Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Walking the walk

As long as I could remember, I had been an advocate/activist.  Even as a very little girl, I was an ambassador for an organization that encouraged lip-reading and speaking, not sign language (staying away from the Deaf community, making one 'hearing').  Mind you, it was my mom who volunteered me for that position, and of course my face was on newsletters at local hospitals and audiologists' offices back then in the 1970's.   How funny it is that I'm immersed in the Deaf community nowadays.  And that wasn't the first time in advocacy....  Nope, that would be when I was a very very little baby.

Mom had pushed me in a stroller when she marched with other women fighting for equality.

(from Washington DC ARCHIVES)

Mom talked with many (teachers, representatives, senators, board of education, everyone) to encourage passing of Education of All Handicapped Children Act (which was passed in 1975), which was then renamed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).  Just one of ten thousands speaking for support of this act, which increased education for children with disabilities. 

Marches for Reproductive rights.  HIV/AIDS education/prevention, Take the Night Back, GLBT rights, all in 1980's and 1990's. Been there, done here while growing up.   When not pulled in the Radio flyer red wagon, I rode a bike.  When not on a bike, I walked in my sneakers.  I was a walker, a cheerleader, and fundraiser for many causes. I sat at booths to explain about equality, HIV education, and access to communication for the Deaf.  

When I was a freshman at Gallaudet University in 1989, I even got an opportunity to talk with my Representative  and two senators at the U.S. Capitol, explaining the importance of passing the Americans with Disabilities Act before it was passed in 1990.  

In the last two decades, I had been advocating for vulnerable adults' right to be listened to, and to be respected,  and not to be babied.  Being a mother hen, I was fiercely championing for individuals with intellectual disabilities to increase independence in housing and employment, much as they are able to.   Trembling in my shoes, I stood up to abusers, while shielding women.  I held hands with victims of rape as they were being treated behind the hospital curtains during the sexual assault examination.  Was a legal aid advocate; victim advocate; and medical advocate in numerous fields.   While doing extensive studies in graduate school, I encouraged free-thinking, exploring beyond limitations and civil right to marriage (marched with fellow graduate friends in protesting Prop 8 in 2008.) 

It was over a year and half years ago that I stopped activism. 

That was when I had struggled with my own reproductive issues which included surgery and struggles with my own identity.  

Through the decades of being confident and assertive, now I found myself extremely vulnerable.  After years of knowing who I was, I wasn't sure anymore who I was.  If I was not to be a mother, what was my gift to the future?  If I am not to have children, why should I care to make that the world is livable, with civil rights to everyone?   Cannot I leave a mark on the world?  

All the fierce passion, all joy of empowerment,  all my desire to better the world, and I never had a chance to be a mother after all.  I felt cheated. 

I was angry.  I stayed in the darkness of rooms, refusing the sunshine, rejecting the world's cajoling of sharing news crying for help in many areas, especially women rights and reproductive rights nowadays.

Right.... Reproductive Rights, I never got to practice that myself.  

Can't help but see the irony there.  

Last month, I was surfing on Facebook when I saw someone posted a meme "I Stand with Wendy Davis!" That name wasn't familiar to me, so I checked  Facebook, Twitter and Google and discovered her goal of filibustering against the new abortion regulation bill in Texas. 

Wendy Davis, June 25, 2013

The neglected ember, within my spirit, sparked with interest in seeing what Wendy was doing.   More she stood in her sneakers, more she spoke, the more the world watched her.  I found out many women sent her their experiences to her to read aloud, more I was reminded of something I had forgotten during my grief.

It's not about me.   It's not about you.   It's about ALL of us.  One for all, all for one.  Unus pro omnibus, omnes pro uno.    To better the world, we better ourselves.    To advocate for people, we advocate ourselves.   In my way, I have been advocating for infertility awareness in the Deaf community for a while. That was a small step for me.  

So with reflecting what Wendy Davis is doing, with noticing how thousands of women showed up at Texas to protest, with showing up in North Carolina, and with recalling Occupy Wall (Restore the Fourth) protests (still alive!), I felt like the world had just slapped me, as of going "du'oh!"  

