Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Happy Birthday JORDAN ERIC!!!! And The Car Accident

Today is a very special day...HAPPY BIRTHDAY JORDAN ERIC!!! My boy is twelve years old today, hard to believe. Everyone's favorite story is telling about the day they gave birth to their children. It's almost impossible to get through the story because the person with whom you are sharing this wonderous event inevitably interrupts you five thousand times to share the story of the birth of her first child.
I will say this:
1. My contractions began over a plate of Chili's Nachos (still my all-time favorite food)
2. My contractions were five minutes apart for an entire Oriole Game that went into extra innings.
3. At the end of the game -the Orioles won games back then-, I told my mom and Luca "Take me to the F****** hospital or I'm calling a taxi.
4. When the doctor visited me to see at what point I was, there was a "Pop," I screamed and Niagara Falls rushed all over Luca's feet. He asked me why I was screaming as he went to dry his shoes.
5. I called my friends, it was 3 am.
6. My ObGyn said she was on her way to the hospital. They took me to a private delivery room where I puked up the Chili's nachos.
7. There were eighteen of us in the room and it was All hanging out *smile*
8. They gave me an epidural.
9. My ObGyn arrived, took one look at me, smelled the room, ordered the nurse to remove the trashcan of nacho puke and told me to immediately push.
10. I screamed. She told me to shut up (really). I pushed again and out came Jordan Eric, slimey and silent.
11. Finally he cried and they took him away.
12. No newborn hearing screening.

Twelve years later, Jordan is growing up to be a fine, young (pain in the butt)adolescent who is sensitive, fun-loving and independent.
Boy...Time sure does fly when...
You're raising a child.

Part 2-
My dad arrived this morning at Fiumicino airport in Rome. We hugged, got all teary- eyed and started the one and a half hour drive back to Grosseto. My dad was in the front seat and I was sprawled out on the back seats, chillin' and talkin'. Suddenly, I hear Luca and my Dad go "OH MY GOD!" I dart up from the back seat and see a car flip over three times on the highway right in front of us. Luca pulls the car over on the shoulder, my dad opens the door and starts running - sprinting to the car.
My thoughts: Dad, WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?????
Okay, my dad doesn't speak Italian.
I'm thinking the car that is fuming is going to blow up at any minute.
Luca's screaming, "Be careful when you open the door, Steve!" (my dad was already halfway to the smoking car)
Luca told me I screamed, "Does anyone know CPR??" and "Dad, what the hell are you doing?"

About twelve cars pulled over to the shoulder at the same time to offer assistance.
One woman called the equivalent of 911.
One man and Luca worked on getting the woman out of the car. The man tried to break the seat to pull her out. Luca suggested he use the roll-the-seat-down button. That worked and they got the woman out.
One man brought the grungiest blanket I've ever seen to put on the woman who was conscious and breathing, apparently in shock but miraculously unharmed.
My dad collected her belongings and laid them next to her on the asphalt.
I was on "make her calm" duty and began caressing her arm and speaking softly to her in Italian.
One man waved traffic to the side.
One man ordered Luca to shut off the battery. Luca looked at him like he was crazy and took her car keys out of the ignition.
Apparently there was a nice gentleman from Britain on the scene as well and my dad and he chatted amicably during the adventure.
The woman who called 911 told the woman lying on the ground that my husband, another man and my dad had saved her life.
I kept praying the car didn't explode.
When we saw that all was under control, we got back in our car and headed towards Grosseto.
Luca said, "A fine example of well-organized disorganization."
My dad said, "Jodi, why the hell didn't you take a picture for your blog?"
I said, "Dad, you might as well turn around and get back on the plane, because That is the most exciting thing that you will see in the next seven days."

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Rachel and the Italian Asshole

I'm on Luca's archaic work computer because my internet has been down for six days. FRUSTRATED! I have so much to say and five minutes until some pop-up on his computer erases what I've written. Typing my ass off, right now.
I miss Rachel.
The Italian guy was a first class Asshole. He called Friday night to try to get together, but we were in Siena, Pienza and Montalcino drinking Brunello and eating pecorino cheese with honey. Then, he called Saturday morning (motivated, wasn't he?)and asked to meet us at the beach. Me, being the naive American that I am trusted that I could leave Rachel alone in the water with a guy and his friend in broad daylight. I underestimated the asshole-ability of an Italian guy. If I ever run into him again, I'll pop him in the nose. He tried to kiss her. Imagine that. Rachel blew him off and broke his heart.


I will say this. When we met the guy and his friends at the outdoor pub, Rachel had her hair down, so that her processors were not visible. Not one of the group suspected that she might be deaf. I kind of watched the scene in wonder and curiosity.
On Saturday at the beach, Rachel had her hair in ponytail. When the guys arrived and suggested they go for a swim (assholes), Rachel told me that I needed to explain to them that she was deaf and that they would need to speak to her so that she could read their lips. *smile*
My reply: Rachel, I'll tell them, but the point is kind of irrelevant considering you won't be able to understand each other anyway.
Asshole took the lipreading thing a little too seriously.
Anyway, as I have been saying throughout my blog, living in a foreign country and not understanding or being able to communicate in its language is very similar to being deaf.
The guy apparently decided that body language was the correct approach given the situation.
Rachel shot him down.
She is a princess.

