Tuesday, June 30, 2009
1. You see a pair of shoes you absolutely must have in the window of a shop at 12:59 pm. and you have resigned yourself to accepting the fact that you must wait until 4:00 pm to buy them.
2. You are one of the 98% of the population at 1:00 pm and 8:00 pm sitting at the table eating pasta.
3. Conversing with women breastfeeding babies in the cafe, on the train, in the park, in front of school, trying on clothes no longer phases you.
4. Your child screams, "Mommy, there's no toilet paper!! and you calmly whip out a packet of tissues from your purse.
5. You know the type of undergarments your neighbors wear because you see them hanging on the clothesline every day.
6. You can no longer live without a bidet.
7. You only drink cappuccino for breakfast- not as an after-dinner drink.
8. Your kids sing the Italian National Anthem and not the Star Spangled Banner.
9. You order beer with your Happy Meal.
10. While riding the train to Pisa, Americans talk about you to your face because they think you are Italian.
11. You must have cool sunglasses.
12. You yell at your kids instead of explaining and offering choices.
13. You start having difficulty finding the right English word to express yourself.
14. There are Italian songs on your iPod
15. You no longer eat bread with your pasta
I could go on and on, but I have to prepare for the trip home and now that the kids' passports have arrived...I'm sure we'll be leaving.
Monday, June 29, 2009
She looks so sweet and innocent...she is a terminator child.
She terrorizes Jordan by taking his video games and hiding them under her bed.
She sneaks mascara and I find her fingerprints in my lipgloss.
She crashed into my big toe, ripping my toe nail off- just in time for summer sandals.
She calls her dad...and he comes running.
Today at the beach she was chasing boys in the water.
She changes her bathing suit five times a day, and must have a matching skirt for each bikini.
Today, she said, "Mommy, you are such a bad girl" when I took a sip of her water.
While driving in the car, she insists on turning the radio off and begs to listen to Katy Perry on my ipod.
We fight to put her hair in a pigtail..she prefers it down in hair-flip mode.
She's been wearing sandals that are two years old and that don't fit, because they have a butterfly on them.
After looking in the mirror and noticing a mosquito bite on her forehead, she came to me in tears and said, "I'm UGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGLLLLLLLLLY!!!!!"
Today, she dressed herself in Jordan's American Flag belt and proudly did the Miss Italy twirl and handwave.
She puts Brie in baby diapers and sings her lullabies.
When polishing her nails, each hand must be a different color.
I have no idea where she came from, I was a born tomboy- give me a ball and bat and show me the way to homeplate.
Give Sofia anything fuscia, shiny or frilly...and she will love you for life.
And THAT...is my girl.
Sunday, June 28, 2009
Well, the past two days at the ranch have been fairly calm, the nights- not really, but the days...perfect. One of the moms I've been helping through Pisa came to stay with us for a couple of days for some beach and Jordan.
Her daughter loved him!! Sofia was jealous but read her a bedtime story. And Brie enjoyed the attention, when she wasn't escaping.
I would like to give thanks for the calm that has begun settling in my life. I spent eleven years dedicating myself entirely to my "job" as mom. I spent the past two years trying to control the woman that suddenly surfaced. And now...now I'm mixing up the two and have finally found a healthy equilibrium. Not a bad feeling...
Friday, June 26, 2009
The aspect of DianRez' post that I wanted to highlight was this:
Far more interesting is if they revealed who they are, what they are doing, their opinions, and their life-fulfilling experiences apart from their surgeries. In the case of parents writing about children, there is an emotional aspect that makes one uncomfortable to read about...because of the expense, time, emotional investment and parental uncertainity in them and leaves one wondering if they are missing something. Even at two or three years old, children are individual personalities with varied characteristics.
People, not scars!
I waited about five days and wrote three other blogposts to present the type of revelations that Dianrez requested. I found her post interesting and when she writes, I tend to listen because her perspective is that of a person who has lived her life as a Deaf woman, but who is genuinely curious as to the experiences lived by a new generation of deaf children who have access to sound by means of the cochlear implant. Her comments are always insightful and encouraging and have helped me on a personal level many times.
