Boise or Bust!

By Michele Linder

Many SWCers are gearing up for travel or are already on their way to Boise, Idaho, our convention city, where we’ll be Basque-ing in Boise from August 4th – 6th.  I think I’m the first to have arrived!!  I’m a day earlier than expected, but the hotel graciously extended my reservation and gave me the convention rate.


I went for an early morning bike ride this morning, and the picture above is a shot of our hotel, The Riverside Hotel, right on the Greenway.  I rode quite a long ways on the southwest side of the river.  There was a lot of construction along the way, apartment buildings, mobile home parks, and residential areas.  I had to ride on the road for a short distance, twice.  It was in residential areas and not a negative.  I eventually crossed a bridge that followed another branch of the waterway.  The pavement was bumpy from tree-root damage and I turned around.  I’ll check out other parts of the trail later today and tomorrow.  It was a good ride, but probably not the most scenic section of trail.

What was fun was seeing surfers on the river so early this morning (you can see a video on SWC’s public Facebook page.  I almost felt like I was back living in Munich where you can see surfers on the Isar.

I also saw some early morning divers and a few fishermen.  Idaho River Sports is within walking distance from the hotel and they rent just about anything you would want to try. I think I’m going to give the stand-up paddle boards a go.

I can’t wait for the rest of you to arrive… to see old friends and to meet some new SWCers!! Safe travels!  I’ll see you all in Boise!

A Tribal Fling

by Chelle Wyatt

friendshipMost of us who are hard of hearing live among the hearing and probably don’t have hard of hearing friends to hang out with, on a local level anyway. Some of us may be lucky enough to go to HLAA meetings and experience being around other hard of hearing people where we know to practice the rules for proper hard of hearing communication, we know how to talk to each other. When that’s done we slip right  back into the hearing world.

Hanging out with with other hard of hearing people for an extended amount of time tends to set a routine within the first 6 hours (or less) and suddenly we have a new normal. This happens at hearing loss conventions and it’s heaven. Not only is there live captioning at all the workshops and during the banquets but loops are available too so it’s a world catered to hearing loss. To top that off, the people are awesome away from the workshop settings too. There’s almost no impatience with repeats or with the various modes of communication; hearing aids, cochlear implants, personal amplifiers, lipreading and even writing things down when all else fails. As most of you are already aware, I come home with a natural high after conventions.

Last month I went to Minnesota for a week to hang out with hard of hearing friends, most of who I met at past conventions only this was no convention. There were no workshops or fancy accommodations. This was several of us visiting for what we call a “fling” and it was my first time doing this and it’s just as wonderful as going to the conventions.

I kept a running list of my obsersevations while I was there. Here are 10 things I loved about hanging out with my tribe.

  1. We get each others attention before talking. Whether it was touching an arm or waving a hand around, we got the other person’s attention which avoids half the repeats.
  2. We faced each other while talking which also cuts down on unnecessary repeats.
  3. If we were out walking we’d stop to face each other to talk instead of continuing to walk. This keeps someone from walking into a sign, a light pole or falling off the curb. In my case, it kept me from slipping on ice a few times. We may not get anywhere fast this way but communication is better.
  4. No matter who’s house you go to, the captions are already on the television. Woo-hoo!
  5. We can advocate together. At a restaurant we told the waiters we lipread and we wanted captions on the TV. Together we complained to management about improper maintenance of CaptiViews at a movie theater. I think together we make more of an impression.
  6. No one talks with their mouth full because most of use lipreading to some degree. We start chewing fast while holding up a finger or waving a hand around in front of our mouth to signal ‘wait a second’ until food is gone. No flying food with us!
  7. If we are bunking in the same room together, snoring isn’t going to bother either one of us. Bonus!
  8. There’s very little talking while driving which may seem odd at first coming from the hearing world but it becomes comfortable. Hearing in cars has been one of my most difficult situations since I was a teenager, trying to hear above the radio, road noise and traffic noise. I’m exhausted in cars after a few hours of someone talking the whole time. It’s a huge strain on my mental capacity to hear in a car and will eventually wear me out physically too. It was quite nice to sit back and enjoy the scenery with the driver’s eyes on the road.
  9. I had lipreading backup. By far, my friend Michele is better than I am so when we went into a grocery store and both of us only heard/saw one word on the cashiers mouth the entire time I felt relief. Some people are just harder to lipread than others for various reason.
  10. We joined several other friends in a fancy, business style, dark hotel bar. We sat by the fireplace and all our eyes squinted in concentration with a few of us in the shadows. Only with a group of hard of hearing friends can I turn on my cell phone flashlight and put each speakers face in the spotlight with out complaints. (We also had some fun with shadow play.)

