Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Deaf Girly and the FaceTime fear

Ever since the summer disappeared, I've been in full-on hibernation mode. I'm like a squirrel that won't see food for the next six months – snaffling peanut butter-themed things that FJM and Big Bro sent me, all of which you can imagine are tremendously low in sugar and calories!

So anyway, yesterday after seemingly forgetting I was actually a member of a very expensive gym, I decided to go and pay it a visit and actually work out. It involved getting in my car and driving somewhere. It was cold and getting dark. The traffic was on the cusp of becoming murderous. I almost wavered as I locked the front door. But I didn't.

One minute into my cross trainer workout I was wondering if I'd done enough to work off the three peanut butter cups... but then my phone rang.

Well FaceTime went off to be exact and it was Big Bro calling me on his way home from work. My knee-jerk reaction – probably stemming from my forced-phone call days is to reject any call to my phone. Sometimes I forget that I can actually follow FaceTime.

I looked around the gym. It was basically empty. So sod it, I thought and hit connect. And there was Big Bro and there was I, sweating it out on a cross trainer. After he'd finished laughing his head off, we had a great chat. Me getting more and more out of breath and red in the face, him finding it more and more amusing. Although I have to confess, it is quite hard to lipread while striding along like a mad woman on a cross trainer.

But what was amazing was that by the time I'd found out how he was and told him how I was, 30 minutes had flown by and I'd actually done enough to work off about one quarter of a peanut butter cup, which is better than nothing right?

Obviously, I'm not going to make a habit of FaceTiming at the gym. I don't really want to become the most hated person there, after the ridiculous person who does handstands at the top of the only staircase to get in and generally makes a complete nuisance of themselves while putting the whole thing on Instagram, probably with a scowling me in the background. But it was reassuring after yesterday's blog about not communicating well with kids, that I can keep in touch with people. Not in the email and text sense (which is easy), and all very well and everything but there's nothing quite like hearing (kind of) someone's voice and seeing their face to make you feel connected.

I need to remind myself to FaceTime people more. To ring up the people I miss and love and see their faces rather than relying on text messages and email. OK, so it's not as simply as just picking up the phone. Outside of the big cities, you need a reliable wifi connection to FaceTime and you can't just pick up when you're out and about if you want a reception good enough to lipread on, so yes, it takes more planning. But I need to make that effort.

It's so easy sometimes to sit back and go 'Woe me, I can't use the phone, I can't listen to podcasts, the radio is no good, cinema is only good once a week in July at 4.30pm on a Tuesday,' but the reality is things are so much more awesome than that.

I think I just forget it sometimes. And if I'm honest I am a bit nervous about the whole phone thing. The idea that you're not disturbing people if you call them unannounced as I've always had to plan FaceTimes and have never really used the phone.

Silly really.

So in December I've decided to FaceTime someone once a week (aside from my rents or FJM who I do talk to more often) and keep in touch with the people I miss and love. Be spontaneous...

First on my list is my 93 year old Gma who has just got an iPad... she's not that keen on it, and I've been putting off FaceTiming her in case it's not switched on, or she gets stressed out... but I'm just going to give it a go. After all, this is a women who sends text messages in text speak and can beat most people in the completion of The Times daily crossword... so if she's up for it. So am I.

Happy Tuesday.


Monday, 23 November 2015

Deaf Girly and the children

Do you know there are two things that almost never reach my ears when they're undressed:

Cats meowing and children.

Cats are just silently opening their little furry jowls at me – except when I have my hearing aids in and then they make low meowing sounds that I find quite fantastic but no one else hears the same way – but children, while I can hear the noise they are making, it very rarely makes sense. 

I noticed it greatly this weekend – FJM and I met with friends who all had children. There were double figures of children. All under 8. And I personally spoke to none of them. 

I realised as we drove home that I've almost stopped attempting to interact with children as they are so hard for me to hear. And this makes me a little bit sad.

It's something I've thought about before. In fact, when Elle magazine ran a competition for a 500-word piece on Relationship Goals, this was what I entered with. It wasn't selected. But that was OK, because what these 500 words do is remind me that the children who are important will be heard by me. Now and in the future.

So here it is:

DG on Relationship Goals

It’s 4pm on a Saturday and I’m surrounded by a gaggle of children (four to be exact) in the country kitchen of one of my best friends. My boyfriend is busy playing catch with the three boys as they chat about Minecraft, spiders and farts. At least that’s what I think they are talking about, because I can’t hear them. My nine-year-old goddaughter is quizzing me on whether I’ll let her design my wedding dress. I am not engaged. I’m hoping my boyfriend can’t hear her.