I will say this: people who blog write a personal diary of their experiences. Surgery, activation, anticipation, fear and uncertainty are all part of the cochlear implant experience. Posting the surgery may be a way of confronting the most terrifying part of choosing a ci for one's child. I believe that ci activation, more than a confirmation and exuberation that "Oh my God, my child hears!" is more of an affirmation- "Thank you God, the implant works"..after suffering through the operation to give your child the opportunity to hear.
Scars are not always visible and tangible, the cochlear implant blogs reflect this reality.
There are the parents just beginning...I received a text message from the mother of a newly diagnosed deaf baby who I spoke to for about forty minutes yesterday. She called me because she was living a difficult moment and needed to talk to someone. She wrote:
One of my biggest fears is that my child will not be able to live a normal life- find a job, get married. Am I ridiculous? Some moments my head is overwhelmed by these types of thoughts and I think I'm going crazy... (I sent her the picture of Jordan with the rose in his mouth and she calmed down)
It's useless to become indignant, pissed off or outraged at this mother's comment. This is the reality, this is a typical parental reaction. And so we must inform parents. If their child is a candidate for a cochlear implant, they need resources. They need to see the surgery and the activation.
As Dianrez says...they need to see that our deaf kids are doing okay socially.
There are the parents who have reached an equilibrium...I'm getting there, so now I can tell our story through the words of Jordan.
The other night just before we went to sleep, he said, "Mom, my friend scares me."
I said, "Why?"
He replied, "Because she uses really bad language, wears too much make up and isn't nice to her parents."
I said, "She is growing. Little girls who become middle school students want to be older than they are so they start cursing and being disrespectful to their parents- obviously something you will never do...or you will be thrown out of the house."
He thought for a second..."Yeah, I guess that's true. She thinks she's older than she really is."
Jordan is immature for his age at times...then again, sometimes he is wise beyond his years.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
I've written a couple of posts about siblings before, but observing the sibling of another deaf child yesterday at an appointment in Pisa hit me in a totally different way. This was a family from Grosseto who contacted me requesting assistance in finding a speech therapist and I referred them to ours. Their child is four years old and was a preemie born with a congenital condition, who was diagnosed as being Deaf one year ago. He wears hearing aids when he isn't pulling them out of his ears and despite all of the problems associated with his condition, is full of life and so funny...
As are his mom and sister.
When we spoke by phone, I suggested they meet with the Professor in Pisa to have a second opinion regarding issues of ears, nose and throat as well as an opinion regarding the cochlear implant. We met at the train station and traveled to Pisa together. This was the first train ride for his sister and I have to say, she liked it, but wasn't too impressed. The mom, sister and brother played together during the entire train ride and they all fell asleep at the same time. I smiled a lot, played cars with them and watched them sleep.
Immediately upon our arrival, the Audiology equipe was ready for us, so the mom and brother entered to begin the exams and I took the sister to the bathroom.
When we returned, the sister joined her mom to watch as they tested her brother and I sat across from them on the other side of the room.
As the beeps arrived and her brother manifested no response, I saw the little girl's face crash. I could understand the mom's facial expression of anxiety, sadness and love having lived the situation in her shoes, but watching the little girl destroyed me. This 10 year old beautiful sister puts her brother's hearing aids in when he takes them out, catches his toys before they hit the ground, wipes his mouth when he drools and lets him pull her hair even though sometimes he pulls too hard.
As soon as the test ended, I called her over and sat her down next to me before she followed her Mom to the next exam. I said, "You have been with your mom when the other Audiologist tested your brother's hearing, haven't you?"
She said, "No."
I asked her mom if I could take her to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa while they finished testing her son, and she said okay.
I grabbed her and rushed her out of there. God, there is nothing as depressing as being in a hospital other than watching doctors test your brother's hearing and seeing no response. I said to her, "You know that your brother is deaf, that is why he wears hearing aids. The doctors do these exams to have an idea as to exactly what types of sounds he may possibly be able to hear. He doesn't have to 'pass' the test, he just needs to be himself. Please don't be sad or feel that your brother is missing something, he is perfect the way he is...And with the experience you have in helping him and loving him, maybe you will be the doctor assisting another child when you get older."