There were a few odd things about being with others who are hard of hearing.

  • Without thinking about it, we vie for the best positioning. We want to be front and center. We want to face the room in restaurants for visual purposes. We always want the others persons face in the light.
  • Usually we know when the other person doesn’t understand something that was said. We recognize the look in the far away look in the eyes, the deaf nod or the blank smile…but sometimes we don’t. Some of us are good bluffers but it will usually come out in the end anyway.
  • Niether of us can hear the tea kettle screaming away on the stove. I’m used to my husband telling me when the microwave is done or a timer is going off but that option is not available with other hard of hearing people.

Here’s a couple of things that came to light about those of us who are hard of hearing.

  • We are followers. When with a group of people who are going out to do something we lose track of the back and forth conversation and end up following. (Of course we blindly follow along only with people we trust.) Where are we going? I don’t know but we’ll find out.
  • Without meaning to be, we are noisy in the kitchen. My husband tells me to “take it easy” every now and then when I’m cooking. I don’t think I’m loud but I am and now I know others get the same things from their family also. We don’t know we are being loud, trust me.

The week went by fast, too fast. Coming home I was in my element at the airport and in the plane. I told people what I needed and got a few surprises like the ticket agent telling me he was learning sign language just so he could talk better with those who were deaf. Without being aware of it, I was riding that natural high the whole time.

I came home to reality, sigh. I’m not complaining about my home life because Ken is good about most of the communication between us but it wasn’t my world anymore. Someone told me that’s the sign of a good vacation coming home a bit bummed because it’s over. I can agree with that. It sure makes me look forward to the next SayWhatClub convention.

SLC convention
One of my favorite pictures from the SWC Salt Lake convention.

A STORY OF FEAR by Michele Linder


I’ve been going through TED withdrawal.  I remedied that this morning by making time for the things that make me think further.  TED Talks certainly do that.

NOTE:  If you click on the link below to watch the TED Talk yourself, don’t forget to enable the captions in the language of your choice.  Do this by resting your cursor on the screen.  The gray bar appears to the right of the pause symbol, with captioning menu.  You can also read the transcript of the video by clicking on the red-lettered, “Show transcript” button.  This is located below the right hand side of the video screen.

This morning’s Talk, entitled “What fear can teach us”, by author Karen Thompson Walker, began with a story that took place in 1819.  It was about twenty American sailors who became shipwrecked after their whaling vessel was struck by a sperm whale and sank.  The twenty sought refuge in three small whaleboats. They began weighing their options, making and delaying decisions based on their fears.

You’ll have to watch the TED Talk for yourself to see how the story turns out.  You can well imagine if you’ve read “Moby Dick”, as this story was later used by Herman Melville as research for his book.  Mr. Melville speculated, had these men made an immediate decision to steer straight for Tahiti, the closest land mass, instead of letting their dread decide their fate, they might well have avoided their sufferings.

What I will share are some of the interesting things the author had to say about fear:

“We all know what it’s like to be afraid. We know how fear feels, but I’m not sure we spend enough time thinking about what our fears mean.

As we grow up, we’re often encouraged to think of fear as a weakness, just another childish thing to discard like baby teeth or roller skates.  It’s something we fight. It’s something we overcome. But what if we looked at fear in a fresh way? What if we thought of fear as an amazing act of the imagination, something that can be as profound and insightful as storytelling itself?

