For those of you who haven't seen or spoken with me in a while, I realize that you may not fully grasp how different my speech is today. I know I've mentioned before how difficult it is to understand me and how much of a challenge speaking is for me in general, but if we haven't spoken in person or by phone in the past 3 to 6 months, I really don't know if you can imagine the reality of it all. In truth, because I know how drastically my ability to speak has changed in the past year, and why, I try to protect the ones I can from my reality. This may not be the best thing to do, but I guess I am also trying to protect myself by not letting people I love see how much of a challenge I face everyday. Then my brother called the other day and said that while he knows it is difficult, he really just wanted to hear my voice and I have to say that really meant a lot to me. So, I decided to make a short video for you to watch and hear for yourself how I sound today. The video was taken at the beach and was unplanned and unscripted so please keep that in mind.
Since I am not one to give up talking altogether, last month I started taking a sign language class with Dan and Lisa. It has been going really well and in a short time we have actually learned quite a lot. Of course, there is still much more to learn, but as of now we are able to have short conversations together completely in sign after just three classes. We mostly talk about what color something is, how much something costs, and other minor things that we know the signs for, but its a good start and each week we are learning new words that really help with extending our conversations. We are having fun with it and we like to practice often. I find myself using sign along with my words throughout the day to become more comfortable with it on a regular basis. For me, this will become my main form of "talking" soon.
Living so near to the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind, we have a large community of deaf people in our town. It is very common to see people signing in the grocery store, at restaurants, at the beach, and just walking around town. This is why I believe so many people make the assumption that I am deaf when I talk to them. For example, at the library there is a man who always moves the computer screen to face me so I can see my book due dates, then he writes them down for me as well and makes a point of being sure I know its the due date. I have told him that I am not deaf but he doesn't seem to remember that from one visit to the next. As soon as he hears me speak, he starts his routine. I don't mind at all and, in fact, I think it is very nice that the hearing people in our community go out of their way to communicate with the deaf people in our community even if they don't know sign.
On the other hand, the deaf people in our community know I am not deaf right away, even if I am signing. I learned this last week when Dan and I went to Starbucks and we were practicing our sign language. I went inside and a man made a sign to me but I just smiled and walked past because it didn't register with me at first. Once it dawned on me a few seconds later, I went back and said hello and explained that I am not deaf but I am learning to sign. It turned out that he is deaf and is a retired teacher. He had seen us signing outside but until I walked past him he didn't know I was hearing. (I must have made some hearing person faux pas but I don't know what it was exactly.) We ended up having a conversation in sign language and I was absolutely thrilled that he could understand me and I could understand him. He taught me a few words that he used which I didn't know (like retired, always, voice, and nice to meet you) and I was able to introduce him to Dan ("This is my husband Dan") all in sign. After just three classes, I felt very proud that I could carry on a conversation with a stranger to whom signing is his first language. When I took Spanish, that was definitely not the case.
If you don't know sign, don't worry, I will still be posting my thoughts and ramblings here. I took August off from blogging but I promise to post more often now that I know people are reading it and miss it when I don't (thanks!). I also email and text regularly so you can talk to me that way as well, and if you can find me, I am on Facebook (just not as Sam). I am still very much available and interested in "talking", just not so much in the traditional way these days.