Sunday, December 26, 2010

S.A.D., much?

The thing about January is, it's such an anticlimax. Seriously, way to kick off a newly minted year with a gigantic letdown. The past five weeks or so have been such an amazing whirl of gaiety, I could hardly catch my breath, let alone cadge a decent night's sleep. Now? Nada. Zip. Zilch. Nothing but merciless January, leaving me pondering my shortcomings, moping over what I did NOT accomplish in the year just completed. Did I lose the weight? A few pounds, perhaps, but not nearly enough to make a dent. Did I travel? Sure: all the way to Orange County. Did I write? Lamentably little.

January is what I imagine the next day feels like to a runner who has just completed their first marathon. Wow, I just did what I set out to do, and, I even have the t-shirt to prove it. Now what? Keep in shape for the next one? I already know I can do it, but I'll never really be a contender, so what's the point?

Don't get me wrong; I'm not normally a dismal person. "A Cockeyed Optimist" could've been written about me. But, faced with sodden January, I'd just as soon roll over and play dead. Winter has only just begun; spring, my favorite time of year, seems an age away. I'm grateful to whomever it was that introduced the mid-80s legislation that made MLK Day a national holiday; I think of it rather as a recovering heroin addict might look at a dose of methadone: an oasis in the desert of misery, whose sole purpose is to boost you from one place to the next.

January is so blah, even the Super Bowl abandoned it, in favor of the blessedly truncated February. (By the way, I'm convinced that February is so short because Pope Gregory knew that we'd all turn suicidal if we had to endure it for even one day more.) By the end of February, I've thrown my traditional Oscar-watching party. Spring seems mere moments from announcing its arrival. Why can't the New Year begin in March? Doesn't it seem more apropos to begin a New Year with the promise of renewed life that spring delivers, rather than the dreariness that is January?

So as this week, this month, this year draws to it close, I shall be dreading the miasma about to envelop me. See it? There it is, skulking in the background...

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Uniquely Me (Clean Version)

In each of us are myriad experiences, facts, opinions, issues, and countless other aspects that make us unique. We are thus an amalgam. Here, in no particular order (a stream of consciousness, perhaps), are several things that make me different from you:

I detest Brussels sprouts, but I love asparagus, spinach, and broccoli.

I can't imagine how this could ever happen, but, should I ever be on death row and ordering my final meal, two friends of mine will be receiving phone calls: Steve for his kale, and Lynette for her artichoke dip.

I can't get through the day without a dose of vitamins R.E.M.

My antidote to a lousy mood: listening to "Laid" by James. Works every time.

I consider shoes optional most of the time. It's a good thing I work at a place where bare feet are acceptable.

When I do have to wear shoes, I prefer Birkenstocks.

The only bones I've ever broken are my toes. How? I dropped a manhole cover on my foot when I was in 8th grade. (Don't ask. Suffice it to say that it's lucky for me that I did have shoes on that day.)

Despite my father's constant attempts to convert me to the "dark side", I am still a liberal Democrat.

I am militant about recycling.

When I was little, I wanted to be an oceanographer when I grew up.

When I got a bit older, I decided I wanted to be a teacher of the deaf, so I did an internship in a summer-school program for deaf kids. That experience showed me that I definitely did NOT have what it takes to teach deaf kids.

Isn't it funny how life turns out? Now I am the Mommy of a deaf kid...which definitely makes me a teacher of a deaf kid, by avocation if not by occupation.

I was contacted by a C.I.A. recruiter in my senior year of high school, and gave serious thought to it.

I entered university as a poli sci major, but switched to language when my first professor urged me to enter a competitive honors program through Johns Hopkins. (It was only my third week at UC, and I couldn't picture spending my entire life as an academic.)

I have studied eight spoken languages, in addition to sign. All are European.

Many students spend a year studying abroad. In my relentless quest to be unconventional, I spent my sophomore year in Spain, rather than the more typical junior year.

Upon my return to the States, I went goth, refusing to wear anything other than black for an entire year.

My favorite day of the year is the one on which I first spot a daffodil close to blooming, because it means spring is near.

Running a close second is Academy Awards Sunday, which is a national holiday as far as I'm concerned and ought to be celebrated accordingly.

Ranked third favorite is the fourth Sunday in Advent, which at WCPC is known as "Hallelujah Chorus Sunday".

I rarely bring my music folder into the chancel when choir sings, because I prefer to memorize my part. Ironic, because I am the choir librarian, that I am the choir member least likely to have their music handy on Sunday morning.

I can recite, in order, the names of all 66 books of the Bible, plus the Apocryphal/ Deuterocanonical books.

I have always wanted to learn to play drums. Should The Smiths ever reunite, I'd like to be prepared to volunteer as guest drummer.

