of isolation. The 

SayWhatClub emphasizes the benefits of volunteering in its Mission Statement. We understand that helping others reduces feelings of isolation, frustration and despair, while enhancing feelings of self-concept and optimism. Open yourself up, and see where it leads. Other SWC volunteers will support you in learning new skills.  What do you want to learn? Where might you go? The

re’s lots of opportunity in SWC.  

Some areas SWC needs volunteer help

  • The SWC website committee needs people to keep the webpage current by checking links and editing pages.
  • Help the Hospitality Committee welcome new people into SWC who inquire on the website.
  • The List Representative Committee could use help on the Facebook groups, and if you’re on an email list already, inquire if they might need help.  Two of the lists are looking for new List Representatives.
  • The Social Media Committee is looking for people to help with the main SWC Facebook page, making memes for SWC, writing on the blog, and would love to have someone make our Twitter account active again.

Remember no experience required, just a willingness to learn.