*She smiled* (Thank God)
So, off we went for a little Leaning Tower and two scoops of gelato.
Sunday, June 21, 2009
A week ago, while in a store waiting to take passport pix because of course my
kids' were expired and we're leaving in two weeks, an old man started talking to
me. I was concentrating on Jordan and Sofia who were getting into everything
they shouldn't be touching, so when the man asked me, "What's that thing on your
son's head?" I wasn't sure I had heard him correctly so I said, "I'm sorry, what
did you say?" And he asked, "What is that monstrosity on your son's head?"
*Breathe in, breathe out*
(It has been a long, long time since someone has asked me that question in such
an ignorant way. My last experience was through Val when she talked about the
haircutter.) I held back from smacking him, because that was my instant
reaction, took a deep breath and called Jordan over. I said, "Jordan, could you
please explain to this 'gentleman' what you have on your ear?" Jordan proceeded
with his "CI speech" by saying, "This is the processor of my cochlear implant. I
was born deaf and used to wear hearing aids. Now I can hear really well with my
cochlear implant." Jordan then walked away to destroy the store and the man
looked at me.
He said, "That's one great kid you have there.."
I replied, "Thank you, and extremely intelligent."
The man smiled and escaped from the store. (He's lucky he didn't get a kick in
I'm writing this here because in the past two days, I received a photo from Ann
that showed Max explaining about the Cochlear Implant to his class at school.
Then, I read Val's Blog where she talks about how her kids talk to strangers in the elevator about how they can't hear when they go to the beach because they
can't wear their cochlear implant processors that help them hear. Yet, they
continue speaking even without the cis.
I would have never thought I'd see the day when my son would have been
independent enough to speak up for himself and to explain his deafness. It was a
constant struggle and I remember how just getting him to say his name was so
difficult for him. In the beginning, I gave that little speech to all of the
curious kidlings at the park, now finally Jordan can speak for himself.
So, to all of the new parents just starting on this journey, you will get there
too. We all reach different points at different times, but the shared
experiences are similar. You are doing everything you can to give your children
a voice, so that eventually-they will use it.
Hats off to all of you and Happy Father's Day to all the Dads...
Saturday, June 20, 2009
We arrived at the door of the synagogue at 9:25 am for our appointment: Bar Mitzvah lesson number one. Rabbi Eli opened the door, I was wearing a jacket over my sleeveless top because I got an evil eye the last time I showed up half naked at our appointment- note: it was like 95° and humid, but I was respectful this time. I do have to add this one particular- I have managed to find without a doubt the HOTTEST Rabbi in the world...young, interesting and straight from Jerusalem.
So, he asks us if we would like some coffee, we respectfully decline and take a seat. You have to understand that he is from Jerusalem and has been in Siena for eight months. He's married to an Italian woman (HOT!)and speaks Italian better than I did when I first got here, but with some difficulty nonetheless- his English is excellent. (I am sure God was watching over me for this one!) He began the lesson by asking Jordan what he knew about Judaism.
Jordan responded: "I know that 6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust by the Nazis."
My jaw dropped. I remember once he brought home a fighter airplane that had a Swastika on it and I almost passed out. I then explained to him about the Holocaust, but I didn't think he remembered it.
Actually, since finding out about Jordan's deafness and starting the oral approach, abstract concepts were inconceivable to teach, I basically shut my religion out of my life. If we couldn't live it concretely by going to synagogue, spending the high holidays with family members or having him attend religious school, there was no way to make him understand certain aspects. I just always told him he was Jewish and tried to teach him morals and values that my family taught me.
So, when he began to have an intelligent conversation with the Rabbi, I sat back and evaluated my sensitive son. Every now and then the Rabbi would look at me and smile. They opened a prayer book and Jordan said the Shemah aloud..hmmm, got slightly teary eyed at that one.
Then, the Rabbi said, "Okay Jordan, let's take a tour of the synagogue."