I realized, I do have children in a sense-  my nephew (and future nieces/nephews), my cousins' children, my friends' children.   If not of my womb, then for them, for the women, for the vulnerable adults and elderly, and for the children who need the world more than we do, especially in this political environment.  

After reading a blog written by volunteers who advocate safety and empowerment at a local organization here, the volunteers are the witnesses and warriors to a constant war on the sidewalk almost daily.  I was reminded of the one thing I had been interested into doing, but hadn't taken the opportunity to do: To walk the walk, to participate in the battle. Not to stand in sidelines.   I contacted the writers recently and inquired about volunteering.

Well, I'll be wearing an orange vest locking arms with fellow volunteers in the wee hours of Saturday morning, to keep clients safe, protecting their right to choose for themselves, without politics or religion butting their noses in.   

I might be infertile but I'll always protect reproductive choice, all choices.  The advocate roars again! 
(from the movie Ace Ventura)

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Why I blog?

I had been thinking about the context of Lessons I learned from Seven Years of blogging, of how to make the blog my own, to define it- for some folks that's short quotes. Some other folks like writing focusing on their families or the infertility journey. It depends on each person's purpose behind blogging,  what she's okay with sharing and what not to share- it's all her own journey-  think it pretty much- walking on a path, with a journal open and a pen.

Some folks had asked me why there are visual cues in my blog- many of my posts include memes, gifs (brief videos at 2-3 seconds), and describing of background information.  There would be a lot of analogues and metaphors- pretty much my "special effects" tools.  

The simple answer is:  I'm Deaf. 

Being Deaf, that means I identify myself as culturally Deaf.  What does that mean?  That means we see deafness as a difference in human experience, not a disability.    After all, think this way- you fly to Malaysia, do you truly expect everyone to speak English?  Their language is Malaysian.  Hence you speaking English in the country of Malaysia- is that a disability?  No, it's just a different language. That's what it is for us, culturally Deaf.  We have a language, culture, norms, traditions and history- (and more)...  The key word here is  Visual, vision, perception, using our sense of seeing. Okay that's more than one key words!  We use our own eyes and hands for communication, although not limited to sign language only.  English is pretty much our second language, through texting, emailing, writing, reading. Some of us can speak. I could speak, but not much.  Often, folks would ask whether we can read and write. Seriously, yes, I had been complimented on how well I write for a deaf person; I had been praised for the ability to read. All that, and encountering questions/comments, such as "I didn't know you're deaf. You type so well" or "You're kidding, right? I never knew you were deaf! You write so good!" (when I disclosed I was deaf, in chat rooms, online forums, groups, after weeks or months).  There's a good article addressing that, as presented in this link: Ridiculist/Deaf people can't read or write. .

Due to us being visual, there's a love for visual sensations and stimulation.  We can write a story in air, just with hands.  We can dance and sing, with our bodies, facial expressions and hands as shared in this youtube video- created by Sean Forbes, a deaf hip-hop artist. 

Let's Mambo by Sean Forbes, with Marlee Martin

A number of Deaf bloggers use vlogs (video-blogs) instead of writing in a blog.  Why?  Their natural language is American Sign Language, not English. With permission from Michelle, I got to share one of her vlogs to show what a vlog by a deaf blogger would look like, to share information as we, writers, do in our own blogs.   There's no captions here, but that's what it is-  in her natural language.  In this one, she was addressing women's right to reproductive health. 

With permission from Michelle P. 

 To be clear, not everyone are limited to vlogs. I'd say fairly that there's an even number of vloggers and bloggers in the Deaf community.  Personally, I prefer blogging over vlogging, for many reasons- I'll share two reasons.  I grew up reading and writing in English, speaking English before learning SEE (a system of manual language to teach English with exact representative in sign), and I did not get to learn American Sign Language until in my 20's.  Despite exposure to ASL for more than fifteen years, I still struggle with certain words.  Don't get me wrong- I can converse just fine with an individual; it is when there's an audience/watchers, I 'trip over' words, switching between SEE, ASL and gestures.  The introvert in me, I guess- not liking to know folks are watching me on vlogs. 