Thank you for your post and the beautiful things you had to say about my family. I miss you already, my car seems empty without your calming presence amidst my freaking lunatic children. *smile* I learned a lot from you, appreciated your calm and deep way of viewing the world and life in Tuscany, and Loved watching Sound and Fury with you, somehow that just seemed right.
(Young) Aunt Jodi and Fam.

And ART.

Next dad's comin' to town (God help me!)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Rachel and Her Italian Romeo


*Wiping sweat*
Ok. I decide to take Rachel out for a little Grosseto nightlife (no easy task given that there is no nightlife in Grosseto) and manage to find an outdoor bar with a decent amount of people hanging out and casually drinking. We choose a table in the back of the place and sit down next to each other to people-watch. Ten minutes later two guys sit down right next to our table.

The waitress ignores us and goes directly to their table to take a drink order.
Rachel and I begin speaking about stuff in general, in English, and the guy closest to Rachel notices that we are obviously American.
He begins staring and smiling at Rachel.
I get up to get Rachel and I drinks because the waitress is obviously never coming back, I see a friend, text another and return to the table.

The guy has inched his chair closer to Rachel's in an "I'm trying not to be obvious but I think you are REALLY hot" kind of way...

More smiling between the two.

Finally, I can take it no longer. I stick out my hand, smile and say, "Hi, I'm Jodi (smile)...and this is my friend Rachel."

I have no patience for blatant flirtation - I'm too chicken-shit to make a move guys. I just spent fifteen days in Dublin with five girls who were the same way. I had to do something.

*Rachel is dangerous*

She is so sweet and tiny that every man who meets her wants to hug her and protect her from the world. But she also has these piercing green eyes, so that ain't all they want...(Don't worry, Melissa, I instigated, but I supervised...and translated, and translated)

The highly stimulating conversation goes a little something like this:

Romeo: Uh. Hi. Where are you from?

Rachel: Atlanta, Georgia.

Pause of about ten minutes while Romeo tries to think of another question to ask in broken English with me translating.

Romeo: Uh, eh. Do you study?

Rachel: Yes, I study photography at the University. I'm spending the next two months in France studying.

Eight minute pause.

Romeo: Tell her I think she's pretty.
Me: You tell her you think she's pretty, this is how you say it in English. (I draw the line at telling Rachel she's pretty as if I were the guy hitting on her. Italian men are so weird)
Rachel: Thank you.

Fifteen minutes pass as Romeo's friend Laura starts speaking decent English so that I can take a break from this stressful work of boy meets girl.

group shot

Romeo: Ask her if she likes guys who bodybuild and go to the gym. (Romeo flexes non-existent muscles)
Me: (I grimace and translate this latest hot item)
Rachel: Um. A man's personality is more important than whether or not he goes to the gym.
Romeo digests this tidbit, decides that it is an acceptable answer (God was I tempted to say that she said she likes guys with REALLY big muscles)and goes back into his corner to debate the next thought-provoking one-liner.

How interesting to vicariously live a blatant pickup attempt by an inept, lost in love Italian 26 year old boy. How do Italian women deal with this shit on a daily basis?

He was so cute, though and so into Rachel.

*Rachel plays it cool*

Romeo: Um, uh, em. Do you like Science Fiction or horror films?
Rachel: No, I hate them. I like Romance films.
Romeo: (devastated) oh.
Rachel: But my brother and sister love Science Fiction films.
Romeo: OH!
Me: Oh God.

(Interrupting for a special message to Naomi: Jordan held Rachel's hand...good luck to you in December with "A")

I would love to say that the conversation gets better. It doesn't.
I'll keep you posted.
Round 2, Saturday morning, beach date.
Romeo was definitely no Paotie (got your back), but he was a persistent little Stallion.


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Just Who Will You Be?

Don't be jealous, Rachel has only been hit on by a guy a day every day since she's been here. I am protecting her, although sometimes I'm the instigator *wink* (Don't worry Melissa, they're all under the age of 40 *smile*)
By the way, not all Italian guys are gay...(they might look gay (it's a European style thing - like they all wear tight jeans), but they're not)
Besides, Rachel confessed her undying love for me
*just joshin' ya*
*licking lips and blowing kiss*
Must move on...things to write.

Hurricane Rachel blew into town, and I must say, she is just not a hurricane. She's more like a miniature doll...that causes a tremendous rush of maternal instinct to just explode in ya...and she packs a helluva lot of brain power. She has totally taken over my computer - she goes to bed later than I do, and I must say, I can't stay up until 4 anymore after Dublin. So, my blog has been on hold.