I immediately threw a scarf over my sweater...the Rabbi laughed.
Jordan donned his kipa proudly, and in we walked.
We had been inside the synagogue the last time, but this time it was just the three of us. It isn't a very large synagogue, but it's intimate. The women sit on the left and the men on the right, in the middle is a sort of pulpit where the Rabbi speaks and front and center is the Arc. The Rabbi walked straight back to next to the Arc and took out a key. I started shaking.
I hadn't seen a Torah in twelve years. God, I'm getting teary-eyed thinking about that moment. There was my son, standing next to a Rabbi, who was opening the Arc to show him the Torah. When he opened the doors and I saw the silver, I had a flashback from when I was eight years old, bored to tears sitting through a Shabbat service. If there was one thing I waited for during those endless services, it was seeing the Rabbi take out the Torah. That...and the ginger ale drink with lemon sherbet at the kiddush. It was all about my grandfather and my family as I watched Jordan's first peek at the Torah.
I lost it. They both looked at me like I was crazy. I don't know why this is happening at this point in my life because I am already on the verge of a nervous breakdown, but it was just one more example of finding a part of me that I had lost or slammed the door on..I lost my religion, and found it again last Wednesday- with my son.
When they closed the Arc, they then proceeded to the pulpit where they read a prayer together that Jordan needs to learn for his Bar Mitzvah. I cried on. At a certain point the Rabbi said, "Okay Jordan have a look around and if you have any questions let me know."
So, Jordan began walking around, inspecting the wooden benches. At a certain point, he said, "Rabbi, you know, there are termites in these benches!"
We took a coffee break, I spoke to the Rabbi and asked him a couple of deep questions about life as Jordan played with his PSP. He told me that a Rabbi was once asked to describe the entire Torah in one word.
I asked, "And what was his response?"
Rabbi Eli replied, "Peace."
Just then, Jordan walked outside and asked what was written on the blackboard. We went inside, the Rabbi erased what was written and wrote something else. He asked Jordan, "Do you know what this says?"
Jordan said, "No."
Rabbi Eli said, "This is your name, Jordan, written in Hebrew."
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Jordan is now officially an 8th Grader!!!!!!!!
And Sofia Madyson...A 2nd Grader!!!!! Note her drawing of raindrop friends:))
Allow me to give you a glimpse of how the Tuscans organize end of the school year celebrations:
The mothers, who are ALL excellent in the kitchen are each assigned a dish to bring to the festivities. (I gave 25 euro towards coldcuts. Hahahahahaha)
I was starving, so I didn't think to photograph the appetizers...too busy eating.
Note the various cold pasta and cold rice dishes, known as "first plate"...
And here we have "second plate"- an assortment of sausage and beans, roast beef and trippa- something like cooked intestines, I can't remember exactly what it is, but it's something gooey that I do not eat.
Then, there are the drinks including homemade wine bottled in water bottles...now THAT is good stuff.
And once the party's over...SUMMER on the BEACH begins!!!!
Sunday, June 14, 2009
My name is Michele, I'm 28 years old and I live in Florence, Italy. I was born deaf, fitted with hearing aids at age of 11 months, reeducated with oral method (no sign language!) and mainstreamed from tender age in public schools, with no support teachers due to my parents' choice first, then mine one: I relied exclusively on teachers' good sense, they supported me teaching lessons with their faces turned towards the classroom, so I could read their lips with no problems. Moreover, my classmates often helped me giving me their notes, they did it with pleasure (in fact my limit was that I was not able to follow lessons and take notes at the same time, I don't have independent and mobile eyes like chameleons heh...).
I don't deny that I had uneducated and rude teachers, too, but those obstacles make me more obstinate relying on my own capacities than ever, sometimes I had to take private lessons in order to not give them any satisfaction at all. At the end, I had my own back, succeeding in achieving good grades, admitting in a closed-number University and finding a good job that fits on my skills.