I was a prospective contestant for College Jeopardy. I was eliminated in one of the final rounds; I had the opportunity to do a mock round on-stage. (It's a really tiny set, incidentally; at least, it was then!)

I want to try out for Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.

I had crushes on three different guys in three years spent at Northgate High School. As adults, every single one of those guys is gay.

Between mine and Calyssa's activities, we are so busy that I rarely get more than five hours' sleep per night. I am, therefore, chronically sleep-deprived.

I'm really good at undoing knots.

The American Red Cross loves me because I have, to date, donated in excess of twelve gallons of blood platelets.

I was born in a Minnesota snowstorm.

I slept through two tornadoes. My dad just carried me to our "safe room", AKA the downstairs shower. I'm still annoyed that I missed them, so I have a great desire to storm-chase in my dotage.

I can never stop thinking. Even when I want to, I can't seem to turn it off.

I once spent the night in a cell at Alcatraz Penitentiary...

...but I've never been arrested.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Papa Shoes

Not far from Calyssa's school, along the route we take on the return trip, lies Gesinee's Bridal Shop. (CoCoCounty residents: ANYONE know how that is supposed to be pronounced?) As we left the Westwood Parent-Faculty Club meeting the other night, we passed it. As per usual, Calyssa craned her neck to admire the bridal and bridesmaids' gowns in the showcase windows as we waited at the traffic light. This sparked an interesting conversation.
"Mommy, I want to have a dress like that someday," she said. (While I'm not quite sure which dress she meant, this was not exactly a huge surprise, coming from the girliest tomboy ever born.) "What was yours like, Mommy?"
"You've seen it, it's in my closet. Remember? I told you I never got to wear it," I replied. Sad, but true: Calyssa's daddy and I ended up running off to Vegas to wed at a drive-up window, in tank tops and shorts. No joke. But I digress...
"I saw a picture at Papa's house. Auntie Jodi looked beautiful," she told me. I knew she must've been referring to the portrait of my sister, the bride, and her husband, with our parents, taken right after their gorgeous Placerville winery ceremony about 12 years ago. My dad keeps it on the bookcase.
Calyssa went on to describe the photo at length, finishing with, "Papa had on a funny suit [tuxedo]. He looked 'zactly like Papa, 'cept he had more hair and didn't have his Papa shoes on."
That got my attention. "What are Papa shoes?" I inquired, confused.
"The ones by the door. He puts them on when we water the plants. You know, his Papa shoes," she insisted.
I rang my dad up later to relate this little story to him; as expected, he cracked up. We agreed that, henceforth, cheap slip-on deck shoes are to be known as Papa shoes.

Monday, November 1, 2010


Yesterday was most of the kids in this corner of the world, anyway. To my daughter, 10/31 is the eve of the eve of her birthday. Besides, Halloween is becoming much like Christmas: by the time the actual holiDAY rolls around, it's been celebrated to death. Calyssa attended a Halloween sleepover on Saturday the 23rd, at gymnastics, where she was also able to wear a costume all week if she wished. Friday was the costume parade at school, where the kids were trading "ghost pops" throughout the week. She even was given some candy at church on Sunday morning!

This was our Halloween: following a little after-lunch nap, I woke her and told her that it was time to get her costume on so that we could go trick-or-treating at Broadway Plaza. "I don't want to go, Mommy," she whined. It took some cajoling on my part (!?!?!) to get her to dressed to go. She only relented after I permitted her to replace the bridal veil of her princess bride costume with the pink Geoffrey's Birthday Club crown she received at Toys 'R" Us earlier in the day. After one pass up one side on Broadway and down the other, which took maybe 15 minutes, she proclaimed, "I'm done."
Bizarre! Walking in the door less than an hour after we'd left, she ate one piece of candy and immediately proceeded to shed her costume in favor of her pj's. "You don't want to go trick-or-treating in the neighborhood?" I asked. "No, I want to watch Aladdin," she replied.

I spent Halloween night on the floor in front of the television, sorting and packaging Box Tops for Education for submission. Final score: Giants=4, Texas Rangers=0,
Box Tops=2770, Trick-or-Treaters=1.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Just Call Me "Pavlov's Dog"

My lovely co-worker Elke keeps a stopwatch at her desk in the office. Every day, shortly after 2pm, its alarm goes off; attempts to deactivate it have been thus far unsuccessful. Beep, beep, beep...for a full minute. Over time, it has become customary for someone to call out "It's time!" when the alarm begins to go off. Everyone present then lies on the floor to do stomach crunches until the beeping stops. It's always funny to see the reactions of the uninitiated as we all leap from our desks and begin feverishly doing sit-ups.