Having Rachel with us has been like having our very own personal paparazzi. She never leaves home without her four cameras and is always snapping shots...of everything, my mother-in-law's tomatoes included. Check out her travel blog for some interesting pix of Tuscan life here in good old Grosseto. Btw, people think we're famous *smile*.

A lot has happened in the past week, it feels like a year has passed. One thing that really touched me was a letter I received from my Dad with a surprise book inside. You have to understand that the only mail I ever receive from my Dad is Rally Caps related, so this was quite a shock.

It's kind of a personal letter, but I just want to share the first paragraph:


Please take 30 minutes to read this wonderful book by Maria Shriver. You may then want to go back and re-read certain pages that you have marked. You may also choose to use some of her poetry in your own speeches in the future. Or personally, it may help you through this phase of your life, this crisis, and this growth period and help you find out "Just Who You Will Be."


For me, there is no greater gift (other than when a man blogs for you) than to receive a book from someone, especially one with an important message from the heart. I haven't been the greatest daughter lately, actually, I've been downright shitty, but I need space to figure myself out and all of my parents apparently (smile) understand this. I am deeply grateful for that.

I think I've blogged about the idea that we sort of have our lives mapped out for us from the time we're born: Play sports in high school, get good grades, go to college, get good grades, be the best over-achiever you can be, get a job, get married, have kids, stay really sickeningly happy for the rest of your lives until you die.

I've discussed roles and how our roles define WHAT we are: Jordan and Sofia's mom, English Teacher, Luca's wife, American in Tuscany, etc.

Somewhere Jodi got lost.

My mom used to tell me, "Jodi, you sound just like your father."
My dad used to tell me, "Jodi, you sound just like your mother."

I went through the majority of my life trying to please the rest of the world. Maybe in following my pre-ordained life of high school, college, marriage and kids, I never stopped to figure out exactly who the hell was Jodi.

I was talking to Rachel about all of this stuff and had her read Maria Shriver's book - it takes about 20 minutes to read - and we discussed other options that deviate from that pre-laid path to the American Dream of "Happy-ness."

Just think...I spent 15 days in Dublin, all expenses paid and actually got paid to do it. Did the same thing last year in London with four students...there are so many deviations from the path that will lead you to different experiences. My kids will know that they do not have to follow the path. They can take that road lesser travelled, because it does make all the difference.

Sometimes you consciously choose to deviate and sometimes you end up on the yellow brick road searching for the wizard of Oz, begging and pleading to be able to return to Kansas.

But Anyway.

I have reached this point in Maria's book:
"Many of you may also feel that you're scrambling to fulfill your roles in everybody's life but your own. You may feel you're not entitled to show up as anyone but the perfect student, the perfect son or daughter, the perfect spouse or partner, the perfect employee or parent.
You may believe you're not allowed to think of yourself as separate from your job, your family, and all the other legacies you inhabit.
But what I've come to understand is that we are first and foremost human beings in our own right. We're entitled to our own lives, our own dreams and goals, our own legacies..."

Finally, 36 years later (Rachel thought I was 40. I told her to leave. But she thought Luca was 35, so he insisted she stay.) I am finding myself, learning a little more about Jodi.

I've clicked and kicked and hurled those ruby red slippers against the wall, but I still need to figure out the answer to that question, "Just Who Will You Be?"

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders and CI Kids!

Pamela, CI Circle Member, former Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader and Mamma blogger of *A Real Housewife of Dallas, Texas A journey into the world of sound, preschool, real life and other hazardous daily events* strikes again with this article she wrote for the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders website. Check it out!

Cheers for "Ears"

By Pamela Jagger Purcel
August 14, 2008

IRVING, Texas - You know those rare moments when it seems the planets are aligned just so perfectly that something magical has the opportunity to take place? I saw it myself when the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders made a very special visit to a children's summer camp in the countryside of Celina, Texas. At first glance the camp is typical. The usual stuff, really - fishing, waterslides, games, camp songs. Upon closer inspection, however, you see the camp counselors are actually graduate students at the UTD Callier Center for Communication Disorders and the children wearingt-shirts, shorts and various summer hats share a common accessory, cochlear implant processors.

Cochlear implants, in simple terms, are high-tech hearing devices that allow,with a lot of audio and verbal therapy, profoundly deaf individuals the ability to hear and speak. The internal part of the device is surgically implanted behind the ear, while the processor that transmits the sound to the internal implant is usually hooked over the ear. While this is all very high-tech kind of stuff, the kids using them often just refer to wearing their cochlear implant processors as, "putting on my ears."

Why was I there? Well, I share a deep appreciation for both groups as a former Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader myself and now mom to a little cochlear implant-wearing four-year old son, Benjamin. The cheerleaders visited the Camp last year, and I was so proud of their innate ability to connect to the small children with their trademark DCC smiles, bear hugs and captivating personalities. Plus, frankly these ladies know how to access any situation and have fun. It was no surprise that the children were eager to share an afternoon with the Cheerleaders again this year.