Two years ago, on September 2007, I had a drastic fall of my deafness, after a trip in Germany: from one day to another I lose my capacities to "hear my own noises", that sounds' landscape I hardly had to build through my hearing aids. Initially I thought about a hearing aids' failure, then when I came back in Italy I understood that the problem was ME and not them. My deafness, that until that moment I considered at a locked point, was showing me that it wasn't so, that it could be even more cruel than it has ever been...
So I started to look for a alternative new hearing aid, more powerful and modern, a path lasted two years where I tried every model, every available option, every brand, until I understood that sound amplification would have been no more useful for my deafness level. Then I realized that my last option was Cochlear Implant.
Eight years ago, in 2001, I had my first medical conversation about CI evaluation, and I scared away from that hospital... "Let them drill my skull to put that stuff into my head? NO WAY!!!".
It's funny to observe how that, eight years later, I braved this new challenge with a total different state of mind, more serene, more conscious about my needs, well-aware. Maybe it was necessary to let all that time flow away, so that I came to this decision with the greatest serenity possible.
So this is my own advice to all those are evaluating CI option: take all your time to gain informations, breathe, explore yourselves, make you conscious about the big step you're taking, act with serenity and don't let others influence you: whatever will be your decision, point your needs at the core of your attention.
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
I just had to post this...it's adorable!!!!
Here's Christian's cochlear implant activation that took place one year ago:
And here he is jammin' to the Dave Matthews Band...one year later:
Monday, June 8, 2009
I just got off the phone with a very good friend who noticed I was slightly stressed and agitated. (Slightly) He told me, in a very Forrest Gump-like manner, to De-Zoom. He put it to me like this, "Jodi...be Google-Earth." Sometimes life has you so focused on a dilemma that you just need to step back and look at the broader picture. Kind of helps clarify the situation.
In doing so, I have suddenly realized that the school year is over. My kids are growing and serene, active and actively demanding...just how kids should be. Focusing on permanence instead of accepting impermanence can just about drive you insane, so I...am now hovering and observing.
Exciting save-the-world kind of things are happening in Italy, just the kind of stuff I love, and Jordan, as always, is my motivating factor. He took a two day holiday at my mother-in-law's house- said he needed some peace and quiet. (Funny, he should only do it more often considering when he's home there are six people running through my house at all times)When he came back last night only to leave again for another party, I swear he had grown three more inches. Yeah, he's hot.
And Sofia? Insane. She changes her clothes four times a day- always pink and fruffy, asks me five thousand questions a day and never stops singing her end of the year program songs as she's flying in and out of the house with friends.
Brie has fleas.
Luca...my best friend, never have and never will meet another man like him.
All in all, life is okay. Yesterday, I spent the day at the beach alone and like a dumb-ass didn't use sunscreen because I'm already tan and it was cloudy. Fried. Sun poisoning. But I had such a good time with me, myself, I and the little Chinese masseuse on the beach...best twenty minutes I've had in a long time.
Yes, life goes on in Tuscany under that sun that burned my butt. And that which does not kill me...will only help me grow.
Thursday, June 4, 2009
My Pop was the most important person in my life. He ruled the family with an iron arm and a generous heart. He loved Jordan and I broke his heart when we moved to Italy. During his last months of life, my Pop was very sick and lived his illness with great dignity as he had lived his entire life. He used to talk about his time spent in Napoli during World War II, it was his way of feeling closer to Italy and his grandchildren. My grandfather was a religious man and had great faith. When he passed away, I made a promise to myself that I would find a way to get Jordan Bar Mitzvahed.
When Jordan was diagnosed as deaf, it was very difficult teaching him to speak Italian. It was extremely difficult trying to teach him abstract concepts such as religion. The only religion he has ever lived has been with Luca's family during Christmas and Easter dinners. For me the most important aspect of religion aside from having faith, is that it offers occasions for the family to unite. Teaching Jordan what it means to be Jewish has been more of a concentration on values and the belief in God than the teaching of Hebrew, the meaning of Shabbat and other religious holidays. It is impossible here in Italy, also because I am a Reform Jew and the synagogues are all Orthodox.