So, last evening I visited the local Red Cross chapter to make my semi-monthly donation of blood platelets. After I completed the mini-physical and screening, I was walking to my donation chaise when suddenly I heard an identical series of high-pitched beeps. The phlebotomist escorting me to the chair was startled to see me drop to the floor as I very nearly began a round of crunches. Let's just say it was difficult to explain why I was about to prostrate myself on the floor of the blood bank!

See how easily trained I am?

Friday, July 30, 2010


What my deaf kid CAN do:
create art
enjoy TV
use a computer
make a phone call
eat like a horse
bathe herself
dress herself
give her opinion when shopping
splits, cartwheels, pullovers, handstands...
memorize Bible verses
make friends with anyone
fall asleep in an instant
load the dishwasher
feed the kitties
water the plants
make a mess
drive her mommy crazy
hug her mommy till she can barely breathe

What my deaf kid CAN'T do:
hear very well

Any questions?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

I'm (NOT) Super-Mom

I don't know if this is a phenomenon unique to single moms, or if it's common to moms in general, but I have an insatiable need to believe that I ought to be able to "do it all", and to do it alone. Then, every so often, circumstances arise to disabuse me of that notion. This is the most recent "gentle reminder" that "be all I can be" may mean less than I'd like to think.

Calyssa was ill for a couple of days late last week, which is a rarity for her. She was feeling much better by Saturday morning, so we went about our normal Saturday business of karate, dance, gymnastics, and my Weight Watchers meeting. After lunch, I suggested to her that we nap together; I figured that she could use the rest, having just recovered from a bug. Upon awaking a couple of hours later, she was dandy, but I was burning up with fever. My temperature was slightly above 102. So I dragged myself into the bathroom and discovered that my medicine cabinet held no Tylenol, no ibuprofen, nor anything else that might be suitable for reducing fever.

My fault; I should be better prepared. So I figured I should go to the store to buy some more...but I couldn't get down the stairs, much less in the car and on the road. CVS is only four blocks away, could I walk it? No. I put Calyssa in bed with me with my portable DVD player and tried to keep warm while I determined my next move. It became increasingly clear that I needed help...but from whom? Who could actually be willing to come out on a Saturday evening to bring me medicine that I really ought to have in my home at all times?

The answer: my close, non-judgmental friend Jen, a former single mom herself. I picked up my phone and weakly texted: "Help plz." The immediate reply: "What do you need?" Having spoken to her since, I now know that she thought that maybe my darling daughter was melting down and I needed a breather. But no, "Ran out of Tylenol, fever going up," was what I tapped out. "Be there soonest," flashed on my screen.

I dozed off to the sound of Calyssa's Disney Princess movie, and very soon my own personal angel appeared in my bedroom, with a brand-new bottle of the coveted caplets in her hand. She took one look at me and said, "Um, I'm taking Calyssa home with me. You get some rest, and I'll see you tomorrow evening." Evidently I told her that I'd pick Calyssa up before church, to which she replied, "Honey, it's 9 at night and you have a high fever. You're NOT going to church. GET SOME REST!"

Have I mentioned what an absolutely WONDERFUL friend Jen is? Not only did she keep my kid until the next evening, but she also told me that she'd had very nearly the same experience once upon a time. Somehow, she managed to assuage my "mommy guilt" and rescue me at the same time.

So, I have received my comeuppance. As Jen reminded me, "Us Moms have got to stick together." Calyssa doesn't need for me to do everything alone; she just needs me to do my best, and know when to call in the reinforcements to pitch clean-up.

Monday, April 19, 2010

No Myth

As the mother of a deaf child, I am constantly amazed (and dismayed) at the pervasiveness of myths surrounding her disability. Spoken or unspoken, we face these regularly:

"She's deaf? Really? I couldn't tell. She doesn't look it." (Variation: "But she's so pretty.") Sorry folks, there is no "deaf look"; the only way you can tell just by looking at Calyssa is if you notice her hearing aids.
Really, they're hard to miss, bright purple as they are, and attached to her clothing by a tether.

"No, she can't be deaf. I can tell she hears me." That's because, like most of the deaf people we know, she can hear some things. She can tell that you're talking to her; she just can't really tell what you're saying.

"Oh, I guess we can't talk to her. We don't sign." Neither do I, much. Calyssa is extremely oral, actually, and her speech becomes clearer every day.

"She's a great lip reader. Did they teach her that at school?" Maybe, but I doubt it; she does, after all, have the same curriculum as your first grader, at the same school.

"It must be great to have it quiet all the time, even when it's really noisy." Hearing aids amplify what sounds she can hear, so loud noises really hurt. She'll usually beg me to take her aids out in noisy rooms so they don't "shout" at her.