WHY do I write?  I am deaf and infertile.  Mostly you'll see deaf bloggers/vloggers, and you'll see infertile bloggers (are there infertile vloggers?  Just checked, Yup!).  But are there deaf and infertile writers?  Due to the Deaf community being a small community, privacy is out the window.  I like to use this example which perfectly describes how small yet close community can be.  I disclosed to a friend that I love hunting ghosts.  Just in 24 hours, from that person, many folks know I like ghost hunting.   Kewl....  I even had some clients say "I hear you like ghosts..." Yup, that's the deaf infamous grapevine.  My point here is, due to infertility being viewed as 'something not to talk about- TABOO', it's hard enough to be singled out in the Deaf community, without including physical or mental disabilities.   Many had fought to show that they are not failures as society projected them to be, so adding a diagnosis, that's pretty much a scarlet letter 'A' for affliction.  

So that lead many of us to 'hide' additional disabilities/illness.   So I decided to speak up, to put a public face upon a deaf individual, to show that you (Deaf/hard of hearing) are not alone on the infertility journey (be it through experiencing IVF treatments, struggling with adoption, or adjusting to childless life). There's limited access to resources, due to the community's different language/accomdations, but hey, that's another post (my list of posts-to-be-written is getting longer).  And so that is the same with many websites/ resource blogs out there, but hey, we have to put out the first step.  I hope with me speaking up, I had started the step reducing sense of stigma of infertility in this community, whose hands draw stories in the air. 

After all, if not me, who will?  
(photo taken at Underground railroad Freedom Center, 2013)

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Once upon a time.

I am not much a television watcher, did you know that?     At most, I'd have one or two TV shows to watch (i.e Ghost hunters and Walking Dead), and if I miss an episode or two, that's not a big deal for me.   So when some friends found that I love 'Fables', a comic book series about fairy tale characters who found themselves stuck in the real world (Earth) among us, I was told that I should watch "Once (upon a time)" TV series. The TV series is similar to Fables in characters, but the difference is Fables were chased to this world from the dictator who took over many worlds, destroying all magic but his own, while in Once upon a time, it was a curse upon the characters by the evil queen, who wanted her happiness above everyone else. There was only one who escaped that curse, Emma Swan, a daughter born to Snow White and her prince Charming, now an adult. She was placed in the real world, as a baby before the curse took over. However, she does not believe in magic, yet she's the heroine expected to rescue the characters out of the 'real life' back to their story-tale world.  Anyway.... I started to watch the series.

And I got hooked.   

I love the plot, the characters, Snow White (Mary Margaret), Red Riding Hood (Red), Prince Charming (David), Jiminy (Archie), etc,  the real world echoing the story tale in many ways like Archie/Jiminy being a psychologist (if one gets to think about it, Jiminy was certainly a counselor to Pinocchio in the story!) and who knew Rumplestiltskin can be both ugly and hot at same time?!  

Rumplestiltskin (Once upon a time)

And I think I'm in love with the main character, Emma Swan. Her ten years old son, whom she had given up as a baby, had found her in Boston and asked her to save him and the people in Storybrooke (can anyone see the pun there?!). Turns out his adoptive mother is the evil queen, now the mayor of the town.  Emma decided to stay in town, to get to know her son and figure what is going on in the 'strange' town.   Why I like her?   She's very strong-   she was shaken to find out her son found her, yet she decided to stay among strangers.  Some folks try to change her, manipulate her, try to destroy her, just because she's 'different.'  And in one episode I saw (and managed to find a gif of it), it just nails it all for me.     

Emma Swan (Once upon a time)

On the infertility journey, I found that people have expected me to stay who I was, to stay 'exactly the same' as one remembered, as if the journey never happened.     It does not mean for the worse. It means there are lessons on the journey that will change one, and that's something we can't lie about.  One can choose to come out stronger, as Emma did, to stick out and say "Hey, I decide for myself, not you."  