As I drove into the camp to greet the six cheerleaders,it occurred to me that these two groups, the world famous, iconic NFL cheerleaders and the little, profoundly deaf children, shared a few things in common. For instance, there isn't a cheerleader on the team that would tell you becoming a member of the Organization was easy or that it happened over-night. They'd tell you there was a lot of workinvolved both physically and mentally. I personally remember there were many gut-checks on the road to wearing the famous uniform.Will I make it through this training camp? Can I possibly rehearse that pregame performance again? How many more kicks?!

Similarly, the children attending the summer camp share the same drive to succeed. No deaf child learns how to speak and hear overnight. There are years of work behind the children's success as well. As a mom to a child with cochlear implants, I see first-hand how hard my son works to achieve the goal of effortless spoken communication through hours of audio and verbal exercises.It can take months for a child to even make sense of the first sound they ever hear with the use of cochlear implants. It's certainly not a quick process. Yet, both groups are passionate about their work.

The other remarkable thing these two groups share is their ability to inspire. When a group needs extra inspiration, the DCC are often called upon. Troops who have been away from home for a long time, children in hospitals, andlonely senior citizens living in nursing homes have been touched by the magic of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders. And so, too, are the inspiring qualities of the children making their way in the world every day with cochlear implants. After all, when I find myself overwhelmed with responsibilities, I look over at my son who, though profoundly deaf, is speaking English without the need for sign language andhas recently begun singing Spanish songs too. It's hard to believe anything is impossible anymore with this "can-do" kid around.

During the cheerleaders' visit to camp, Justine, Makenzi, Abigail, Deryn, Christina and Crystal, helped the children to focus on the different qualities of musical sound, such as rhythm, volume and pitch through dance activities. Then after spending the afternoon dancing, the groups shared hugs, took photos together and each child was given a personally autographed Cheerleader squad-photo to remind them of the special time they spent together.

Justine Phillips, a four-year DCC veteran, explained the significance of being at the camp. "We are so happy to be here dancing with these children. It's so neat because many of them have just begun to hear music for the first time."

According to camp director Melissa Sweeney of the UTD Callier Center, many of the grinning children dancing front and center alongside the cheerleaders were the very same children who up to that moment had been timid and hesitant to participate in some activities.

The DCC and the small children attending the CI summer camp seemed to share a mutual appreciation for each other. After meeting the children at the CI summer camp, two-year DCC veteran Abigail Klein beamed.

"I love this. I really do love this," said Klein as she gestured around her to the children dancing. It's not every day that you get to enjoy a room full of profoundly deaf children happily listening to music.

The feeling of appreciation was truly mutual; just days after the camp ended, Ben told me he really liked the cheerleaders. I agreed, "Me too, Ben." Then he added,"I really, really like Abigail...the cheerleader." To further prove his point,in a grand gesture Ben has recently named his favorite toy truck "Abigail" and has since mastered the pronunciation. Now that's true admiration.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Josh Swiller - SUPERHERO? Hell Yeah! MUST READ

*You asked for it...*
Read the following email correspondence: Zambia - USA - (Italy, Australia, UK) - USA - Ireland - Kenya - Zambia...

*The internet is a powerful tool for bringing aid worldwide, especially when the Deaf and Hearing collaborate*

Letter #1...A Hearing couple in Zambia working with Deaf children requests information as to how to create a Hands and Voices Chapter:
Thank you for your letter asking for more information about my family
and my desire to start a chapter in Zambia.
Let me give you a brief account of how i came into contact with the deaf. As a family we are Jehovah's Witnesses. One day in 2003 when my wife Jenny was preaching from house to house, she encountered a deaf person who wanted to know more about the bible. My wife started conducting a home bible study which proved to be difficult because that person could not read and my wife did not know sign language. My wife
approached a teacher at a nearby school who teaches deaf people to
help her with the basic sign language but he refused.

My wife was further introduced to more deaf people by the one she first met.More
deaf people started coming to our home as a result my wife started learning some bits of sign language from the deaf themselves. Then it turned out to be routen, every so often the deaf would come looking for my wife. It proved to be difficult when she was not at home because the rest of the family did not know anything about sign language, so i felt compelled to join my wife! in preaching to the deaf. We were told about a witness who lived in another district(Ndola) who knew sign language. We approached him and arranged a class at weekends with my family. We later invited other interested people to join the class. As a family we were paying all the expenses.

Later on we went to a local school and got permmission from the Headteacher to show a video "what does god require of us" in sign language.It was at that point i came to realise that the deaf children were not getting enough in terms of education. they failed to understand the signs in the tape, could not even spell their names and could not read the wall charts.I and my wife went around to meet the parents/guardians of the 13 deaf children to seek permission from them so that when their children knocks off from school the could come to my home for extra lessons in arithmetic, reading and sign language. this really improved their perfomance.

When their teacher went on leave,the Headteacher allowed us to run the class. Since none of us was a qualified teacher i had to look for two secondary school leavers, Voster and Mercy(both deaf)who started teaching the deaf children. We even invited Deaf adults who have never been to school to join the class. But when the
teacher came back from leave he created some confusions and frusrated us .We had no option but to restart our program from home in the chicken run.We would give them food before releasing them to go to their homes.