But in truth I can’t really hear her either. And it’s not because she has a lisp or talks fast. It’s not even because she looks down to fiddle with her loom band bracelet or that the conversation bounces from one unpredictable subject to another. It’s because I am deaf.

Having lived with my disability for much of my life, I don’t often feel sad about it anymore. I’ve learnt to get by with lipreading, clear explanations to others about my needs and an almost bullish determination to get what I want. When it comes to relationships, it takes me longer to form them. I can’t get to know people easily in a group setting. My best friendships are formed over dinners for two, chats with coffee and cake, FaceTime and text messages. This works very well in the adult world. But with children it’s different. You can tell them you don’t hear. But expecting them to understand what that means is quite a tall order.

When I look at my nine-year-old goddaughter I am filled with terror that I am missing out on getting to know her, that I could be a better godmother and that my deafness is causing me to miss out.

This weekend was no different. Watching my boyfriend effortlessly interact and seeing the kids chase after our car when we left yelling how much they loved him, I felt both a pang of pride for him and heartache for me.

With children you get back what you put in. So I just have to find different ways of interacting with my goddaughter, of getting to know her. This includes giving her an old phone of mine that works over wifi, so I can ‘What’s App’ her and say hello at no expense to her mum. That way she can keep me updated about her world and then the next time I see her I’ll have the right questions and a better ability to follow her quirky, intelligent train of thought.

I know as she gets older, so her understanding of my deafness will get better. But I want to make sure that the promise I made, to be there for her always is honoured. I want to make sure she can talk to me about anything. But most importantly, I want her to remember that just because I don’t always hear her, doesn’t mean I’m not listening. And certainly doesn’t mean I don’t care.

Happy Monday peeps

Friday, 20 November 2015

Deaf Girly's (very) Thankful Friday

Apologies for the radio silence of late – I've no idea where September, October and November have gone... it seems like yesterday I was sunbathing on our little balcony and now I'm working out how to rig up multiple strings of Christmas lights on it without annoying the neighbours.

Anyway, today I'm having a very thankful Friday as FJM is back in the UK and despite hating peanut butter more than anything in the whole wide world, he bought me back a huge bag of every peanut butter confectionary known to man.

I'm also thankful for a rather amazing person – Country Writer – who has spent the last two months making me believe that the last 18 months were worth all the hard work, fights for plugs in the library  and tea consumption.

So today, after eating Peanut Butter M&Ms for breakfast – it was either that or a pink grapefruit and to be honest it wasn't a hard decision – I went to the post office to try and track down a missing parcel. It's a present for my goddaughter and the Amazon Marketplace seller requested I check at the sorting office before they gave me a refund.

Without thinking about it, I set off without my hearing aids and on arrival realised this was a grave mistake. You see, the armoured counter that the posties are behind has a big metal bit just where I need to see to lipread and so I couldn't hear a thing the guy was saying.

I ducked down and peered through the gap between the glass and the counter – ignoring the funny looks he was giving me – and managed to make sure he knew I was after a book-shaped package and was it there?

He replied something and looked around the front office. I managed to catch that he didn't think it was here. And then he disappeared off, saying something as he left.

I stood there for a moment wondering if he was coming back or whether his parting words had been 'Sorry I can't help you, bye,' and I just hadn't managed to catch them.

And I waited. And I waited.

And the problem I had was that the counter is not manned constantly. You ring a bell once you get there to alert them of your presence and they come from the back of the sorting office and serve you.

After a few minutes I was wondering whether I should just leave. But then I worried that he might be out the back rummaging through hundreds of parcels and come back with my parcel to find me gone. But if he came back around the front to find me there after wishing me goodbye 10 minutes earlier, he might think I was a crazy woman. And I would die of embarrassment.

Deciding I could handle the embarrassment over losing out on getting my goddaughter's Christmas present, I carried on waiting. And waiting. And waiting.

Until finally he reappeared, looked completely unsurprised to see me there, said something that I decided can only have been, 'I don't have your parcel,' and gave me a helpful wave indicating this to be the case.

So this time I left. Sad that the parcel appears to have gone AWOL and vowing to always wear my hearing aids on trips to my local sorting office.

And I should also be vowing to wear them in Sainsbury's it seems – as shortly after my trip to the sorting office, I lost my volume control while buying dinner. FJM says the whole shop knew we were having Fajitas for dinner and that we'd run out of loo roll.

Awesome eh?

Have a lovely weekend peeps