Monday, July 1, 2013


Due to a local cable/Internet service provider transferring to a bigger one, my Internet had been 'funny' for a week and half- I couldn't predict when I'd have day it'd be up for an hour, then it'd be up for 7 hours after two days of no Internet.  After tolerating it for a few days, I gave up and decided to go unplugged for a few days.

The days ended up awesome!

Hiked in the swamp nearby-I had known it was there since I moved here 4 years, but never had the opportunity 'til now.  And.. I didn't get any mosquito bites, could you believe that?!

Walked the Big Four Bridge, that had been renovated from a train truss bridge to a pedestrian bridge- opened three months ago. Pretty awesome- can't wait to walk to Indiana when the other end is completed!  

Art is one of my passions, so when I saw a guy starting to paint on a building wall, I stopped by and asked if I could watch the process.  Turned out this is for a center for survivors of domestic violence- to give hope and inspiration.  Watching the guy paint was magic in process- beat that, Harry Potter!  

Rediscovering my love to crochet.  

Exploring local restaurants, including the most loved BBQ- Smoketown U.S.A (would you believe the owner/chef originally came from Russia?) Very friendly, he chattered on and on with us despite we didn't understand each other. That didn't stop him from checking with us, encouraging us to eat more- and was happy to give me one of his cakes he made personally, turned out to be orange soda cake. I hadn't tasted orange soda since I was a child. What a memory trip, for sure!  There was a whisper of a new breakfast cafe, it's not yet known. So I went exploring at SuperChef's Breakfast, and saw that they had red velvet pancakes.  !!!  I had to try that...and you know what?  DIVINE!

On my bucket list, there are museums that I aim to attend, but hadn't "the time to go" 'til now. I attended the Vent Haven Museum (the only museum in the world about ventriloquism).  I can say safely, it's SO creepy!  The wooden faces, eyes following your movements...but AWESOME!  I also went to the Underground Railroad Freedom Center- very sobering but good way to increase awareness of slavery in United States (1619 to 1863) and about today's slavery (forced labor, child labor, prostitution, bonded labor, and trafficking).  

There were some rainy days (including one flash flood warning, which indeed flooded the bridge just down the road from where I live).  I managed to go there to check, and I saw a muskrat, first time in my life!  I love animals, hence biology and zoology are another passion of mine. Another moment of awesomeness!    Anyway, due to the rains, I couldn't go outside much. No fear! Books called!  The book pile had grown, and grown for months, and I couldn't make a dent in it 'til now!   

There is a young neighbor with a 4 years old boy-  Some months ago, I had lightheartedly offered to babysit the boy if the mother needed a break or something- and she hadn't taken up on my offer 'til now-  a rainy day, of course when I couldn't take him out!   We ended up painting,, drawing and making oatmeal cookies (with chocolate chips- he wanted 'em). Later on, he stopped by and gave me this sweet note.  

Those days were certainly to savor, being mindful and staying in the moment.    And best of all, at no time, were there any inkling of being aware of infertility, or being childless.   

That helped me realize something-   I had stayed on Internet overmuch for a year and more- to escape into the world web, nursing my wounds, with the word "INFERTILITY" in red on my forehead. Don't get me wrong- I'm very thankful for the blogs, especially some dear bloggers who are now my friends- but hey, did you know that when I finally got back online, I saw I had 68 unread posts on Bloglovin'?   

At first, I felt bad about being behind in reading, and then it drew upon me, many bloggers have their lives- some are traveling right now. Some are writing a book or developing toward an infertility documentary.  Some are doing DIY crafts- or cooking new dishes. Some are dating.  Some are raising their children and debating about dishwashers. In other words- they have their lives that are not revolving around Internet.  And the days without Internet showed that I can survive just fine being offline, and that it's not the end of the world.  

So in mind of that, I'm looking into camping, hiking and fishing at some parks nearby, including Mounds National Park in the state next to Kentucky.   Making more dents in the book pile.  Making blankets and crafts, now that some neighbors noticed me crocheting, some had asked if I could make them blankets.  And hanging out with some friends, including some in other states.    And it's okay to be offline for a long while!