Three qualified to go to secondary school but the parents failed to meet the expenses.My daughter is the Secretary of Zambia Nation Association for the Handcapped in the province. She was one time hired by the local university to teach sign language to interested teachers as well as medical personnel. Except for my son ,my three daughters and us sign for the deaf at christian meetings.

So when icame across your website i was impressed, touched and there and then wanted to be part of it. I have read the State Chapter. The major problem here in zambia is with the parents of deaf children.Generally here in Africa when you send your child to school you expect him in return to come and look after you. So when some one
knows that the child is deaf they do not care sending them to school thinking that it is a waste of resources.The parents/family do not want to learn sign language. Now when they have a problem with the child they call on us to mediate. The general public also is a problem, they think that the deaf are not normal.The education system is bad, providing few schools for the deaf. Most of the deaf live in rural
areas and dont go to school because of the distances involved. Some are orphans and come from poor families. I am sure your organisation can do something about the deaf in Zambia or Africa as a whole.

As a family we are prepared to work with you to see how we can help the deaf in Africa. But i must confess that the sign language that we learnt is inferior to the one we see in video tapes, so we need help in this regard.
Hoping to hear from you soon.
Isaac and family

*Letter #2: Leeane sends the following email to all founding members of the International Coalition of Parents of Children who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing*
AT H&V, we get requests routinely for support, resources and information from folks all over the world. This one from Isaac is probably the most detailed to date, and my heart wrenches for a lack of ability to respond at the level where it could really help him. Surely this is just one more reason why we need the ICOP, so
there is some sort of unified vision by those of us who may be able to lend support at least thru some sort of combined effort and pooling of knowledge. What can any of us do for the folks in Zambia?

*I had just finished reading THE UNHEARD by Josh Swiller and had corresponded with him a couple of times, so I decided to "make him aware" of this letter (your basic "throw up a prayer shot" - I mean how could little old American Mamma in Tuscany help a couple in Zambia?)*
Letter #3 Superhero Swiller responds by copying me a letter he writes to his Peace Corps contact in Zambia:

Hi Cindy (and Jodi)

Long time since we've spoken last. I hope all is going amazingly well down in Zambia.

Cindy, I recall that after Peace Corps Kenya program was suspended, there was talk of moving part of the signing deaf program to Zambia.
Is that still happening? Here's why I'm wondering: attached is a letter from a remarkable hearing man in Ndola who'd like to learn more sign so that he can teach the deaf, children and adults. The interest is there, the framework is there, all they need is some instruction.
I seem to remember that Peace Corps training center is now in Ndola as well (back when I served, it was in Kabwe). If it is, and if the deaf program is operating, this seems like a perfect fit.

If not, do you know who else I could contact?

Thank you!

Be well,


*At this point (sweating) I seriously consider hopping a plane and taking a certain course at Gallaudet*

Letter #4 Cindy replies:

Hi Josh,

Nice to hear from you!

We now have 4 deaf ed Volunteers in Zambia. They transferred to Zambia during the temporary suspension of the program in Kenya, to help us pilot a special project. (BTW, Kenya is now back up and running.)Our training site has been moved to Chongwe district, around 45 minutes outside of Lusaka.

The deaf ed Volunteers may have some ideas for your question, since they are now working with Zambian counterpart NGOs that may know about opportunities for him to learn sign. I'll pass your email on to them.

So any update on a possible trip to Zambia??



It gets better. Leeanne in the meantime, forwards me an email from an RIT student named Christie who is interested in moving to Italy to help create a Hands and Voices Chapter here.

*Guess where Christie was writing from?...Dublin*

A bit discombobulated (and-not or *smile*) from lashing rain and a thirty minute walk, I meet Christie in front of the Hard Rock Cafe in Dublin, and we go to have a coffee to discuss her many brilliant ideas. While we are speaking, I tell her about this email correspondence, and she tells me...
She has a friend working in Kenya for the Peace Corps.


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Jr. High Student Participates in Bimodal Study: CI and HA

Not every teenage girl entering her Jr. year has the Jr. Prom or Jr. Ring Ceremony on her mind, some are more worried about helping others who may find themselves in her very same situation as a Deaf individual. To give you an idea of Nichole's thought process in choosing to go bilateral, read her letter to her audiologist:

Hi Marilyn,
My dad asked me if I was willing to give up my remaining hearing in my left ear for a second implant. Definitely!! I would give my residual hearing in an instant because as my little investigations have shown, a CI is about 100% better than a hearing aid. The only hearing (without the hearing aid in) I would be giving up is:
-hearing the water hit my ear in the shower
-myself humming with my hands over my ears
-an MP3 player on Volume 30 (maximum volume setting-I can barely hear it)
So I wouldn't be losing anything really except the title of having a hearing loss.
Thank you for the tip on how to turn off the FM microphone but keep the CI one on. It has made school life a lot more tolerable than before : D

This is a video of Nichole's Mapping

And...this is Dean's blog announcing Nichole's participation in the study:

Nichole has been participating in two different research programs. The first is at MIT. They are testing Nichole's hearing ability with her Cochlear Implant. There are a number of different tests they are running. Some deal with her ability to identify vowels, some consonants, others the pitch of musical notes. The main researcher, Ray Goldworthy, who has a single CI himself, is eventually hoping to modify maps to allow CI users to hear better in vaious situations. he even spent some time in Australia at Cochelar learning more about their processors.