My neighbor across the street also happens to be Jewish and his son lives next door to him, so actually my street is like Pikesville- so strange. I've spoken to him often about my dilemma and this morning he put me in contact with the Rabbi from Siena.
The Rabbi listened to my situation and despite the fact that his synagogue is Orthodox, he has agreed to begin meeting with Jordan and me. I broke down on the phone as I was explaining about Pop and what exactly having Jordan Bar Mitsvahed means to me after what we have been through these past years. I can assure you that it's times like these that I strongly feel the fact that I have been away from my family for 12 years. I also told him that he was about to meet a very special young man.
My son, who turns 13 in August, is going to be Bar Mitzvahed in the Medieval Synagogue of Siena. It will be an intimate ceremony of just family members, maybe even only four of us...no extravagant party, no presents, no glitter and no fuss...just Jordan, us, and Pop.
*Prepare the kleenex*
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Hearing-impaired co-valedictorian delivering a message of inspiration
Despite challenges, United Local senior Jenna Greene graduating with perfect grade point average
"Parents, not only have you brought us into this world, but you have provided us with the nurture and care throughout our years. You have faced trials, struggles and obstacles with us. Never will we forget the love you have shown to us, from the day you held our hands and let them go as we entered the first day of kindergarten, to embracing us as we graduate from United High School..."
For someone once not expected to get past a fourth-grade reading level, a determined Jenna Greene has done just fine.
Along with her parents, she knows all about trials, struggles and obstacles. Maybe more so than most of us. Today, before hundreds attending the United Local graduation ceremonies, her address - including the above passage -will be spoken words of inspiration. They will be exceptionally meaningful. That's because spoken words are something she came very close to never hearing and in some circumstances still struggles to hear. Now her actions clearly speak volumes of what self-motivation and application can produce.
Jenna was only a year old when Brenda and Jay received the startling news that their daughter was profoundly deaf. They were told to anticipate and brace for all the hardships to come. That hers wouldn't be a normal childhood. That she wouldn't be a normal student. Well, let's just say a deaf ear was fully turned to any thoughts of discouragement.
This afternoon, Jenna will stand - and speak and be heard - during commencement as the school's 2009 co-valedictorian. Mainstreamed throughout school, she will graduate will a straight A average.
A fully active student, her activities included track, soccer, Ruriteens, Ski Club, Math Team FCCLA, French Club, yearbook staff, Academic Challenge, English Festival, Interact Club and the Winona Friends Youth Group. A National Honor Society student, her academic successes include earning a Xerox Award, Academic Letter, French Award, RIT Presidential Scholarship, RIT Merit Scholarship, NTID Presidential Scholarship and Salem Elks Scholarship. So much for overcoming barriers.
"It does not matter what cards you have been dealt. It only matters how you play the hand. My mother and father found themselves with a child that was diagnosed with profound deafness. Inside, they were shattered and their minds were pelted with foreboding questions: How can she hear? How can she talk? How can she go to school? How can she socialize? How can she succeed? Hearing aids failed for me and a doctor claimed that I would never get past a fourth-grade reading level. Those were the obstacles my parents faced as they searched for answers to help their little girl. If I had a single word to describe my parents, it is optimistic. Without that quality, I doubt I would be here. My parents provided me with cochlear implants and worked with me, and for this, I can never repay them..."
Brenda remembers Jenna having multiple ear infections as an infant. She would be playing and wouldn't react to noises around her.
"We thought that maybe she was just engrossed in what she was doing," Brenda said. But suspicions became reality when hearing tests revealed the profound deafness. It was caused by a genetic mutation. The particular disorder is very uncommon. That is, unless an affected child's parents are carriers such as the Greenes. Their other child, Jenna's older sister, was not affected.
As she grew, Jenna went through three kinds of hearing devices. Little benefit was provided.
The breakthrough came with cochlear implants. The cochlea is the auditory portion of the inner ear. Its core component is the Organ of Corti, the sensory organ of hearing. According to resource material, the surgically implanted electronic device provides a sense of sound to a person who is profoundly deaf or severely hard of hearing. The cochlear implant is often referred to as a bionic ear. Unlike hearing aids, the cochlear implant does not amplify sound, but works by directly stimulating any functioning auditory nerves inside the cochlea with an electric field.