"Deaf kids can't sing. Why is she in the choir?" Let me tell you, my deaf kid certainly CAN sing; quite well, actually, and her choir director, who sings in the "grown-up choir" with me, tells me that Calyssa always knows the tune, and usually better than the hearing kids. Calyssa and I work really hard on the lyrics before each of their performances in church (but that'll be another blog post...) The school speech therapist told me that her singing actually helps her speech tremendously. Besides, Calyssa loves to perform.

So, to sum up: mine is a normal, highly outgoing, effervescent child who just happens not to hear very well. She doesn't need you to shout at her, and really appreciates it if you wouldn't because it hurts her ears. Just make sure you get her attention first. I guarantee she'll have yours. And that's no myth.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Never thought I'd say THIS...

One aspect of parenting that I couldn't possibly have anticipated beforehand is the frequency with which I hear myself uttering the most unlikely combination of words to Calyssa. And not because I'm trying to be silly to titillate her; these are purely original thoughts that in the moment actually made sense. Here's the story that spawned my favorite example.

One evening, almost a year ago, Calyssa and I were running errands and happened to be in the vicinity of the Target Greatland in San Ramon. (In case you don't live here in the Bay Area, you should understand that San Ramon is a quite upscale community of McMansions about 10 miles from our home. Very soccer-Moms-in-Juicy-driving-Land Rovers. I really don't belong there, seeing how I'm firmly ensconced on the other, lower, end of middle-class spectrum.)

Anyway, I rarely have the opportunity to shop at that particular Target-on-steroids, and we were legitimately in the area, so we stopped there. Among the several items on my list was panties for Calyssa. So we're both standing at the checkout and the checker scanned the package of
Hannah Montana Hanes. He started to bag them, but she objected, so I told her she could hold them if she wanted to.

Mere moments later, I was rummaging through the coupons in my purse when I realized that the frat boy checker was staring at a point just past me with his eyes bugging out of his head. I turned around just in time to see Calyssa pull her jeans up. The next moment she shoved her balled-up, old panties in my suddenly nerveless hand. (Gee, thanks, just what I've always wanted!)

The silence along the row of checkstands was deafening. No doubt the Juicy moms were wondering what rock we'd just crawled out from. There was nothing to be said, so I just paid as quickly as possible and hustled Calyssa out to the car.

"It's not okay to change your underwear in the store." The ridiculous, but honest-to-God sentence spoken in the car as we drove home...and a rule hereby established for the Southern family.

Down, girl!

It's rare that Calyssa encounters another deaf/HOH child outside of school. So, imagine my surprise when, upon boarding the whale watching charter in Depoe Bay, OR this past Saturday, she noticed that TWO of the (maybe) 10 other kids on the boat were wearing hearing aids!

Calyssa did not have her hearing aids in. They were safely locked in the console of the rental car. Being foot-in-mouth me, I spoke my thought
aloud almost before I'd formed it, and was heard by the mom of one of the girls, "Wow, you're brave!"

She immediately spun around and started in on me, "No, we don't keep them locked up! They're deaf, not freaks!"...or something like that.

I immediately raised a conciliatory hand and gestured towards Calyssa, "Hey, she's deaf, too. I just meant that it's brave to bring them aboard! I was too afraid that they'd end up getting wet so they're in the car."

Startled, she looked at Calyssa. "Really? She doesn't look deaf." (???? Neither did the girls with her, come to think of it...) "Does she sign?"

"Yes, though she usually prefers speech," I answered. "She's gaining fluency in both."

Soon her daughter and niece were happily signing away with Calyssa, but their mom avoided me the rest of the trip. It got me I THAT
defensive? And THAT insensitive? (Joanna, I'm ignoring your answer... =])

Monday, February 1, 2010

Making a splash

I am the world's biggest klutz. Always have been, always will be. Seriously, I've been known to run into walls that aren't even there. Single-mommy-hood, and its associated schlepping, has done NOTHING to help to rectify this condition; it's simply made the casualties all the more spectacular.

Take a very recent morning, for example. Having realized, upon opening the fridge shortly after 6am, that we would be eating our breakfast cereal dry because we'd finished the milk the previous morning, I made a detour to Sam's Club after dropping the kidlet off at school. (I love their early-morning Gold Key Business hours, by the way...)

I arrived at work at 8 and opened the car door, meaning to stash the milk in the staff kitchen for the day. Whomp! The jug fell out, a gallon of milk drenched my shoes and a river of 1% ran through the parking lot.

So, I was
back at square one: out of milk! That evening, I picked Calyssa up from after-school daycare and we went to Safeway. She asked for apple cider, so we went to the juice aisle...where I proceeded to drop and shatter a half-gallon of Tree Top. Cleanup on aisle 4! It was all I could do to keep from skulking out of the store and leaving the milk behind...