The second study is taking place at Northeastern University. Dr. Ying-Yee Kong is the principal investigator on this study, which is looking at people with one CI and one Hearing Aid (HA). They are running similar tests as those done at MIT, but with some variations, including testing in noise. They are interested in testing Nichole, because they want to see how she performs using one CI and one HA, then retest her after her second CI is fully "integrated". The results of this testing will possibly help other single CI users decide if going bilateral is better or if keeping one HA and one CI is best.

Nichole has enjoyed participating in both studies. She likes the idea that all this testing (and it is quite tiring - I know because I enrolled in it as a normal hearing study subject to help out), will eventually help other people struggling with the decision of going bilateral, or staying with a single CI. In addition, she is earning money, which for a 16 year old approaching her coveted driver's license, is a big deal :-), especially at $4 for a gallon of gas.

In addition to the main thrust of the NU study, Dr. Kong recorded Nichole speaking in order to determine if her speech generation improves, declines or stays the same after going bilateral. Here is a 3.5 minute long MP3 sound recording of Nichole telling a story. They gave her just the starting point, and told her to make up a story on the fly (thus some "ums" as she pauses to figure out where to take the story next).

I thought some parents of smaller kids would be interested in hearing how Nichole speaks. Keep in mind that she was not diagnosed with a hearing loss (70dB flat - moderate-severe bilateral sensori-neural hearing impairment) until 18 months old, and only spoke a handful of words to that point. She started wearing hearing aids at 20 months. We did Auditory Verbal therapy until she was 3 years old (though of course we continued doing it at home). Her hearing stayed at that level until her teenage years, when it started getting worse. She was at about a 100dB loss when she/we decided to get her first implant (right side) at age 15 (last year). This recording was made on July 2, 2008, just before her surgery to implant her left ear.Of course, I understand Nichole perfectly, but I would really like to hear from other parents to see what they think of her speech. Does she sound "normal" to you, or can you tell she has a hearing problem? I am too close to tell. Any comments?
(To listen to Nichole speaking click on Dean's Blog and download audiofile)

Note: I'm back from Dublin. My kids hugged and kissed me BEFORE asking for presents...We're definitely making progress.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Drolz...Beautiful Post Re: Mainstreaming Vs. Deaf School (Baseball Version)

Hi Drolzy. ( - internet cafe computer issues) *smile* We haven't spoken in a while, but I always read you when I see your posts because they enrich me. Of course you know that I am a passionate baseball fan, so this one in particular interested me.

You are such a sensitive dad, that was obvious in the language you use to talk to your child and the fact that you saw his distress in the photo. Just as an aside, I remember about two years after I found out Jordan was Deaf, and started to breathe again since we had established our speech therapy routine, I took a look back at his photos from his first ten months of life in the States. Five of my closest friends all had babies during a span of two months, so we did everything groups, Halloween, New Year's Eve, etc. In every single one of those photos, despite the young age, all of the babies in the photos were looking at the camera except for Jordan - that's how I knew he was born deaf, after all we did only get the official diagnosis at twelve months.

Photos don't lie.

And neither do Deaf children.

We sent Jordan to baseball camp, too, a year ago. Our experience was a little different because Jordan only spoke Italian and this was an American baseball camp where all of the children spoke English, we knew there would be communication issues. Luca or I stayed with Jordan and transitioned him into the camp until he felt comfortable enough to stay a couple of hours alone. By the end, he was playing baseball with his peers, high fiving, sliding and getting physical with the boys...he had fun...but...

He had the sad look every now and then, too.

In some photos he was rip-roaring happy

In others he looked a little lost

Maybe it was because we introduced Jordan as being from Italy and only speaking Italian, but the ironic part of it all was that his teammates did not realize he was deaf (despite the fact that he wore his ci all the time - that's kids for ya). They just thought he was Italian and couldn't understand or speak the language very well. I know this because the last day of camp, his ci batteries went dead. As I was changing them, his teammates tried talking to him, and I explained to them that Jordan couldn't hear them until I finished changing the ci batteries. Reply: "You mean, he's Death?"

By the end of the experience Jordan had learned some new vocabulary, and so had the American kids. He also learned some important social skills and came back to Italy proud of his American baseball camp experience, where he found his whole Italian team waiting for him.

Safe at home...
In Italy.