External components of the cochlear implant include a microphone, speech processor and an RF transducer or primary headpiece coil. A secondary coil is implanted beneath the skull's skin and inductively coupled to the primary headpiece coil. The headpiece coil has a magnet by which it attaches to another magnet placed on the secondary coil often beside the cochlear implant.
The implant relays the incoming signal to the implanted electrodes in the cochlea. The speech processor allows an individual to adjust the sensitivity of the device. The implant gives recipients additional auditory information, which may include sound discrimination fine enough to understand speech in quiet environments.
In simple speak, the implants allow an afflicted person to hear or at least hear better.
Jenna underwent two implants, the second when she was freshman. From a very early age, she had to learn to hear and, in turn, learn to speak. She wears exterior devices behind each ear that works as part of the implant process. The exterior devices are powered by batteries, three in each ear. She goes through about 60 batteries per month.
On the first day of school, her conscientious mother would address her classmates. She would discuss Jenna's condition with teachers and her classmates. There were always challenges. For instance, something simple as hearing a recess bell on the playground. In junior high, she had to carry a microphone and speakers from class-to-class. "I didn't want to be different," Jenna recalled. "But carrying around a box is different."
Group discussions - requiring directional hearing -have always been a hearing hurdle to overcome. She would be left out of conversations.
Some kids - kids being kids - would make fun of her. She felt conspicuous. But she persevered. Being embarrassed or ashamed meant giving in. But she didn't have time for self-pity. She was busy being a fully functional and well-rounded child and, now, adult.
"It kind of motivated me to overcome obstacles," she said. "To take it on and not give up. The hearing loss taught me that. At times I felt isolated because people didn't always understand. But that's human nature. I'm different and I can't change that."
She stressed gratitude for the caring and understanding shown to her by her United Local teachers and her graduating classmates. She will thank her speech therapist today.
"My teachers were great," she said. "The people in my class were good to me. They would repeat back to me."
Mainstreaming - instead of relying on schooling for the deaf - became the right decision. "We just wanted to see what she'd do and she has done very well," her proud dad said.
The Greenes want to amplify a message of hope and not despair to parents with a child suffering a similar plight.
"Don't limit what they can do," Brenda emphasized. "Allow them to try whatever they want to try. The one thing I want to point out is early detection and monitoring." She stressed diligence and getting help from outlets such as parent support groups. There is a speech development window - speech needs to develop before an affected child is 7 years old. Or it likely never will.
"I would encourage cochlear implants for anyone like me," Jenna said. "I would tell parents that it may be hard but in the end it will be OK. There are times that will be tough and times that will be happy. Don't focus on negatives; let them make you stronger."
"It's not the end, it's just the beginning.... This day is a new beginning for all of us.... Graduates of 2009, your four years of high school are done, but what will continue to live on are your memories to be cherished, your abilities to be utilized, your desires to be fulfilled, your goals to be achieved, and your dreams to be transformed into realities.... You, class of 2009, have given me support since I entered United as a first grader, someone who had never attended a hearing public school before.... I thank my mother, my father, and my older sister for trumping the opposition, the limits, and the discouragement in this game of Euchre we played. I am now graduating from the same school as they did and, fifteen years ago, when I was three years old, they would not have imagined this possible.... Like Helen Keller says, keep your faces to the sunshine and the shadows will be left behind ...
Jenna will attend the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York. She will major in biology and hopes to become a pathologist.
The school provides an environment for the deaf and hearing-impaired. It includes about a 1,000 deaf and hard of hearing including about a 100 with cochlear implants. She will be able to connect but in her own admirable way has been doing that for years despite the barriers.
Jenna is adept a sign language. She said she will have the best of both worlds - signing with the deaf and talking to the hearing-impaired.
She said she will be a "little nervous" today when she delivers her commencement address. But be assured that her message of gratitude, hope and overcoming life's struggles will be heard loud and clear.
*LOVE, FAITH, PERSEVERANCE and ATTITUDE*