Because that’s really what fear is, if you think about it. It’s a kind of unintentional storytelling that we are all born knowing how to do. And fears and storytelling have the same components. They have the same architecture. Like all stories, fears have characters. In our fears, the characters are us. Fears also have plots. They have beginnings and middles and ends. Our fears also tend to contain imagery that can be every bit as vivid as what you might find in the pages of a novel. Fears also have suspense. Our fears provoke in us a very similar form of suspense. Just like all great stories, our fears focus our attention on a question that is as important in life as it is in literature: What will happen next? In other words, our fears make us think about the future.

…a big part of writing fiction is learning to predict how one event in a story will affect all the other events, and fear works in that same way. In fear, just like in fiction, one thing always leads to another.

So if we think of our fears as more than just fears but as stories, we should think of ourselves as the authors of those stories. But just as importantly, we need to think of ourselves as the readers of our fears, and how we choose to read our fears can have a profound effect on our lives.

…how can we tell the difference between the fears worth listening to and all the others? The novelist Vladimir Nabokov said that the best reader has a combination of two very different temperaments, the artistic and the scientific. A good reader has an artist’s passion, a willingness to get caught up in the story, but just as importantly, the readers also needs the coolness of judgment of a scientist, which acts to temper and complicate the reader’s intuitive reactions to the story.

And maybe if we all tried to read our fears, we too would be less often swayed by the most salacious among them. Just as the most nuanced stories in literature are often the richest, so too might our subtlest fears be the truest. Read in the right way, our fears are an amazing gift of the imagination, a kind of everyday clairvoyance, a way of glimpsing what might be the future when there’s still time to influence how that future will play out. Properly read, our fears can offer us something as precious as our favorite works of literature: a little wisdom, a bit of insight and a version of that most elusive thing — the truth.”

People call me brave and fearless, but I’m not so sure about that.  What is true is that I’m good at looking for the meaning in fear and the story worth telling.  How and why I know how to do this probably isn’t interesting to anyone but me. I’ll spare you the details and just say that on a daily basis, for most of my life, I witnessed someone close to me who let crippling fear limit their life.  Being a keen observer, I learned that fear isn’t always necessary.  We have choices.  Irrational fear is unhealthy, but fear is also sensible and useful.

Hearing loss is scary.  Once the life you know and love undergoes an unexpected and unwanted change, the first reaction is fear.  I’ve experienced this over and over throughout my life with progressive hearing loss.  Each new level of not hearing causes me to be fearful.  I wonder how I’ll cope, remain independent, and able to communicate.

I had some wasted years by not applying all I learned about fear to my hearing loss.  Once I let it, fear wrote the story of my most successful coping strategy.  I take a situation where I’ve floundered. I’m fearful just thinking about the next time a similar thing will happen. Then, I look for the meaning in the experience.  I analyze why I panicked, and think about how I could have handled the situation better. What might I try the next time when something similarly frightening happens?  Then, instead of waiting for that situation to arise, I create it.  I put myself in the very situation that made me afraid.

I like to think of it as taking myself on a field trip or a conducting a scientific study.  When I place myself in an uncomfortable situation in the name of research, it allows me to take things less personally. I am able think more critically about it.

Also, when I’m in control, I can choose a time when I’m in the best frame of mind to deal with it.  I’ve done this with solo travel, both domestic and international.  I experiemented with the best way to ask for accommodation and how to interact with airline and airport staff to get results.   I did an extensive field trip when I was working out how, when, and if I needed to inform others about my hearing loss.  What labels (hard of hearing, hearing impaired, deaf ) work best, and what’s the best way to ask for what I need.

Granted, some fears aren’t so manageable, but many are.  We can learn how to use what we fear to our benefit.  Just as the shipwrecked sailors had a choice, we can choose what our fear provides. Is it something profound and insightful?  An “amazing gift of the imagination, a kind of everyday clairvoyance?  Is it a way of glimpsing what might be the future when there’s still time to influence how that future will play out”?  Or is it a more dramatic and irrational story, one that’s the most “lurid” and “vivid” and causes us to use poor judgment or limit ourselves?

When you look at your fear in a fresh way, and read it with the balance of an artist’s passion and clear judgment, then you have the presence of mind to choose what happens next. You can change your future.

Field trip anyone?