Friday, August 8, 2008


Taking a break from Poker, where I spanked a couple of Irish lads *having the time of my life* to post this article that I found on Swiller's blog. Check it out...what do you think??? Universal Newborn Hearing Screening is obviously what interests me, but...what about MANDATORY ADULT HEARING SCREENING?? (*wink*)

CHICAGO (Reuters) - One of three U.S. adults already suffers from some degree of hearing loss and the use of personal stereos and an aging population may create a hearing impairment epidemic, researchers said on Monday.

A team at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore estimated that 55 million Americans have hearing loss in one or both ears, with men, whites and the least-educated most affected.

One out of six, or 29 million adults, have some trouble discerning speech, more than previous estimates, they reported in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

"The prevalence of hearing loss in the United States is predicted to rise significantly because of an aging population and the growing use of personal listening devices. Indeed, there is concern that we may be facing an epidemic of hearing impairment," Dr. Yuri Agrawal of the Baltimore hospital wrote.

It is common for people to ignore or disavow hearing loss, the researchers said, leading to difficulty communicating that can result in productivity problems at work, depression, and less access to health care that ultimately raises the risk of sickness and death.

Hearing loss is common among people 70 and older, according to the report. But hearing loss also affected 8.5 percent of those in their 20s and 17 percent of people in their 30s. Exposure to workplace noise, firearms, and loud music were all risk factors.

Assessing health information collected from 5,700 Americans aged 20 to 69 years between 1999 and 2004 in the federal National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, Agrawal and colleagues found men were twice as likely as women (21 percent versus 11 percent) to have speech-frequency hearing loss in one or both ears.

Whites were more than twice as prone to hearing loss than blacks, and those with less education were more at risk than those who completed high school or beyond.

Also dramatically increasing the chances of hearing loss were smoking, high blood pressure and diabetes.

Screening for hearing loss should begin in young adulthood, particularly for vulnerable groups, Agrawal concluded.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Francesco and Alice

Damn, my ipod just died.

Today we went to visit The Belvedere House, so I finally got outside of the city of Dublin to see some Really green countryside and hundreds of sheep, cute sheep. Once, a friend of mine sent me a Tibetan Personality Test and one of the questions asked you to put a list of animals in order from a list of five. At the end of the test, these animals represented your priorities in life...sheep represented love. So, in addition to Guinness, leprechauns and drunken Irishmen, there's a whole lot of love here in green, bright, fertile green Ireland.

The Belvedere House itself was nothing special, the grounds were massive and beautiful, however, the legends surrounding the house amused me. Apparently a bunch of loose women lived in that house during various periods. In fact, the Lord of the House caught his wife messing around with his brother, so he accused his wife of adultery and locked her up in another one of his homes...31 years...until he died.

I tripped over a homeless woman with really dirty feet on my way to this internet cafe, but you know the strangest thing, there was a halo of this sweet perfumy to die for smell all around her.

The original plan had been to tour the grounds of The Belvedere House, but the torrential downpour kind of made that impossible. So, we headed to the mall. As we were eating, I received a text message from my husband. I went to sit and cry at a table alone, when this gentleman asked if he could sit at the table with me. Seats were kind of hard to find. I wasn't much in the mood for company, but I nodded. He, his mom and brother sat down, saw I was upset and tried to talk to me. He began with the old, "So, you're American." I stopped him. I am the first to try to please everyone and anyone, I appreciated his gesture to try to cheer me up, but I told him I really wasn't in the mood to talk. After five long minutes, I excused myself, saying I didn't want to ruin their family's meal, so I went and sat at a table full of McDonalds leftovers from a family with very bad manners. Would it have killed them to clean the damn table?

There I sat and cried. I got up and started walking back to find my students, when I suddenly felt a tap on my shoulder. He said, "You know, I know what it's like to be far from home. They gave me the news that my dad was dying of cancer when I was in the States...we have a house nearby, you don't have to be alone, if you want to go to a pub and get a drink, we'll be over there."

He never asked why I was crying.
I never told him.
He was just such a nice guy...such a nice guy.

Two nights ago some of the group leaders headed into Rathmines to go to a pub called Roddy's. As we were walking, a huge guy with blonde hair, a tight t-shirt and thousands of muscles stopped us. As he approached us, his friend kept walking and kind of started coming up the rear. Me being the paranoid American I am by nature stood between both so that I could see each of them. Dying. The big dude asked us if we had two cigarettes (um, in Dublin cigarettes cost 7,40 euros). One guy named Stephen and one girl named Belen each pulled out a cigarette and handed it calmly to the giant. I kept my eye on both of them. Then, huge one pulled out a five euros bill and insisted that Stephen take it, saying, "I don't want anything for free, man, take the five, please take the five." Stephen started shaking his head, saying, "No, man, I don't want your money, just take the cigarette, it's cool."
This went on for ten minutes, when I finally said, "Take the damn money, please and let's go."
Stephen gave him four more cigarettes, took the five, and we were on our merry way.

Giovanni and I are 4 games to 1, in our ping pong makeover challenge. I'm winning.
Last night was Group Leader Irish Coffee night. I played an Italian gentleman who was sweating so profusely I thought he was going to have a heart attack and die right then and there on me. He kicked my ass...

Francesco and Alice

Setting: Two weeks ago, Beach Volleyball court, hot as shit sand, Bagno le Poste...Beach Establishment at Marina di Grosseto where our family goes to the beach everyday.
Clothing: Colorful bikinis *smile* that only cover Italian butts. (not American butts)

Alice, nicknamed Ali (like Mohammed) gives her really, really tall boyfriend (she comes up to his bellybutton) Francesco a long kiss with a lot of tongue in preparation for one of our beach volleyball games. Then, she jumps on his back and he carries her to the other side of the court to her team's side. As he plants her gently on the wetted down sand (Jordan's job), he gives her another kiss, with a lot of tongue and goes back to his team's side.

I struggle not to vomit and say, "Take it easy there, killer, if you continue at this rate, Ali will be pregnant in a month..."
Ali: Fra would love to have kids, I'm the one who doesn't want children.
Fra: (nods head and yawns)
Me: Always knew you were a smart girl, Ali. Have fun while you still can, you guys are so young...plenty of time.
Fra: (yawns) Yeah, I want about six kids.
Me: I'll give you Jordan, that's a start.
Ali: Come on, Fra...let's play.

We start the game and Francesco with his 6 feet 3 inches of height slams the ball down my throat. He smiles, yawns and says, "Sorry." I step on his foot, punch him in the side and we slap five. He isn't on his game like he has been the past three years we've played beach volleyball. I ask Ali, "What's up with Francesco?"
She says, "He has a summer job where he has to work the graveyard shift."
I say, "What a responsible young man you'll make a great father!"

This was the text message I received about six hours ago from Luca...
Alice's boyfriend, the long one, fell asleep behind the wheel coming home from work. He died on impact.

18 fucking years old.


Saturday, August 2, 2008

Giovanni and the Ladies: Dublin

Here I am at an Internet Cafe writing next to two gentleman who are um...shady, and an Irish lassie outside on the street just flipped off someone who cut her off and told him off using very unladylike terminology.


Okay, I don't know where to begin, but if I don't write it down now, I'll forget all of it, so for those of you- and you know who you are- who told me to take fifteen days off from satisfied that I lasted this long. *smile*

I sat between two of my six students Giovanni and Susanna on the planeride over to Dublin. It was Susanna's first flight ever (nice of her mom to allow her to share that special moment with me, right?)and at one point she began seriously shaking so I held her hand and tried to calm her down (she was so panicking that I almost had a panic attack there with her). Giovanni, tdc that he was, began talking about plane crashes. I hit him. He shut up.

Well, we made it to Dublin in one piece and the cute little taxi driver was there waiting for us, loaded our bags and we were on our way. As he zipped us around Dublin, he gave me an education, taught me some Gaelic (Irish) "Ceol" somethin' "Crack" which means Music and Fun, but in American English sounds like "Crack is cool" and asked me if I was free later that evening. I said no...thank you. He dropped us at Trinity Hall and went upon his leprechaun way.

1. After twenty hours of Dublin weather, I gave up, threw the straightening iron out the window and threw my hair in a ponytail. Dublin = Permanent Bad Hairday.

2. Giovanni is hunting for girls, and my girls are hunting for boys...they are not concentrating on their studies. Obviously, I am assisting them in their endeavors.

3. I took my group to their first Irish Pub, which was empty, sat them down and made them order Cokes as I ordered my first pint of Guinness. Then, I went to the bathroom. When I came back, my Guiness was gone. lol.
4. Thursday night I went out with the Group Leaders to the Center of Dublin, had my first Fat Frog, danced and was in bed by 4 am...I'm still recuperating.

5. I played Giovanni in ping pong and told him if he lost I would get to give him a makeover with very colorful eyeliner and lipstick. Obviously, I crushed him, (my cousins and I used to play ping pong every single family holiday) but I let him go about the makeover...for now.

6. Dormitory food is universally horrendous. We order pizza at midnight...between that, the Guinness, and the rain, I'll be returning a whale.

7. Visited the Hugh Lane Museum and got emotional looking at some of the paintings.

8. Visited the National Museum yesterday and saw this:(Jung) (Bello)
9. Barry, one of the University guides told me he went streaking across the golf course last night at 5 am...(Damn good thing I took the night off last night!)
10. Tried to access my blog from a computer at a pub a couple of nights ago and the computer denied me access...apparently, my blog is not for children.


As an interesting aside, Leeanne from Hands and Voices sent me an email a month ago about a hard of hearing college student living in Dublin who was interested in moving to Italy to start up a Hands and Voices Chapter. Does anyone else find it strange that I just happened to be going to Dublin a month later? Well, we met yesterday at a cafe in Temple Bar and spoke for a couple of hours. She is an amazing person, who goes to RIT and is ready to take on the world. My kind of girl. Ironically, she has a deaf friend who is working for the Peace Corp in Africa...Zambia, I believe. *smile*